As Expected: The Halloween Column

  By now, you know the ritual–this is my weekly newspaper column:

                One need not be a chamber to be haunted;
              One need not be a house;
              The brain has corridors surpassing
              Material place. ~  Emily Dickinson

      

Haunted House

Haunted House (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

  There is a rhythm to life. Expectations that must be met. If you are a columnist and it is the last week in golden October then you just naturally turn to the subject of Halloween. And you remember your love/hate relationship with the celebration of the dark night of the soul, or as I prefer to think of it—the night of endless chocolate, chewy caramels, and remembrances of homemade popcorn balls and chocolate chip cookies packaged prettily in cellophane.

        Again, against my better judgement, I bought one of those boxes of chocolate bars that I am particularly fond of—a combo of Reese’s peanut butter cups, mini O’Henry chocolate bars, and Hershey’s milk chocolate bars with peanuts. I have now pretty well emptied the box, having shared only a few of the treats with my husband (lest you think I am mean, he is diabetic after all-don’t want to kill the guy!) so I have had to purchase more candy. I was careful this time to buy candy that does not speak to my sweet tooth but will still pass muster with the few kids destined to show up at my house on Thursday night.

       

English: Candy corn, specifically Brach's cand...

 Candy corn (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The number of trick or treaters have dwindled over the years—as my sons grew older, so did their friends, and no one seems to be replacing that crew at my door—something that is both a relief and disappointment. I remember fondly the days of excitement leading up to the grand day of chocolate and all things sweet—the costumes and smeary grease paint, the adventure of walking out the door knowing we would come home with a bounty of cavity causing booty, my sneaky swiping of my favourite chocolate bars from my sons’ cache bagged unceremoniously in pillow cases. Ah—the good old days!

        Halloween has become big business. So much so that it seems to rival Christmas in our affections. I guess the ‘shadow’ side of life needs to be given its moment in the sun, and this weekend The National Post took the whole Halloween, death, and dying thing for a spin—making death the cornerstone of many of their articles, opinion pieces, and columns. I read a bit of it and was left feeling overexposed to the subject and a little bit creeped out. Do I really want to know that Marilyn Monroe’s last meal consisted of stuffed mushrooms, meatballs and Dom Perignon, or that Cleopatra noshed on figs before meeting her demise?

        One section of the paper was devoted to “The Look of Death”, touting black as the new black; another section was called “13 Spectral Street” contemplating the scariest address in town; a third section shouted “How We Die Now” and elucidated on “the new ways we deal with death.” And, not to be left out, the financial section headline was “Death and Money.” Usually the National Post is my favourite weekend paper, but not so this weekend. I lightly perused its pages, alighting carefully on articles that were not too gruesome, but in truth, skipped most of its content. Even Rex Murphy, who I find eloquently toothsome in his descriptions, was a disappointment with his wish at the end of his column that everyone have a “happy, grey, grim Halloween”. Death, a topic possibly ripe for Halloween was overdone in this edition. The paper is now in the recycle pile—none of it saved for further study or rereading.

        I am a fan of the Halloween that produces fairies and Cinderellas, dinosaurs and robots. Not for me the monsters, or skeletons, and if the ghost is Casper, then I am okay with that. The macabre does not fascinate me; death does not beguile me; tombstones are not the delight of my décor. Inexplicably I do have a soft spot in my heart for witches and wizards, probably as a result of being brought up on the television program “Bewitched” with enchanting Samantha and her charming nose twitch (something I practiced a lot as a kid to no avail.)

        So, in opposition to Rex’s desire that you have a grim Halloween, I wish you as many trick or treaters at your door as you desire, chocolate dreams, and caramel apple wishes.

Published in: on October 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm  Comments (35)  
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Blissfully Uninspired

shelled and unshelled pecans

shelled and unshelled pecans (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am a bit uninspired this week for my “It is Saturday, So It Must Be Recipe Day” so I am going to propose that we have an interactive post today. You are always great at this, so I know we are going to have fun and maybe learn a few things in the process. (Well, that sounds boring, but wait….)

My sister gave me the following recipe when I told her that I had volunteered to take the dessert to a potluck. First of all: WHAT WAS I THINKING? I usually volunteer to bring the salad, or a side dish, or bread (which is what I am bringing to a dinner tonight). But no, I got a little brave, and was buoyed by Robert Allen’s somewhat goading but inspiring quote: “Everything you want is just outside of your comfort zone.”

Yay, dump cake! :)

dump cake!  (Photo credit: Ameel Khan)

So I volunteered to make dessert. Then I panicked. Of course I make desserts for my family on occasion, and have been known to make a mean birthday cake decorated with all manner of candies, but baking for people outside my family is definitely not something even close to my comfort zone. So I asked my sister Peggy for a suggestion, and she emailed me this recipe, saying it was easy and really tasted good.

It has a rather indelicate name, and should I ever actually make it I may rename it Nutty Super Wonderful Cherry and Pineapple Cake, but for today, I will stick with the name that came with the recipe:

DUMP CAKE

1 – 20 oz. can crushed pineapple with juice, undrained

1 can (21 oz.) cherry pie filling

1 pkg. classic yellow cake mix

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

½ cup (I stick) of butter or margarine

i} Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 13 x 9 inch pan

ii} Dump pineapple with juice into pan. Spread evenly.  Dump in pie filling. Sprinkle cake mix evenly over cherry layer. Sprinkle pecans or walnuts over cake mix. Dot with butter.

iii} Bake 50 minutes or until top is lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 12 – 16

Now, if you did not get the subtlety of this recipe—the word to take note of is “dump”—do not pour the ingredients into the pan, because then it would be called “Pour Cake” and that just has no personality.

No, I did not end up making this cake, but I think that I will for my husband’s birthday on March 21st as he loves cherries. The night of the potluck, I went out and bought a fancy dancey fudge chocolate bar cake decorated with chocolate curls. It was good—but I really wish I had made the dump cake.

Now here is the interactive part: this recipe probably has other renditions—if you know one, provide it for all of us interested in expanding our repertoires.

Are you familiar with this recipe or one that is blissfully similar?