Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out
Recently, I read that Halloween is second only to Christmas when it comes to spending. Are you surprised? The assemblage of spider webs, inflatable ghosts, pumpkins and witches on numerous lawns around town should serve as one clue. The second clue is how much you spend on all that delicious candy. The holiday — if you can call it that? — is now far removed from its religious roots and is now a fun-filled, sugar-charged, freaky free-for-all… for better or worse!
One aspect of Halloween spending does kind of scare the bejeezus out of me: expensive costumes. Back in my day (cue the Cranky Costume Lady), a costume meant ransacking your parents’ closet or attic to find inspiration, then building and begging for other items so you’d win the school’s costume contest. The unfortunate kids who showed up in store-bought costumes — you know, a superhero mask and a smock with a scene featuring said superhero — were ridiculed and given the dregs of your class’ candy loot (raisins and rock-hard molasses chews).
While I haven’t seen such costumes available for years — probably a good thing — it is still kind of depressing to see just how commercial costuming has become. I am aware of the irony, but stay with me. A recent trip to Party City for inspiration was pretty pathetic… sure, you may need to buy a wig to complete your costume, but do you really need to buy a black witch’s dress, or, for crying out loud, a button-up shirt with shredded sleeves to become a pirate? Much like GPS and automatic soap dispensers, someone’s decided to make money by making things way too easy for us.
I suppose it doesn’t matter that much anymore: most schools have eliminated costume contests in favour of “orange and black” theme days, and costumes only come out for trick-or-treating, when having enough mobility to reach the doorbell is all that matters. Another factor comes into play, too: most children want to dress up as a pre-existing consumer concept, like Batman, Spider-Man, or a Disney Princess, according to the US-based National Retail Federation. Chances are they won’t find trademarked leotards or frilly full-length dresses at home.
Cranky Costume Lady is ultimately bemoaning the loss of creativity in kids, and the adults who resort to a costume found hanging in a plastic bag on a hook. When Cranky Costume Lady was a cranky kid, a store-bought mask was a treat. Instead, Grandma’s old plaid day dress became the base for a scarecrow costume; an oversized plush dog with a fatal wound was an easy-peasy puppy for a kindergartener. Is showing off a store-bought costume nearly as satisfying?
I’m still a do-it-yourself kind of costumer, to this day — with hilarious results. My husband was a hit a few years ago as an “’80s Business Man,” with suspenders, slick hair and refrigerator-sized cellphone. I found success as “Field Day Nerd” after finding high-waisted sweatpants and a stack of “participant” ribbons. (Steal either of these ideas, just give me credit!) We have a group of friends who love to push the sublimely ridiculous envelope as much as we do, so the fact that we’re a week away from our annual party without a great idea is a little daunting. A dig through the closets is in order!
Of course, now that we have a child of our own, we’re hoping the creativity gene gets passed on to her. I’ve saved some of the more theatrical items from my fashion days in the hopes that she’ll eventually be inspired to Halloween greatness. This year, she’ll have to settle for being the cutest little ladybug in town. But what’s toting her around to trick-or-treat will hopefully amuse you!
A few readers inquired about the cinnamon cheesecake I mentioned a few weeks ago. Forgo the “fun-sized” bars in favour of this decadent treat!
Andrea’s Cinnamon Cheesecake
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine ingredients and press into a 9-inch springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes, then cool.
2 - 250g packages of hard cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup mascarpone cheese
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tbsp. cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350. Move one oven rack to centre, another to bottom. Beat cream cheese with an electric mixer until fluffy. Add the mascarpone cheese and sugar, then eggs, until smooth. Stir in cinnamon. Pour into crust. Place on centre rack in oven, and put a shallow pan of water on lower rack. Bake for at least an hour; top will be slightly golden and firm.
Cool cheesecake completely in refrigerator, about six hours. Prior to serving, warm about half a 450mL jar of President’s Choice dulce de leche in a saucepan over low heat with about two tablespoons of milk. When smooth, pour over top of cheesecake.