Trick or treat, Halloween has arrived! This is the time where people wear scary costumes; and shops, restaurants and many other places get decked out in fun, spooky decorations. Although Halloween is considered a Western festival that dates back many centuries, it has now become well known and is celebrated across the world.
Halloween treats are also cooked and decorated according to the theme. Many menus are modified to match the spooky ambience of Halloween; they can range from cute to scary, depending on the creativity and ideas of the food outlet. However, the most important element during this celebration seems to be pumpkins, which, according to legend, is associated with Jack O’Lantern, the man who challenged the devil.
Legend has it that Jack, a mischievous young man, lured the devil to climb up a tree to pick a fruit. He then carved a cross symbol into the bark of the tree which kept the devil from getting back down. Jack made the devil promise that it will not harvest his soul when his death arrives, before allowing the devil to climb down the tree.
When Jack died, the devil could not collect his soul. Instead, it gave Jack an ember so he could light his path in the cold dark night. Jack kept the ember in a cabbage to keep the light going longer. Since then, Jack’s soul has wandered in darkness with the cabbage lamp and townsfolk started putting lights in carved cabbages just like Jack did. Once the legend reached America, people used pumpkins instead, as it is easily recognisable and simpler to carve.
The pumpkin is a squash plant with large vines, rough skin, soft, deep yellow flesh and white seeds. Gastronomically, the pumpkin is a fine ingredient with a unique fragrance and mildly sweet taste, full of important vitamins and minerals – such as Vitamin A, C, E, phosphorus and calcium – that are important for our body. Apart from this, pumpkins are also high in fibre, making it a good choice for those who would like to control their weight.
Pumpkins can be used in various ways. From the simple methods such as steaming, to more complex ones such as stir-frying, boiling or even in a beverage. As a pumpkin’s skin and flesh are easy to carve, they are often used as Halloween decorations.
Another ingredient that is also symbolic of Halloween is the “forbidden fruit of knowledge” – the apple. One popular Halloween party game is “Bobbing for Apples” where apples are placed in a bucketful of water and the players will then have to get them out of the bucket using their mouths. Also, some people believe that peeling an apple in front of a mirror at midnight on Halloween will allow them to see their soulmate in the mirror. As apples are also good for carving, it is easy for you to incorporate them into your Halloween menu.
Since Halloween is prevalent throughout the world, raw ingredients used in Halloween menus and recipes are adapted according to the ingredients available in each region; for example, bell-peppers may be used for carving instead of pumpkins. Nonetheless, when it comes to Halloween, pumpkins and apples are definitely the two most indispensable ingredients.