Today’s topic is particularly revolting, because it’s never too late to start considering what lies ahead at the end of this month I mean, tonight–and yes, we’re already late for the door. Yes, buying bags of generically sorta-chocolate Hershey’s and Mars brand mini candies is the accepted, sterile, utterly safe way to go on Halloween. But really, it’s not very interesting. Especially not for kids. And it’s gotten a lot more expensive in the last year, as far as I can tell.
(Though if you’re going that route–or your kid is going out trick-or-treating elsewhere–check out the Buzzle.com comprehensive candy carbs list if you need to know about that kind of thing in detail, or the little rule-of-thumb chart at the bottom of my Carb Counts page. If nothing else, it’ll keep you away from the communal candy dish at work.)
When I was a kid we went out trick-or-treating with the exhortation to touch nothing, TASTE NOTHING, until we got home and my mother could inspect it all for razor blades or dimes or other nasties that might unimaginably (except to my mom; dimes are not something most people will part with these days except for a venti with extra whipped cream and a cherry on top) be stuck in things like apples. It was an annual ritual of paranoia that lent that unnameable something–a hint of danger and excitement–to the otherwise blatantly fake costume horror. Because, of course, we were usually walked strategically to the homes of families our parents knew, just as they walked their kids to ours.
Then there was the time a friend invited me to her church’s haunted house–the activities mostly consisted of blindly sticking our hands in bowls of cold spaghetti or reaching out for something that turned out to be grapes with the skins peeled off. We were getting too old for it, really, and it was more icky than scary. But still. Somehow the innocent days of bobbing for apples and sticking your hand in cold spaghetti have gotten lost in the too-adult fear of sharing germs or getting pneumonia from having to plunge your head into a bowl of cold water.
Kids don’t get to help set up anything but the store-bought decorations anymore, and if they have any say in what treats to hand out, it’s through the universally accepted point-and-whine technique at the supermarket Halloween aisle. Reading the teeny-tiny fine print on the ingredient lists for all those mini candies, spooky and mysterious as the 4-syllable chemical names may be, just doesn’t cut it for scariness or adventure. Nor do the huge blowup animatronic decorations–the creepy hand, the dancing skeleton, the vampire rising from the coffin to a boogie-woogie soundtrack like so many Halloween versions of the Singing Trout–is this Robert Pattinson’s future?
Most kids can’t even make their own toast these days. How are they supposed to cope with creating pickled porcupine quills or tarred hornet brittle?
Fortunately, a number of cookbooks (from before the sterilized-and-wrapped-for-your-protection era) are available from the ether or at your local library with answers to just these sorts of dilemmas. If you have a stove and a freezer and possibly a food processor or electric mixer, you stand a good chance of rescuing your young innocents from the debilitating descent into middle-aged indifference, incapacity and accountancy.
I refer here, first and foremost, to the slim but venomous contents of Roald Dahl’s culinary imagination (and that of his widow, Felicity Dahl, who unearthed these books and made sure they saw light of day). To be absolutely sure I’m doing it right, I’m starting with Volume II, Roald Dahl’s Even More Revolting Recipes (Penguin Putnam, 2001), because Volume I, Revolting Recipes, clearly wasn’t revolting enough. Only the best for my child!
What could such books possibly contain? Roald Dahl’s Even More Revolting Recipes is a fair mix of candies, sweet drinks, desserts and actual non-sweet food–this last is the real surprise. But no vegetables, unfortunately, other than a bit of decorative tomato and some oddly Martian-looking potatoes (I fervently hope they don’t sing).
In keeping with modern ideas about kids and cooking, a number of the recipes call for prefab products (the one for Tongue Rakers, a kind of onion-and-garlic-laced bread shaped like a pitchfork, calls for a “packet” of your favorite pizza dough mix rather than the basic flour-water-yeast-and-salt), and several involve the strategic use of food coloring (Hornets Stewed in Hot Tar, a black-dyed pumpkin- and other-seed brittle) or fluorescent paint (which somehow, isn’t supposed to come into contact with the more naturally fluorescent mango popsicle stuck on the opposite end of the plastic spoon).
But many of the recipes are actual, legitimate recipes–some, like Boiled Slobbages and Glumptious Globgobblers, are reasonably recognizable in their day-to-day guises as things like spaetzle or Swedish meatballs. The boiling and deep frying are supposed to be handled by grownups corralled into the kitchen by the young chef de cuisine.
A little more challenging are techniques like piped meringue (Pickled Spines of Porcupines) and fresh-made, hand-rolled pasta in two colors (Hot Noodles Made from Poodles on a Slice of Garden Hose). The results are impressive, and the experience of whipping egg whites or drying fresh noodles over a coat hanger will last a lot longer than the mundane task of ripping open a plastic bag of candies. Speaking of which, your child (and perhaps you) will certainly enjoy bashing a bar of chocolate to bits for Chocolate Mixed by Waterfall. Just don’t hit your head with the rolling pin on the upswing.
How all these things taste after all that effort is a question, but there’s no doubt they look absolutely revolting in the pictures and provide the necessary foundation for your child’s future apprenticeship in molecular gastronomy.
Filed under: books, cooking, Desserts, Eating out, haute cuisine, history, holiday cooking, kid food, Odd food, unappetizing | Tagged: candy carbs, cookbooks for kids, Even More Revolting Recipes, Halloween, Roald Dahl |