I had actually created this tablescape on the 30th of October. But then by the time I uploaded the images, it was time to go to Allahabad, the city where I was born and brought up, where my sister and two brothers live and where I share a bond of memories with families of friends.
So back in Lucknow, in between planting seasonals, I am writing this post.
Just before Halloween friends from Canada had started putting up Halloween images on Facebook-you know, orange pumpkins on doorsteps, collecting pumpkins from farms, witches and cobwebs in their rooms. And then they shared pictures of the magnificent Canadian fall–trees aflame in reds, oranges and yellows, leaves piled up on the ground,etc. In our garden the dwarf poinciana, an amazing shrub that flowers for almost 7 months, was full of orange blooms.So I felt inspired enough to create a table setting.
A sabzi wala (vegetable vendor)makes rounds of our neighbourhood almost every day. His cart is loaded with fresh produce. So, sometimes for the sheer pleasure of seeing his cart, I buy at least one or two vegetables every time he comes. He was delighted when I bought all three of his green pumpkins (In India’s cities it is rare to find ripe, orange- skinned pumkins ) that I had decided I would carve.
I tackled the pumpkin first armed with a couple of kitchen knives. I wonder why my knives never seem sharp enough !
For those of you not familiar with hollowing out and carving pumpkins/vegetables, I am sure there are better carving techniques but here are my utterly amateurish ones- 1) Score a pattern on your pumpkin, the simpler the better. 2) Slice off the top. 3) Using a tablespoon, hollow out the pumpkin, removing as much of its flesh as you possibly can. 4) Using the tip of the smallest knife you have start cutting out your scored pattern- do be careful to control your knife so as not to slice off a finger ! 5) One pumpkin down, just carry on being patient, you have 2 more to go ! Or just abandon the other two and be happy with the one !
Ever since we returned to Lucknow, my large table covers had been all but forgotten in boxes which were gathering mountains of dust in a store upstairs. I remembered my Rajasthani , off-white on off-white embroidered cloth and traced it to one of the boxes. It still had a couple of stains from the last table setting it had seen in Dublin, where my husband held his last post. I used this cloth on my table, bunched up. I used the same cloth on yet another tablescape with Cherry Blossom I created in Dublin. Take a look here.
I created elevations with dishes placed upside down, under the cloth and let the pumpkins sit on them.
Persimmons from Himachal Pradesh, a fruit introduced in India by European settlers are in season and since they come closest to ripe orange pumpkins both is shape and colour, I bought some and used them on the table. Little vases bought at charity shops in Dublin and a couple of shot glasses worked well to hold the Poinciana blossoms.
Hundreds of years ago, in 1981, my husband, then a bachelor, employed in the Indian Foreign Service and on his language training at Hong Kong (his language was Mandarin), bought his first china tea set at one of the ‘China Products’ stores in Hong-Kong. China Products, where I , as a newly married woman, on my maiden voyage abroad, was taken to buy my first winter coat before making the 48 hour train journey to Beijing from Canton, was a chain of stores owned by the Chinese government that sold everything Chinese at prices, which, even then,were the cheapest. So you got dried fruit(including apple, pear, pineapple, crab-apple) in dented cardboard boxes, all kinds of tea in pasty green or bright yellow cartons and tins, a huge range of Chinese medicines in large and small boxes with crackling plastic film and gold and black Chinese lettering, steel cutlery-shiny and cheap (many of which I still use !), carved furniture, down jackets in four standard colours, grey and dark blue overcoats (I got the grey one), jade and porcelain figurines and vases- ranging from diminutive to life-sized ones, and, of course, crockery. The last included the almost translucent, beautiful orange flowered tea set.
So I used these tea cups and saucers on my white dinner plates.
At our second Halloween in Ottawa, by which time I had learnt a bit about how to decorate your front door with a pumpkin or two, and my two kids had gone out trick or treating, I got kind of carried away by the witch theme and dressed the part with a shawl draped over my head with fake dracula teeth stuck into my mouth. A little boy rang our doorbell and when I opened the door with my basket of treats, the kid ran off in fright to his waiting father. Turned out he was the very handsome father of my daughter, Geetika’s friend ! I suppose it would have been a far better idea to dress like Snow White !
Hope you liked the tablescape ! I suppose it is possible, with just a bit of effort, to lay out your table, if not with all the crockery and cutlery, then with your favourite piece of cloth, some fruit or vegetables or with a sprig or two of flowers and , in India, depending on whether you have the ceiling fan on or not, a couple of candles or tea lights . Something pretty and elegant for the eyes !
See you next time !