As the Irish story goes, Jack was a crafty, stingy drunkard who tricked the devil into swearing he would not come after Jack’s soul. But when Jack died, he was turned away from heaven’s gate, so he went back to the devil to complain. In response, the devil threw at Jack a coal from the fires of hell, which Jack then cleverly tucked into a hollowed-out turnip. Ever since, Jack, with his “jack-o’-lantern” has wandered abroad in the world, lighting the darkness.
When Europeans colonized America, pumpkins replaced turnips because the orange squash were more plentiful, easier to carve, and—like many things in the New World—bigger. But hollowed turnips, with the light of votive candles flickering through the grotesque faces carved in them, are just the right size to make a spooky decoration that’s not too big for a table set for an adult Halloween dinner party or to place atop gateposts to frighten off any malevolent spirits. And you can use the insides of the scooped-out turnip in the salad.
Reprinted from Moosewood Restaurant Celebrates Copyright© 2003 by Moosewood, Inc., Clarkson Potter, publishers.