There are occasions when I want to go back to the age of innocence. Hallowe’en is one of them. When I was growing up, Hallowe’en was a beautiful time to be someone different – to dress up in any costume I felt like, to be anyone I wanted to be. Goblin or princess or cowgirl, I was it. And still today in parts of America, everyone dresses up, even the staff in the doctors’ offices. And there are Hallowe’en parades, and people visit the neighbours and show off their costumes in the murkily cold October evenings, and the neighbours pretend to be terrified or astounded at beauty and give them home baked cookies warm from the oven, or teeth-rotting candy that eventually gets chucked into the bin.
And jack o’ lanterns of all sizes, still smelling of pumpkin seeds adorn the porches and smile leeringly at the passing merry makers.
Here in England, they are trying to incorporate Hallowe’en into a very, very different culture. OK. The shops are packed with gaudy orange-and-black must-haves. There is the occasional severed hand in the gingerale section of the supermarket. They open the sale of Guy Fawkes Day fireworks early, in case someone wants to set off a firecracker or two for Hallowe’en. We get a few carved pumpkins on our streets – the next door neighbours are creative geniuses.
But for a country that does not celebrate Mardi Gras, you’d think citizens would crave the chance to dress up ridiculously at least once a year. They don’t.
What I miss the most are the visits from children, strangers and known….well, with masks and makeup I don’t even recognise the children I know. And there are very few visits. People (usually grownups) warn them off. They say it’s begging. They say you shouldn’t go to a stranger’s house. They say there is something bad connected with it. Funny, that in six weeks’ time it will be all right to go carol singing and collect money. That, however, is for charity, so it seems to be allowed.
Every year I hope. I put out our ceramic jack o’ lantern, and long for someone, even ONE ghost, goblin, skeleton, fairy princess, or Darth Vader, to visit. Sometimes we’re lucky, and our hearts are lifted.
I feel like Linus in the Peanuts cartoon who waits yearly for the visit of the Great Pumpkin. And like Linus, this year I too will be waiting
Hallowe’en Chocolate Cookies
In a large mixing bowl mix 10 oz (1 ¼ cups) margarine or butter with 1 lb (2 cups, 420 gms) sugar, until well incorporated. Add 2 eggs, 2 tsp vanilla essence, and 8 ozs (2 cups 240 gms) self-raising flour [or 2 cups flour with 1 tsp soda bicarb – baking soda]. Mix in ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder (3 ozs, 110 gms) and ½ tsp salt. When thoroughly combined, add 3 pkts or 12 ozs chocolate chips. Mix well. Roll into walnut-sized balls, or if sloppy, drop by dessertspoonfuls onto baking paper, about two inches apart. Bake in moderate oven, 350 degrees for 8 – 9 minutes, no more than 10. Let cool slightly before removing. Cookies will puff up when baking and sink down to wrinkly chewiness when cooler.
- These bake well on baking parchment. No need to grease the pans.
- You can freeze them at the raw stage. When an unexpected loved one arrives, whap them from the freezer, put them on paper in a cold oven, turn on the heat, and 10 minutes later you have fresh cookies. By that time you’ve boiled the kettle for an accompanying beverage and gone through one or two chat items.
- Also works well with gluten-free flour.
- Good with chopped walnuts, too, if you are sure that none of your fairy princesses or blood-dripping ghouls has a nut allergy.