Monthly Archives: October 2012

Hallowe’en Apples!

This is truly a day for the children in all of us. Whether you like to eat the candy, dress up in costume, or you enjoy  being scared speechless it is all about the thrill of being a bit outside the box. In the interest of bringing back great memories for all of us big kids, I am going to share some of my favourites…

I think for me it started with the first Hallowe’en costume I remember, when I was three. My Mom sewed up a leopard costume, complete with a hat that had cute little ears, and a puffy tail. She painted a cat nose and whiskers on my face with paint and sent me out with my Dad, carrying my pumpkin treat bucket. everyone said I made a lovely leopard, and they filled my bucket with goodies.  What’s not to love?! I wish I had a picture but all those old shots are on slides.

When I got older, I had a younger brother to take trick-or-treating, so he wore the leopard suit that I had grown out of, and I wore a newly sewn clown suit. Since I was a tall kid, the clown suit was a good fit; I was a bit clumsy anyway, and from a practical standpoint it was more adaptable. When I got taller,  Mom added stockings so that the short legs wouldn’t look the wrong kind of funny. The other practical change was using pillow cases instead of those pumpkin tubs – you could stay out longer and not have to go home to dump out your loot.

Mom and Dad had to approve your loot before you ate it. You weren’t allowed to eat anything en route, and you were to beware of homemade goodies that people put in your bag; apples could have razor blades in them. There was one elderly lady on our block that made puffed rice squares that we could eat,  because we knew her and she put her address on the saran-wrapped packages. Mom and Dad told us it wasn’t a good idea to eat all the treats right away – wouldn’t it ruin the fun if we threw up all those Tootsie rolls and chocolate bars? But when I was a kid, no one gave out healthy treats. This was an honest-to-goodness junk food occasion.

In university the parties became a bit crazier; in those days jello shots and yucca flux were cool. We still bobbed for apples, but the guys were more concerned with impressing the girls than actually grabbing an apple. One year I went to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show with friends. We dressed up as characters, and brought props to take part. We put up our umbrellas and sprinkled water from spray jugs when Barry Bostwick gets out of the car to fix the tire. When someone at the grand table, says “A toast, we must have a toast!” we all threw toast. It was completely irreverent, a totally appropriate Halloween experience. In case you haven’t ever seen this film in a theatre with others, here are some tips for you when you do 🙂

I think the theme of Hallowe’en  is the same as with many other celebrations – you just need to believe in the essence of the occasion. Let yourself be scared, step outside your comfort zone and see what it’s like to be different. Enjoy the thrill.

Need a reminder of how to make the most of Hallowe’en, or why it’s important to believe? Who better than Linus to tell us…

An apple a day

Ambrosia apples are well-named; they make a great midday snack.

I had a funny conversation recently with a foodie friend and there were a number of well-known expressions and sentiments we used that  use food terms. That reaffirmed yet again for me just how much food is a part of our everyday lives – in ways we don’t even consider. Dare I say this is food for thought, or should I rather say you would do well to take this column with a grain of salt? (I think by now you see where I am going with this… ) 

I entitled this week’s column using that age-old phrase that has become the poster child for healthy living – and did you know that in Ancient Greece throwing an apple to a woman was a way to propose marriage? (If she caught it, it meant yes. That is one way you become the apple of someone’s eye…) When the expression about keeping doctors away became popular in the 19th century, they had no scientific way of knowing that apples were healthy but they saw the proof in the pudding. (Would that have been apple pudding, I wonder??) Bad apples made their way into expressions too, and I suppose you could argue that might have been due to Eve’s unfortunate experience but a more modern version is perhaps the more obvious truth – spoiling a good effort only takes one small token, whether it is one apple in a barrel or one party pooper in a bunch of folks.

