Let’s talk pumpkins! And let’s start with something that has bothered me about pumpkins. Am I the only person that doesn’t care much about Halloween? I honestly don’t mind Halloween in itself, but I find it a bit scary (pun intended!) how such a non-native tradition takes over all kinds of beautiful local cultural traditions around the world. Sure, I am also charmed by teeny tiny schoolchildren that march around on the streets in cute costumes, I just sincerely hope that local traditions that evolve around the same type of traditions in similar seasons won’t loose ground and won’t be forgotten.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind change if it enriches us, but I don’t see how trading in colourful local traditions for a monocultural Halloween is something people will gain from. Grandma ‘Baba’ Marta talking here. I know, you get it. You can just skip this part if you are only here for the pumpkin quiche. I won’t be bothered, if you aren’t. Promise! If you don’t mind, I will now go on with my rant.

Sintere, Sintere Maarten,
De kalven hebben staarten,
De koeien hebben horens,
De klokken hebben torens,
De torens hebben klokken,
Meisjes hebben rokken,
De jongens hebben broeken,
Ouwe wijven schorteledoeken,
Kruipt in alle hoeken,
Sint Margriet,
Ken je me niet,
Hoog op de klompen,
Laag op de muilen,
Sint Jan,Sint Jan,
uit De Gevulde Peperkan,
Sintere Maarten is zo koud,
Geef me een turfie of een hout,
Dan kan ik me verwarmen,
Met me blote armen,
En met me blote bene,
Kan ik een centje verdenen.

Let me give you some examples of different but in certain ways similar traditions, derived from my own cultural background: in the Netherlands in certain regions (mostly the North where I grew up) children walk from house to house in early November with handmade lanterns attached to a stick, singing silly never-ending songs to get sweet treats from their neighbours. This fest is called Sint-Maartensfeest.

Originally only the poor children would walk from door to door. On the left you will find a Dutch song that children sing during such a night. Although the song changes over time, it always partly refers back to the origins of the tradition (poor children walking around and singing songs at rich people’s houses). There are obviously also less sweet songs for rich people who don’t open their doors and don’t give anything. Silly! But oh so educational!

I can imagine this tradition can be used in schools to explain living conditions of some groups in earlier times. These kind of things can be a child friendly starting point from which teachers can elaborate history in a way that it connects to a small child. But you can also explain regional differences and how groups of people in history decided to go one way and others walked a different path. How beautiful uniqueness is. On the other hand these local traditions can also create connections between different cultural traditions by embracing the similarities within the differences. These yearly reoccurring moments – as far as they don’t already have meaning – can really be functional.

In that sense Macedonia also has a tradition in which children walk around and sing silly songs (you can see one below) and get something tasty treats in return. The origins of the Macedonian fest are not very clear to me. There are different explanations to say at least. A common thing about the explanations is that they evolves around the winter season as far as I can understand and the rituals around winter.

 Like many of these tradition, rituals and origin probably changed when religion changed. A lot of these traditions started off as pagan traditions for example and became rooted in Christian religion later. And in some cases they became atheistic traditions later on. In rare situations they became marketing traditions. Their evolution breathes local history, customs and moral, which most often is a beautiful thing.

Back to the begging children. In Macedonia this kind of walking-around-by-children tradition happens in January around Christmas time (yes, you read it correctly, in January around Christmas time, also tradition) and is called Kolede. While in the Netherlands I used to get bags full of tasty and sweet candies, I remember that in Macedonia I only got nuts, fruits and maybe some coins after a song and well wishes. I don’t recall walking around with lights in Macedonia, but I do recall the sticks and banging on doors.

I hear you say: but Halloween is all about the day of the Death and other clear difference with these other examples is that people dress up! It’s different! I recognise that. But carnival is the traditional period in (a part of) the Netherlands when people dress up and in Macedonia for example people also celebrate the day of the death, but in a totally different way. That’s my whole point, every country, region or community has a specific mix of traditions carefully balanced together, spread over a calendar year (or a different kind of period). Adding one random event into this calendar will create an imbalance in this mix. It will inevitably push away other cultural traditions due to its period or its nature.

Do you think there is room in a year to celebrate two dress up parties? Two occasions for children to walk door-to-door to collect candies? And on top of that, do you think people will take the time for two days of the death in a year? I don’t believe so.

Коледе леде
паднало греде
утепало деде
деде се мачи
баба го квачи
со четири јајца
гускини, шаткини.
Денес е Коледе,
утре е Божиќ
ќе колеме теле
теле вика леле
не колете мене
ќе ви купам зеље
да месите пита
да јадете сите.

I honestly think that if we don’t stand up for our own cultural customs and traditions, efficiency will take over and global marketing machines will feed us with a monoculture that works well in their agenda. Well and that’s no fun, is it? Not only will that be less fun and enriching, I think important cultural values will be lost in the process. Like in technology, science and agriculture for example, we can only benefit from diversity. Progress is important, but won’t be found in a monoculture. Monoculture will only create oblivion. And oblivion is incompatible with progress. There, I’ve said it! Still hungry? Here you go.

pumpkin quiche

pakovska quiche filled with lentils

lentil filled pumpkin pakovskaLentil filled pumpkin quiche

– bottom part of a big pumpkin
– 2 cups lentils
– 4 onions
– 4 cloves garlic
– salt & pepper
– 2 eggs
– 1/4 cup milk
– oil
– tbsp smoked red pepper
– tsp smoked black pepper
– tsp fenugreek seeds
– 4 tsp finely chopped rosemary
toppings: feta + nuts

Cut a raw pumpkin in 1/2 and remove the seeds. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees with the emptied pumpkin in it on a sheet of baking paper. Fry some onions, garlic, smoked black, red pepper, fenugreek and chopped rosemary together in an oiled pan. Add the dry lentils and stir well. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Add a quarter of a cup water to the mix and bring it to cook. Now take the pumpkin out of the oven fill it with the lentil mix. It should fill the pumpkin up 1cm from the ridge. Place it back into the oven with a cover. I used aluminium foil. Now let it simmer on 160 degrees in the oven for 90 min at least. It will probably take to 2h to cook. Keep an eye on the oven, you don’t want the pumpkin to burn.

lentil filled pumpkin by pakovska.comThe lentils will cook in the water that will come from the pumpkin. Don’t worry, at first you won’t see anything happen, but after 30 minutes or so, you will see water coming out of the pumpkin. Later, you might worry about too much water, but that will solve itself as well. Just leave it in the oven, it will either evaporate or it will be soaked up by the lentils. When all water is absorbed and lentils are cooked, take it out. You can eat it like that or pimp it up. I add two eggs, mixed with some milk at this point to have a more quiche like consistency and put it back in the oven for 15 more minutes. When done or nearly done I also top it off with some nuts and goats cheese and grill it off for 5 more minutes in the oven. Enjoy! And remember that you don’t have to skin of the pumpkin!

You can freeze the quiche for a longer period. You can also keep it in your fridge for at least three days.