In Italy and Europe in general, North Americans are famous for our ability to….well…be wasteful.
I’ve written before about how Hallowe’en doesn’t really exist in Italy but IT IS CHANGING! This year I am noticing a surprising number of events big and small for the whole family. For the first time we are going to go out tonight in the centre of Modena to trick or treat! Apparently there will be shops handing out candy, so again I’ve made DIY costumes for the three of us (last year we were a sheriff and robbers and the year before we were the Rubbles) and we are heading out!
For the last few years I’ve thrown wild and elaborate Hallowe’en parties in my home or in rented spaces. I went crazy with as many “traditional” Hallowe’en decorations and games as I could manage. A wrote a post last year if you want to see my decorations and costumes! As I started saying we North Americans are seen by Italians as being rather self-indulgent and wasteful, especially when it comes to Halloween (or any commercial holiday for that matter!)
Two years ago I threw a party in my home and had everyone play the “mummy game” where you turn your partner into a mummy!! The reaction?
“And waste all of that toilette paper?”
I created the game where you put your hand in various bowls of “guts”, “eye balls” and “brains”, the reaction?
“This is Gross and Fun!! But are you just going to throw this all out now?”
Italians are horrified by the idea of something so temporary as a one night celebration and party and really do see the idea of wasting food, money, energy and stuff as a problem.
Let’s Talk Jack o Lanterns
Take Jack o Lanterns for example. They hardly exist here. Sure you’ll find one or two at a special event. BUT YOU WILL NOT FIND ONE ON EVERY DOOR STEP! Or in Italy’s case, balcony window!
To take a perfectly good pumpkin, carve out it’s middle, keep in out for the night and put a candle in it is just, well, wasting a pumpkin! I usually respond with “but it’s FUN!”, “It’s TRADITION!” “It’s HALLOWEEN!!”, and I’m met with blank stares and a shoulder shrug, they just don’t get it!
This is a country that has very deep rooted culinary traditions, and lest I forget that these people have also experienced the Second World War and are not quite over what that meant. In fact, you’ll often hear the grandparents talking about the long years where you would never see a stray cat on the road….wonder where they went?!
Pumpkins are food.
I called my husband and I asked him to bring home a pumpkin for me and my two and a half year old to carve. He went from fruit stall to grocery store and came home an hour later with two small Mantovan Squashes. Apparently this year the orange pumpkin variety had a bad harvest so there are few, and they aren’t tasty like the other types of squashes found in Italy so there is little request!
This is the land of the ZUCCA, the word Zucca generally refers to all squash, but traditionally the YUMMIEST for making tortelloni di zucca, pumpkin filled tortelloni that you eat with ragù (meat and tomato sauce) is the Zucca Mantovana – Mantovan Squash. Mantova is where you will find the most delicious recipes and traditions for squash including risotto, tortelloni and even many desserts and cookies, their motto “non si butta niente”, nothing wasted.
So here I am this year with these two delicious Mantovan squashes (my favourites for roasting and making layered lasagna and soups!) and I decide NOT TO CARVE THEM! It would be a waste, they are just too delicious!
I am becoming one of them!
i’m reminded of my very first hallowe’en with Marco in our apartment in Bologna. I didn’t have a pumpkin but I did have a tomato, so i carved that. And you know what? It worked out just fine!
Happy Hallowe’en to everyone, may your bags be filled with yummy treats and may your yards be filled with decorations to strike fear into the hearts of unsuspecting trick or treaters!!