It has been one year almost to the date that I first began my blog. Just as I was ready to celebrate having come full circle, I realized that there was one more event in the liturgical feeding cycle to attend to in order to truly do so. Halloween.
Halloween is this nutritionist’s nightmare. It makes all my dilemmas go screaming wildly around in the scary darkness like a gathering of roaming ghosts. Starting in mid-October, I began to see discussion of these hair-raising topics appear in various articles. Some people were writing about Halloween as a sanctified binge-eating holiday. Commentary ensued on memories of guilt-encompassed candy hoarding and gorging. Then guilt- minimizing strategies were presented–instructions were offered on how to partake but not overdo; and, suggestions were given on organic, high cacao content, lower sugar, chocolate alternatives.
Then, there was the issue of the politics of chocolate–the problems of impoverished cocoa farmers, environmental degradation and the use of forced child labor on cocoa farms. With one-quarter of all candy sold annually in the US being purchased for Halloween–this is no small matter. EqualExchange, the producers of organic, fairly-traded chocolate products sponsors a Reverse Trick or Treating Program. Trick-or-treaters give a piece of Fair Trade chocolate attached to an informational card as a mass action to educate the public about this.
Finally, the childhood obesity issue surfaced as well. I learned of a dad from Georgia, David Soleil, whose activism was inspired by being fed up witnessing too many Halloweens–overweight parents driving cars around his neighborhood unloading their children at intervals to gather the loot; pillowcases loaded 3/4 full with candy and the endorsement of multiple pre-Halloween events. He launched a response with a movement called Healthy Halloween House where people pledge to provide a healthy trick or treat alternative. I love his slogan–“Eat the pumpkin and let the candy rot on the porch.”
So, with my own inner pillowcase filled to the brim, I informed my daughter–as I do every year–that for the holiday we would be distributing some Skarrots (baby carrots packaged in fun inducing wrappers) and pencils–and that she would be doing reverse trick or treating. In her kind, gentle way, she asked me to sit down. She assured me lovingly, that every other day of the year I do my part to encourage healthy eating and I have spared many children many pounds of sugar–but, she does not want to be one of those “weird” houses on the T&T trail. And then, she asked me if I have forgotten where we live.
We live in an old Victorian village of the type that inspires the imaginations of people like Tim Burton. It is truly the epicenter of Halloween. Houses are old enough to provide residence to a few generations of real ghosts, tiny streets with closely packed houses draw hundreds of trick or treaters from miles around…and our next-door neighbors are deranged, wonderful folk who do things like this:
Their preparations are usually quite furtive, though they say things to me like, “Did we tell you we got a snowmaking machine?”, or ask, “Do you have a fire extinguisher? Good.”
So, heeding my daughter’s words, and not even knowing where to buy hundreds of bags of Scarrots; and not convinced kids would really use the cutesy pencils that trees gave their lives for, I backed down. Still, I knew I personally would not be able to buy the drugs–I mean candy–nor distribute it. In cowardly fashion, I assign the purchasing to my husband or to the friends I invite for the festivity of the evening; and the distribution to whatever available child or visiting foreign exchange student I can find. Figuring out the amount we need requires a complicated quadratic equation and often we have miscalculated. This means that we have to indenture our own children and recycle the booty they have worked hard for; or we have to run upstairs and hide in the dark, pretending we are not home.
Halloween evening was perfect this year. The weather was gentle with only a touch of autumn’s crisp bite in the air. At the witching hour, all the creatively costumed children emerged from their homes and took immediately to their task. As we were simultaneously welcoming friends, warming the cider, finishing the pumpkins, adjusting costumes and oohing and aahing at the little munchkins crowding the porch–we realized we were going to be in trouble early.
As I was frantically emptying the bags into the cauldron, trying to appease the munchkins turned monsters now knocking down the door, one of my guests said that the contents of the candy bags had gotten smaller. He was right and this was seriously offsetting the math. Later, with the cauldron barren, we found ourselves sitting with the lights out–considering giving away some of our tchotchkes, artwork, cats and used pencils.
Early in the evening, a Jedi knight informed my husband, Pete, that he required two offerings. His headless horseman friend explained that he was making up for last year. Amused, Pete was about to challenge this request, but the Little Red Ridinghood mother bared her big teeth, said he was in the hospital then and snatched a candy for herself. Next year we may ask for discharge papers or a gnawed off wrist band.
So, once again, we gaped at our neighbors’ amazing creation– which draws hordes of happy revelers–spun through the few hours of insane madness, walked the streets with our friends–and it all eventually quieted down. We were reverse trick or treated, and there was actually some healthy and adorable popcorn to be found.
At the end of the night, I removed my Bob Cratchet ba-humbug costume, enjoyed a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or few and imagined that everyone will be needing a nutritionist come morning’s tolling of the bells.
What does Halloween bring up for you?
In health, Elyn
Are we what we eat
Or do we eat what we are
Are they the same thing?