I love Halloween. I love being scared, love haunted houses, love costumes, and love candy corn. But nowadays it seems like zombies and vampires are so popular that we are inundated with the undead, bloodsucking creatures all year round. Turn on the TV to watch something blandly amusing and ads for “The Walking Dead” or “American Horror Story” will scare the bejesus out of you. Change the channel and there’s Ted Cruz. Eeeek!
When I was little, my brothers and I would traipse around our neighborhood with paper bags for candy and little cardboard boxes for pennies for Unicef. Our parents would follow at a discreet distance. A few neighbors made the mistake of offering apples or some homemade unwrapped treat that our mother would promptly dispose of. Razor blades! Poison! Urban legends! Once home, we would lay out our loot and swap and trade with all the seriousness of Tony Soprano divvying up crime territories with his cronies at Satriale’s. Sherman and I would finish our candy within days. John’s would last for months and he would torture us as he revealed some new Atomic Fireball or Milky Way in mid-February.
Costumes were also simpler, and most often homemade. Got an old sheet? Presto, you’re Casper the Friendly Ghost. Got charcoal? Smudge your face and you’re a hobo. Nowadays, according to the National Retail Federation, we spend approximately $75 dollars on costumes, decor, and candy. According to the N.R.F., nearly 44 percent of Americans will wear a costume this Halloween, 13.8 percent will also dress up their pets, nearly 31 percent will celebrate at a party, 44 percent will carve a pumpkin, 20 percent will visit a haunted house, 32 percent will take their kids trick or treating, and 48 percent will decorate their yard and/or house.
When my son was little and sweet and innocent he was Winnie the Pooh and one of the Ninja Turtles. As a teen he morphed into gory zombie creatures. Now he seems content with the irony of just being Cameron from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” or Kim Jong-Un. Comical and frightening.
When it comes to food for Halloween, you can work wonders with food coloring, Jello, squid ink, slimy noodles, lychee nuts, and so on. After you carve your pumpkin, save the seeds and roast them with a little olive oil and salt. If you want to make pumpkin soup, buy the cheese or sugar pumpkins, which are pale tan and squat. They have the best flavor and are less watery than the bright orange ones. It’s also fun to hollow out the tiny pumpkins and put dips in them.
Popcorn balls, and candy and caramel apples are some other favorites that nobody seems to make from scratch anymore. Super fresh, crisp apples are key for making these. The Milk Pail in Water Mill is a good source for pumpkins, gourds, apples, cider, and cider doughnuts for Halloween. If you want to get really creative, buy some dry ice from Berkoski’s to create a spooky, smoky vapor rising up from your bar or punch bowls. Freeze fake bugs in your ice cubes, just be careful when the cubes melt!
There are plenty of Halloween activities coming up — haunted house tours, haunted graveyard tours, and my favorites, the ragamuffin parades in East Hampton and Sag Harbor Villages.
Halloween is the only “holiday” or occasion that allows us to indulge our fantasies, explore our fears, and gorge on candy. Whether you want to be a fairy princess, ghoul, vampire, silly animal, or heaven forbid, this year’s number one character, Miley Cyrus, be safe, enjoy the treats, please no tricks, and have fun trying some of these recipes.
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