As I scour the stores this week seeking my kids' last-minute costume needs (face glitter for my little fairy and a cheap black plastic half-mask for my ninja), I'll be reminiscing about my childhood Halloweens as a farm kid.
Trick-or-treating clearly discriminates in favor of the townie. If I'd tried going door to door, I'd have been begging Kit Kats from the barn cats -- either that or trudging for miles.
My nieces and nephew, who still live on the family farm in Forward, cheat and go trick-or-treating with their friends in town. But when I was growing up, my mom insisted that proper etiquette dictated you trick-or-treat where you live.
Thus, trick-or-treating via chauffeur.
We'd wriggle into our costumes, grab our plastic pumpkins, load 'er up into Mom's red, rattletrap, rusted-out, four-wheel-drive Ford Bronco and go clattering down the winding roads of the township. The roads were (and still are) about one-and-a-half car widths across, meaning you get very cozy with the side of the road on every bend and hope for the best.
We'd hit the first "neighbor's" house (in the country, a neighbor can be anyone within a 5-mile radius), and one of two things would happen.
The first possibility was that the poor person, living out in the middle of nowhere, hadn't had a trick-or-treater in 50 years and therefore hadn't bought any Halloween candy at all, leaving him or her (usually it was a her, for whatever reason) to mumble apologies and try to scrounge something up.
The second, and in our experience more likely, possibility was that the person would be so overjoyed to see a trick-or-treater that he or she would exclaim with joy, invite us inside, admire our costumes, and then proceed to chat Mom up for half an hour while my brother and I watched our precious allotted two-hour trick-or-treat time slot tick away. But the neighbor would always make up for it by saying, "Eh, I don't think I'll get any more trick-or-treaters tonight anyhow," and then dumping an entire bag of candy into our plastic pumpkins before we boarded the Bronco for the next stop.
One year we got to brighten the evening of an elderly neighbor who gave us apples and probably hadn't had even a non-costumed visitor in a long time. Other times we'd get cookies or other homemade treats, and we could trust they were safe because we knew the people who baked them. Contrast that with the townies who take their candy to the hospital to get it X-rayed before consuming it.
We always ended the evening with a stop at my grandparents' house two farms over from ours. Nan would save my brother a quart-size canning jar full of Brussels sprouts (see recipe) from her garden, and his eyes would light up just as if she'd given him candy. What a weirdo.
She also made us homemade popcorn balls for our Halloween treat every year. We got to take home the whole batch, individually wrapped in wax paper, and they were better than any candy.
You know, come to think of it, trick-or-treating as a farm kid had its perks after all.
Halloween Treats Baking Class: Children ages 4 to 12 will bake a variety of Halloween and fall treats to take home. 10 a.m. Saturday at The Pie Place, Upper St. Clair. $20. Preregister: 412-835-4410.
Free turkey: It's that time of year again when the grocers start rolling out the Butterballs. Shop 'N Save customers who use Perks cards to buy at least $350 in groceries through Nov. 7 can get a free bird up to 14 pounds, or up to 22 pounds for $499 or more in grocery purchases. shopnsavefood.com.
Bigelow Grille's Chef Anthony Zallo is cooking up another four courses to pair with beer -- this time, that of Stone Brewing Co. Cost is for this Downtown, 6 p.m., Nov. 1 "beer and food pairing event" is $55 per person plus tax and tip. Reserve at 412-281-5013.
Follow me on Twitter: @pgfoodevents.
Bacon-n-egg Brussels sprouts
Here's what Mom made with my brother's trick-or-treat Brussels sprouts (see column). Seems like a good antidote to all the candy.
-- Rebecca Sodergren
- 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts
- 2 slices bacon
- 1 hard-cooked egg
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Trim ends from Brussels sprouts and then cut sprouts in half. Steam until crisp-tender.
Meanwhile, fry bacon in skillet until brown. Remove bacon from skillet and place on paper towels to cool. (Use a paper towel to blot excess grease from bacon.)
When Brussels sprouts are done steaming, transfer to a bowl. Crumble bacon over all. Chop hard-cooked egg and scatter over all. Season with salt and pepper. Serves 4.
-- Carolyn Beinlich (Rebecca Sodergren's mom)
Halloween isn't even here yet, but some folks already are thinking Christmas.
Here are two gingerbread house-related activities:
PPG Place, Downtown, is gearing up for its annual Gingerbread House Display and Competition.
Get your creative juices flowing! Participants must register by Nov. 2, and entries must be delivered to PPG Place between Nov. 9 and Nov. 11.
Houses will be displayed Nov. 16-Jan. 7. Donations are collected at the display for the Children's Hospital Free Care Fund.
For complete instructions and details, and to register online, go to ppgplace.com.
Meanwhile, Pastry Chef James Wroblewski is planning his popular Children's Holiday Gingerbread Class at 10:30 a.m. Dec. 8 at the Fairmont Pittsburgh, Downtown.
Fee of $49 per child includes an apron, holiday refreshments for children and their parents, and the completed gingerbread house to take home. For reservations, call Julie Abramovic at 412-773-8911.
Rebecca Sodergren: firstname.lastname@example.org.