Please join me as I share my kitchen adventures and stumbles – simple food inspired by childhood memories, seasonal produce, esteemed chefs & cooks and my own travels. I also feature restaurants, delis and markets in South Africa and out, and all the fabulous things in between! I’m a cook and food and travel writer indulging in an intense love-affair with food, and the fabulous!
There are many vague views on this celebration, common in Ireland, Scotland and the United States. I found this to be the simplest, most neutral and well rounded explanation about the origins of Halloween
“Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity, life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition. It is thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off roaming ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints and martyrs; the holiday, All Saints’ Day, incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows’ Eve and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a secular, community-based event characterized by child-friendly activities such as trick-or-treating. In a number of countries around the world, as the days grow shorter and the nights get colder, people continue to usher in the winter season with gatherings, costumes and sweet treats.” via History.com
So you want to party?
Even if Halloween is not a part of your tradition or heritage, it’s a wonderful excuse to hold a party, dress up, watch horror or just spoof movies and eat candy. The celebration can be geared towards adults, kids or both.
The key ingredient needed is imagination. And don’t panic if this isn’t your primary strength or you don’t have time, I’ve trawled the webs, asked my social networks for their best suggestions and drawn from my own archives. Partnered with a bit of patience, you can make this the Halloween party your guests will be howling with delight about long into the night. Good planning will ensure you’re relaxed on the day and you enjoy it too.
Decor & Atmosphere
Unlike other celebrations (and very much like Christmas) there is no need to choose a singular theme- pumpkins mix with spiders mix with maggots mix with witches mix with vampires mix with tomb stones. You get the idea.
Black bin bags, cut or torn up make super haunted-house window treatments
Cotton wool rolls, pulled apart until quite thin and see-through make spooky cobweb effects
Cover a table with black plastic sheeting or black bin bags cut open and taped together – also great to protect against spills.
Get the kids (or your friends) to draw monster masks on pieces of paper – cut out and string together for a simple hanging decoration.
Pumpkins carved and hollowed carefully with a sharp knife make traditional Jack o’Lanterns – place tea light candles inside; use the pumpkin flesh to make cupcakes, muffins, pies or serve savoury as mashed ‘sludge’
Green peppers hollowed out, with scary eyes and devilish smiles carved out, make goblins. Place a tea light candle inside and line up in a row to scare trick or treaters (from my friend Karin Johns)
Pimento stuffed green olives which are in turn stuffed into canned litchis make fabulously frightening eyeballs (from Meeta at What’s for lunch Honey)
Inexpensive muslin cloth, old white rags or bandages stained with Mecurochrome spray or ketchup also make great decor items.
Straw boomsticks can be placed around the room with handmade cardboard witches’ hats propped nearby.
Record a CD/download some suitable music – anything from Ghostbusters to the X-files soundtracks and beyond and play in the background. I will add a list of tunes I found on my Facebook page shortly.
Halloween party items (vampires’ teeth, maggoty eye balls, witches’ hats, bats, decals, pitch forks, false teeth etc) are now easily available- not only at exclusive party stores but even supermarkets and large retailers such as Game and Clicks and the large Chinese outlets like China Town in Sable Square, carry a wide range of inexpensive decor items.
These are re-usable so it’s not a bad idea to buy the cheaper items in bulk and use again the following year/s.
Party spider webs add a very realistic haunted-house effect and are the same type used by movie production houses, if the packaging is to believed – drape over mirrors, television sets, doors and from the ceilings. The spider webs can be stretched to cover a very wide area.
Witches’ hats make an immediate statement – place around the room and guest bathroom
Dry ice is a sure fire way to take your Halloween party to the next level -*note* must be collected not more than 4-6 hours before your party and stored in cooler boxes or a deep freezer- the effects wear off after 8- 12 hours. Handle with safety gloves and do not place the dry ice in contact with crepe paper (don’t ask how I know, but please take my word for it) or any material that is not waterproof. If you live in Cape Town, you can contact this supplier for dry ice.
Line a plastic tub or large container with black bin bags and add dry ice and a little water from time to time. Place in a dark corner and watch the smoke spew out
For a sizable party, you may run out of fridge space for all your drinks, like we did. I lined the guest bathroom’s bathtub with black bin bags and added dry ice blocks and placed the drinks in it. A practical solution with dramatic effect!
Decals are easy to add and remove – black outlines of witches, ravens, cats and bats on a white surface add instant impact.
Get some surgical gloves from a pharmacy or Diskem- fill with red coloured water or jelly and secure the end with a rubberband. Freeze or refrigerate standing up – snip out the glove and display in a jug or bowl of punch
Buy a horror flick or two (usually half- off during the year for trashy spoofs and silly slashers) and play in the background or end the party with bowls of popcorn and watching one of these moveis- always fun before it gets dark.