The apple expressions are ones that we use all the time, but with the approach of the holiday season the phrase “nuttier than a fruitcake” also came to mind, which of course then brought on all sorts of derogatory comments about fruitcake. I thought the phrase was meant to ridicule the person, and since I am one of the very few people in the world who publicly claim to enjoy fruitcake, I took offense. Fruitcake does not even have that many nuts – maybe that is why we don’t call it nutcake! Just because something is not your cup of tea doesn’t mean it’s a recipe for disaster. Mind you, perhaps there was a crazy Christmas baker in history, for in the UK they have mincemeat, which is similar to fruitcake in its taste and ingredients and there if you say that someone is “as thick as mince” it also means they are not altogether there. (Or perhaps it was just partaking of the rum and/or brandy that the fruit soaked in that made them a bit out to lunch.)

Many idioms so seem to have a logical history to them, but there are others that seem even more elusive. Why would we care who brought home the bacon – wouldn’t we rather know who was bringing home the pork roast? (It comes from a small town in England that offered a side of bacon to any man who hadn’t quarreled with his wife for a year and a day. Even then, that was something to appreciate!) And when was the last time you tried to cut mustard? Well, if you had ever tried to cut down mustard stalks you would know how difficult it is, but if you have ever “cut” dried mustard with vinegar or water then you know too that there is a standard for getting a good final product. Aren’t you glad you know those things now?

mustard fields in Saskatchewan – definitely a full day’s work to cut!

In keeping with the fall season and the resurgence of comfort foods, I will finish with a phrase I found particularly intriguing: “Fine words butter no parsnips”. I looked up the background to this one and found that it dates back to 1639 when people often ate parsnips instead of potatoes. If you have tasted them before, you know that parsnips are a food that needs to be buttered (or otherwise glazed – alone, they are quite bitter). The phrase may contain the root of a broader idiom – “to butter someone up” – in that it means words are not the same as actions. You can butter someone up, but it does not necessarily mean you will convince them; only the real thing will do.

I hope this week’s column has allowed you to “go to bed less stupid” as Martin says; or to give you one more expression, you can now tell people that you didn’t just fall off a turnip truck!

thanks to the folks at who took this photo to advertise the Turnip Truck food store in Gulch

It’s not just turkey that spells thanks

It is not only the harvest season but also that time of year when we are reminded to give thanks for all that we have. Most of us will be enjoying a turkey feast this weekend as part of the celebrations. However, with all the news of late that seems to spell doom and gloom I wanted to take time to say that even a can of beans could serve the purpose for gathering folks together to be grateful. In our part of the world we have much to be grateful for, and if you have someone to share your meal with then that is a great start right there.

The family part of Thanksgiving is the most obvious, and although your blood relatives may be far away, often friends can fill the gap and share a special time. I know as a culture we are aware of sharing with those less fortunate as well; Thanksgiving is often a time when people are reminded to give back in any way they know how. There are turkey drives, and donations to the food bank, and all kinds of charities that need the support of the community.

But what about the less formal part of the holiday; what about the essence of being grateful? Can you do that if you are stressed out about work and a busy schedule and having to pay the bills?

Take a lesson from kids and dogs – they are good at making the most of every moment.

We need to make sure we take time for ourselves, to stop and smell the flowers so to speak. That is when it is easiest to be grateful, when you take time to notice the world around you.  Ambition is a powerful thing that can take you places, and responsibilities are important but we need to remember not to let the cart lead the horse. If you collapse from the stress of trying to get that never-ending list of duties completed or from the pressure of trying to live up to expectations, then you will never have a chance to really be grateful and enjoy your life – no matter how much turkey you eat.

In closing I will reprint a poem I included in an earlier column,  made famous when it was discovered on the body of a man who was instrumental in convicting Al Capone. He was gunned down, but no one is sure if the note was something he carried or if it was left by his killers. I leave you to ponder its importance.

The Clock of Life

by Robert H. Smith, copyright 1932, 1982

The clock of life is wound but once,

And no man has the power

To tell just when the hands will stop

At late or early hour.

To lose one’s wealth is sad indeed,

To lose one’s health is more,

To lose one’s soul is such a loss

That no man can restore.

The present only is our own,

So live, love, toil with a will,

Place no faith in “Tomorrow,”

For the Clock may then be still.

May you and yours have a restful and joyous Thanksgiving. Cheers!

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