Food: Favorite Halloween treats from years past
I had a start when I opened my box of Halloween decorations last weekend and came face-to-face with the toilet tarantula.
This rubber arachnid has been a Halloween fixture on my commode for the last 25 years, ever since my son Jake was a tot and placed it on the tank lid. “Because Mom,” he explained as I tried to recover from a near heart attack, “there’s no such thing as too many decorations.”
This business of decorating for holidays was a big thing when I was growing up. My mother had boxes of gee-gaws for every holiday, but the Halloween decorations were especially inventive. When we were kids, she enrolled us in a ceramics class and we made many Halloween decorations as we grew up. There was a big, toothy skull with a bulb that made it look like it had flickering tonsils; a witch, stirring up a smoldering cauldron of brew; a set of ghosts that came in big, medium and small, and many other frightful and whimsical characters. In addition to the ceramics, there were cardboard skeletons with movable joints, Frankenstein faces and lots of those crepe paper fold-out black spiders which were hung everywhere. There were scarecrows and black cats with arched backs, and severed hands that poked out of closet doors.
When all the decorations were put up on the inside, the yard was tackled. I spent many hours as a youngster wrestling with corn shocks, trying to tie them around light posts and porch pillars. Pumpkins and gourds were always grown in our garden and they were placed strategically around the premises in addition to little cloth white ghosts that swung from the trees.
Then, when all the decorating was done, Mom would get out her holiday recipes. I still miss the delicious things she used to make for us this time of year. Caramel apples were a favorite, as well as her popcorn balls. Seems like every weekend she made a big pan of pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting, and our entire family relished the seeds we carved out of pumpkins and then roasted.
So of course, it was only natural that when I had my own kid, I would continue the decorating tradition. And it was a tradition that Jake relished. As soon as I would bring down the big black tub that held our Halloween decorations, his little hands would dive right in, pulling out his favorites. Then he would run all over the house, placing these items where ever he saw fit. For the most part, aside from the fact that the decorations were only stuck about three feet high off the floor, he did a pretty good job of distributing them, but one year he decided the bathroom needed some sprucing up. A ghoulish cardboard mummy face was taped to the inside of the toilet lid and a creepy-looking spider was placed on the commode tank. Then he nonchalantly hung around this room waiting for me to go in.
His patience paid off, too. When I noticed his devilish prank, I let out a surprised shriek and I still recall with distinct clarity his uproarious laughter and the complete delight he got out of almost giving his mother heart failure.
The cardboard mummy face is long gone, but I deemed the toilet tarantula a keeper and once again it is giving visitors a start when they need to use my restroom. In fact, the other day Jake came for a visit and he couldn’t believe that the thing had made it through all these years. “Well of course,” I replied with a smile, “because there’s no such thing as too many decorations.”
3/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup margarine
2 tsp. cold water
2 5/8 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 cup small marshmallows
5 quarts plain popcorn
In a saucepan over medium heat combine the corn syrup, margarine, cold water, confectioner’s sugar and marshmallows. Heat and stir until the mixture comes to a boil. Carefully combine the hot mix with the popcorn, coating each kernel. Grease hands with vegetable shortening and quickly shape the coated popcorn into balls before it cools. Wrap with cellophane or plastic wrap and store at room temperature.
Spiced Pumpkin Seeds
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds
5 Tbs. sugar, divided
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
3 Tbs. butter
Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Wash and dry seeds. On foil-lined cookie sheet, spread seeds in a single layer. Toast in oven for 45 to 50 minutes, stirring several times until seeds are dry and starting to brown. When seeds are toasted, melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat and then add seeds and 2 Tbs. of the sugar. Stir until sugar is melted, about one minute. In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the remaining sugar, salt and pumpkin pie spice. Make sure all seeds are coated, stirring thoroughly.