Halloween is my favorite holiday but I can’t stand Autumn. It’s a conundrum, a paradox, an absurdity. Sheepishly, disloyally, I place it above St. Patrick’s Day, for Halloween is a day free of gifts, expectations and traditional meals. Halloween inspires dressing up as whoever or whatever you can conjure. Witches top my list, but I have succumbed over the years to various bizarre personas, including Bonnie (with Clyde) and Patty Hearst; I confess that I relished the gun toting at the time.There’s the candy of course, but I’m more into making creepy disgusting food in recent years. See recipe for The Meaty Hand at the end of the blog.
Halloween has its origins in an ancient Celtic festival of the dead called Samhain, (pronounced sow-en) meaning "summer's end," and it was at its height between the 9th and 12th centuries.
During this time, people thought that the souls of the deceased were out and about, in addition to fairies, witches and demons. People left food and drinks out to appease these creatures, which was followed by people dressing up like them to receive treats, too. Beginning in the 9th century, Nov. 1 became known as All Saint's Day or All Hallows in Britain, and it was a church feast day. The night before, the eve of All Hallows, was called All Hallows Even, which eventually evolved into Halloween. *In County Cork, Ireland, people went begging door-to-door as they followed a man dressed as a white mare covered with a sheet and carrying a horse head. In Wales, boys and girls dressed as the opposite sex as they went door-to-door. Scottish and Irish immigrants in the U.S. during the 18th and 19th centuries brought their Halloween folklore and traditions with them. Laura Rosenfeld, Tech Times 2014
It must be my Irish heritage that brings me such delight in Halloween. I believe in genetic memory; my Hayes ancestors lived in Cork, so the festival in Cork has meaning for me. * Genetic memory is a memory present at birth that exists in the absence of sensory experience, and is incorporated into the genome over long spans of time. It is based on the idea that common experiences of a species become incorporated into its genetic code, not by a Lamarckian process that encodes specific memories but by a much vaguer tendency to encode a readiness to respond in certain ways to certain stimuli.
I have long ago memories of trick or treating in Queens, New York, being chased by neighborhood boys with chalk filled socks; too long ago for me to count as a reason to love Halloween so much. The years when the kids were growing up was centered on their experience; sewing Pocahontas and Bam Bam costumes one year (never again) and how Bam Bam’s club, fashioned from a duct taped mass of crunched up newspapers, had to be taken away from three year old Glenn. He had way too much fun shouting Bam! Bam! and smacking the club on the ground.
Memories surface from a party I gave the first year I lived in the log cabin.
I didn’t have to buy cobwebs, there were so dang many in that scary place. There were witches and hump backs and cross dressers and sluts, oh my. A masked someone came in playing a small accordion and danced all around the living room as we clapped and shouted, excited to know which of our friends was so talented, but the person never responded, didn’t talk; we had no clue, and I started to realize no one was missing from who I’d invited. The dancer danced out the door, never to return. Who was it?
The fun continued on a much grander scale after I moved to Woodstock, a town where adults dress up as eagerly as the kids, where the Halloween parade calls for closing Tinker Street to traffic and the kids trick or treat at the retail shops, where merchants stand at their doors and give out thousands of pieces of candy; carpal tunnel syndrome symptoms appear after the first hour of the continuous “Here you go! Who are you? You’re so scary! Wow – you rock!” etc.
Most years, my friend Helen (known as Feef, short for Fifi) came up from New Jersery for Halloween. Who could resist such fun? One year I talked Feef into dressing as nuns, bearded nuns to be exact. As we walked through town we were continually asked if we were with the other nuns. What were they talking about? When we walked into the pub where all the ghouls and goblins were refreshing themselves after the walk about town a guy at the bar shouted when he saw us “What is this, a nuns’ bar?” Then we saw three of our friends at the bar dressed as nuns (two were men.) Couldn't have better if we'd planned it.
It was a fantastic year when six of us (including guys) went as mermaids.
Afterwards we sneaked into the place I worked (secret) and ate cheesecake and chocolates, then had a secret initiation (I can’t reveal) ceremony amidst lots of glitter and spinning.
I had a couple of glorious parties before that. I was the Tin Woman once (how I loved being silver) and a few strangers crashed the party, but they brought food, so all was well.
One of my favorite years was being a vampire queen.
I particularly liked the blood capsules; when held in your mouth they could be chewed open at the appropriate time, (chatting with someone) and blood would come out of your mouth and run down your chin. They tasted like sugar and were grossly effective! (I also like the picture because I still had a jawline then) hahha
When I worked at a nonprofit, I managed to corral my coworkers onto the Halloween boat; we had great office parties, complete with cobwebs, the Monster Mash and disgusting food. Some weren’t mad about dressing up but they all contributed with Halloween appropriate food, creepy and scary, like deviled eggs that looked like eyeballs, bloody mary’s, a pumpkin full of vomit (you get the picture.) The last year I was there, I spotted the large cow and the astronaut laughing as they stood next to my meaty hand on the creepy, gory food table; turns out I had mistakenly made six fingers on my meaty hand. How had I not noticed? Too busy putting together my outfit for the one eyed one horned flying purple eater? I leave you with the gross recipe for the meaty hand, which no home should be without on Halloween night. Besides, it’s very tasty.
Oh dear, I can't find the Meaty Hand recipe! I dreamed last night that I found it in a red file folder - well that was not so. I'm giving a minimized version of it, and I know all you great cooks out there can figure it out and make it fine! There are some versions online, but I can't find the one i had - I apologise!
The Meaty Hand: So, use your favorite meatloaf recipe (I like to use turkey instead of beef) Lightly grease a cookie sheet pan and lay out the meat and form it into a hand. ( five fingers only) Don't make the fingers too thin; they will cook faster than the rest of the hand. Cut an onion in half - stick it in the end of the wrist, like a bone. Cut other outer pieces and fashion them into the ends of the fingers like finger nails. Cook till almost done; take out of oven and lay cheese over all (I often use provolone, cause it's soft and malleable and melts nice) Put back in oven till cheese melts and is brown. See photo above. Then put mashed potatoes all around hand - it covers up any uneven edges, and soaks up the juice as well. As a shot cut, I often use the packaged Idahoan potatoes - so quick! Bon Appetit!