I have always loved Halloween. I love candy, I love being scared, and I love to wear costumes. Growing up in a small community in California, when our family went trick or treating, my brothers and I, all hopped up on sugar, would walk or run door to door and our parents would trail behind in the family station wagon. We knew all of our neighbors, and would end up at the Kuntsles’ house, our Swiss friends who would have an awesome Halloween party with popcorn balls and plenty of games like bobbing for apples.
Perhaps I lacked imagination at that age, because every year I would wear the same costume. My mother would take the tail off of my favorite stuffed animal, a leopard, and sew it onto my leopard print pajama bottoms, et voila! On November 1, the tail went back on my poor abused toy.
When we moved to the suburbs of Virginia, my brothers and I got a little more mercenary. We would beg our parents to drive us to the most densely populated subdivisions so we could collect maximum candy for minimal effort. We also firmly believed in the “trick or treat” rule. If you’re not home to hand out Kit Kats and Almond Joys, we will leave toilet paper in your trees or smash your pumpkin. Rotten kids, I know.
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend close to $72 per person on costumes, cards, and candy on Halloween; 73 percent will hand out candy, 47 percent will carve a pumpkin, 20 percent will visit a haunted house, and 12 percent will dress up their pets. Approximately 40 percent will wear a costume. Of that 40 percent I imagine the majority will wear either Obama or Romney masks and the rest will be Honey Boo Boo, the child beauty pageant contestant.
When it comes to food for Halloween parties, this is a great holiday for using food coloring. Make deviled eggs and color the yolks a ghastly green. Make a Mexican seven layer dip and pipe a spider web design with sour cream over the top, plastic spiders optional. String cheese can be cut on the diagonal and topped with sliced almonds for fingernails. Or you could just go the Alfred Hitchcock route and serve an entirely blue meal. Blue is said to be the least appetizing color of all.
If you want to be really junky, wrap strips of packaged crescent dough around hot dog halves to make mummies. Put crumbled Oreos and gummy worms on top of chocolate pudding to replicate worms in dirt. As for me, I like a good old-fashioned caramel apple.
When you carve pumpkins for Halloween, don’t forget to save the seeds for toasting. You can also hollow out pumpkins and serve dips or soup in them. The best edible pumpkins are the pale orange squat ones known as “cheese” pumpkins. These also make the best pies.
When my son was little, Winnie the Pooh was his favorite costume. We would tape up a plastic pumpkin bucket to look like Winnie’s “huny” pot. Now that he is a strapping young man, he leans more toward ghoulish and bloody characters, although this year his costume will be the self-deprecating comedian Louis CK. How a black T-shirt and baggy Dad-jeans constitute a costume I have no idea.
Every year I try to come up with fresh recipes for pumpkin. This year I’m going to make a Thai-style pumpkin soup and caramel apples from scratch, not from melted Kraft caramels.
Be safe this Halloween, don’t play any tricks, eat as much candy as you want . . . and then brush your teeth!