HAL­LOWEEN MAD­NESS

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BBC Good Food - - Inside - @nay­lor_tony Tony Naylor

It’s not the ghosts Tony Naylor finds ter­ri­fy­ing about this hol­i­day

Want to hear some­thing ter­ri­fy­ing? In 2001, the UK spent £12 mil­lion on Hal­loween. Last year, say an­a­lysts Min­tel, spend­ing was set to hit £320 mil­lion. Now our third-big­gest event, af­ter

Christ­mas and Easter,

Hal­loween is grow­ing faster than an army of the un­dead in a zombie apoca­lypse movie.

Quite why is a fiendish rid­dle in­scribed on a goat’s skull placed in­side a blood-stained pen­ta­gram. Amer­i­can cul­tural im­pe­ri­al­ism, ram­pant con­sumerism and mil­len­ni­als are all in the blame frame, par­tic­u­larly given that the lat­ter are more likely to blow money on ‘sexy’ witch out­fits (never have com­mas been more in­verted) or hand-painted Mex­i­can El Día de Muer­tos sugar skulls. For those who grew up with 31 Oc­to­ber as a triv­ial pre­cur­sor to the se­ri­ous busi­ness of Bon­fire Night, it is baf­fling – and in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to di­gest. For Hal­loween is now a chill­ing feast of du­bi­ous foods. It is a Franken­stein’s mon­ster of evil ed­i­bles, creepy can­dies and freaky fan­cies. Al­lit­er­a­tion and puns seem to be its chief cre­ative mo­tors. This is less of an is­sue for kids. Let them en­joy the sugar rush. Us­ing Hal­loween to score points in a de­bate about child­hood obe­sity is a joy­less non-starter.

The is­sue runs far deeper than this one fes­ti­val. That said, as the dad of a young son, I in­stinc­tively bri­dle at the aisles and aisles of jelly fangs, candy floss cob­webs and choco­late bats that ap­pear in Oc­to­ber, the pester-power they pro­voke and how it means Hal­loween, Bon­fire Night, Christ­mas and New Year now all blur into two months of non-stop, lim­ited-edi­tion con­fec­tionery. That con­stant nov­elty vastly in­flates kids’ ex­pec­ta­tions. Back in the day, if you were lucky, trick-or-treat­ing meant choos­ing from a tin of Qual­ity Street (what could be scarier than po­ten­tially get­ting a straw­berry cream?). To­day, en­ti­tled kids ex­pect a pick ‘n’ mix of high­qual­ity con­fec­tionery be­hind ev­ery front door. We buy treats in. We lay on a spread for them, lest we be seen as mis­er­able. Does it make the kids happy? No. Just greed­ier.

But all that is lit­er­ally child’s play com­pared to the way adults have em­braced Hal­loween. All week, even in usu­ally se­ri­ous restau­rants, you can’t move for spooky spe­cials, Drac­ula-themed ‘stake nights’, plates of bloody, worm-in­fested in­testines (sausages, pasta, tomato sauce) and cock­tails bob­bing with ly­chee eye­balls un­der grave­yard fogs of liq­uid ni­tro­gen. Is this what we want food to be? A play­ground haunted by meringue ghosts? The worst el­e­ment of the modern Hal­loween, how­ever, has to be the pump­kin lantern. It is a gen­uine shock these days to see one – gap-toothed, wonky eyes, off-cen­tre tri­an­gle nose – that has been carved by a child. In­stead, the grass verges around Bri­tain’s pri­mary schools are an­nu­ally lit­tered with sten­cilled cre­ations as in­tri­cate as the finest tat­too art. And plainly cre­ated by par­ents.

All this causes enor­mous waste. More than 30% of peo­ple think pump­kin flesh can­not be eaten, re­ports the Pump­kin Res­cue cam­paign, and, de­spite be­ing told to eat more pump­kin risot­tos, soups and ravi­o­lis, we still bin 18,000 tonnes of pump­kin an­nu­ally. Not gourd. Not gourd at all.

My tip? If your fam­ily ha­rasses you for ghoul­ish treats that are a waste of money and food, re­ally bring the gore. Take the Nordic Food Lab’s sug­ges­tion that pigs’ blood can re­place eggs in cakes, and get your kids bak­ing with blood. Or serve them calves’ brains for tea. Trust me, they’ll be far less de­mand­ing next Hal­loween.

Tony Naylor writes for Restau­rant mag­a­zine and The Guardian.

Do you love or hate Hal­loween? Let us know on Face­book and Twit­ter #bbcg­fopin­ion

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