Jars of mad scientist’s horrid specimens from Evil Mad Scientist (an apt name), using many store cupboard and freezer items. (Adapt and play around)
A home-made scarecrow using old clothes and shoes.
Blow the Budget Decor
Well, you could always go the route of this guy. Bet his neighbours were horrified, especially if it was on loop, never mind the electricity bills. A Halloween light show spectacular! Please play with sound, it’s worth it.
So your pad is looking suitably decrepit and festively horrifying. Now for the nibbles- a party isn’t much of a celebration without the food.
As I mentioned in last year’s posts, much lies in the naming of your dishes. Have a look at this menu to get you into the spirit of things:
Death by Wobble Drinks (low cal jelly + appletizer/ low cal jelly + juice +vodka)
Witch’s Garden (Crudites +dip)
Fresh Flesh (a borrowed title, for smoked salmon trout with chive cream cheese on melba toasts)
Newts, Toads & Bugs (Vegetable Pilaf with Soya sausages)
If the party is for adults, feel free to make “normal” food. Add labels with your creatively re-named dishes and dot with scary decor items around the table.
Kid’s food may require a bit more work and certainly a lot more green. Children probably would like to be involved in making these items too.
Martha Stewart has a gorgeous range of Halloween recipes from cupcakes to dead fingers (cookies shaped like fingers with almonds for nails) to pickled brains (cauilflower in brine) and more.
Easy ideas for kid’s food:
Ogre slime (mashed avocado or peas)
Couldron Curry (perfect if you have a potjie pot and to serve a mild green Thai curry)
Ice half a white marshmallow onto a vanilla cupcake and add two piped eyes- friendly ghost cupcakes (from my talented friend Linda Galloway who is the chef boss at Daffodil Soup)
Take a plain shop bought vanilla sponge loaf, fashion into balls and decorate as eyes with icing – skewer onto sicks. Cake eye pops!
Yucky packets (filled with vampires teeth, sour worms and bulging eye sweets)- a clever play on the lucky packet from my friend Jane-Anne who blogs at Scrumptious.
spaghetti covered in tomato sauce – bloody worms
You could go all out with Not Martha‘s tried, tested and perfected meatloaf hand- I think it’s creepily crafty! (I found this recipe via my wonderful writer friend Mona, who blogs at Wise Words.)
Buy red or dark berry juices for wicked cocktails such as Vampire Margarita or Devil’s potion. A punch in which you place a frozen hand makes a striking centre piece.
Mix jelly powder with apple juice or sparkling wine to make a thick, not-quite-set but still very wobbly drink – my guests enjoyed these with spoons on arrival.
Here are more Halloween cocktail ideas, including a brain cocktail which I find revolting but fascinating, at the same time!
What to wear
Like with the decor items and party favours, it’s become easier to find Halloween outfits- you can find one-size fits all, cheaper items at gift and greeting card stores like Cardies and CNA and even the toy section at supermarkets.
The other option is to visit a party store or a costume hire store such as these popular ones listed here (Cape Town based).
A long black dress can easily be spruced up with a witch’s hat, red lips and nails if you’d prefer to D.I.Y.
Lastly, and as with all parties, do as much preparation beforehand as you can. (I enjoy making dishes you can cook the night before and finish off on the day or just take out of the fridge and warm up). Involve your partner/kids/family in the preparation and give clear ideas of what you want to achieve- make it a fun exercise with everyone pitching in.
If you can, use disposable cutlery and crockery to facilitate cleaning up after. Recycle the plastic and bottles after the party- ’tis the kind thing to do.
Last year we collected sweets for the Grade 4 pupils at a local primary school. You will probably end up with far too much of candy- consider donating some to a class or grade at a less advantagaed school where you or one of your friends live- spread the love.
Special effects to get you in the Mood
*with apologies to my friends*
This post was featured by J.C le Roux on their Facebook page
Sheesh Ishay. What an excellent blog post! I cannot wait to see what you do for Christmas! I think we are going to try to make the Meatloaf hand this year. It is a cool idea. I am going to show the kids your blog post later today. To get them in the mood! Wow. Well done Ishay and thanks for including me :0)
Thanks Mona, and for that fab link! This one was OTT- you know, new house and first dress up party there. Christmas and New Year are very quiet- we usually are away at my folks. Perhaps this is just a way for the adults to indulge in all the icky things kids enjoy- mud, worms, the little pleasures Have fun with the kids! The ice hands are are super fun.
OMG – how fab! I had a Halloween themed party on a tight budget once in PE – we made a giant spiderweb out of string and strung it across the fireplace (or even against a white wall) and put a big black pipecleaner spider in the middle. We also cut out hundreds of bats and stars from a template out of black cardboard and hung them from the ceiling (covered the stars in tinfoil – better than a mirror ball!)