I am just as guilty as the others.
About a month ago, my daughter informed me that she wanted to be Elsa for Halloween. We were in Toys R Us, buying a present for one of her friends, and we may have picked something up for my son, too; I can't remember. I do remember looking at the dress, telling her that she had SO many other princess dresses, telling her that she didn't need this princess dress, looking into her big teary blue eyes, after she'd asked ever so politely, and feeling weak.
The truth is, I might have bought her a costume anyway. I haven't ever bought my kids costumes before; last year, I'd made her wear a costume-swap ladybug outfit (which was both warm and adorable), and before that, I think she just wore a hand me down hat. Most everything she wears has been worn by someone else before. This time, she wanted something that we couldn't get second-hand.
"What about Anna?" I suggested, having some premonitions about the sea of powder blue, and thinking I'd encourage N. not to follow the crowd. "She's smart, and spunky, and funny, and brave ..."
"But she doesn't have a beautiful blue dress," pointed out my daughter. Duh, mom.
"True," I conceded.
"And she has magical powers."
"So I really, REALLY want to be Elsa."
I tried to stall, thinking maybe she'd change her mind. "Don't you want me to try to find one online? Maybe I could find one that is a little better quality. And look how thin the sleeves are. You're going to freeze in this dress."
"But Mom, I know. It's FROZEN. I don't want a better dress."
That was about as good as three-year-old logic gets, I decided. I bought her the dress, knowing that she'd wear it incessantly anyway, and we'd get our money's worth. And at least Elsa isn't waiting on some man to sweep in and save her or sweep her off her feet. She does have a kick-ass song to sing about being herself, even if she does plunge her kingdom into winter temporarily by running away from her fears. She also figures out how to bring back summer on her own, and how to turn fear of her powers into productive power, even her sister has to essentially save herself before that happens.
And my daughter has not let me down, wearing her dress as often as we let her, and singing "Let It Go" in that impossibly cute and bold and slightly off-key way that makes me want to scream and hug her at the same time.
While her costume has made my daughter difficult to track at Halloween events (as this mom also noted), I've noticed something different about the Elsa phenomenon: my daughter and her friends don't seem to care about the fact that there are so many Elsas. There are plenty of variations on the theme: different crowns, different dresses, capes and no capes, braids and no braids, little girls of all skin tones. It's a weird mix of watching them be slaves to popular culture, and re-make popular culture in their own images. No one says "you can't be Elsa because you're Indian." Or "you can't be Elsa because your hair is too short." One mother of a little girl in N's class reported that her daughter declined an Elsa wig at the store, asserting, "I can be Elsa with black hair." Maybe it's naive of me to think this, but it doesn't feel like they all want to look like her; they just want to BE her.
It's supposed to snow here on Halloween night. Not a lot, but flurries. Maybe all of the Elsas really are bringing back winter. But they're doing so on their own terms. Let's hope it's not eternal, because I'm not quite ready for winter just yet.
Pumpkin Chocolate Tart
It's pumpkin pie, on its own terms, adapted from the Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook. And I'll be damned if I'm going to give up fall.
1 c. flour
1/8 t. salt
3 T. granulated sugar
6 T. cold butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg yolk
2 T. heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. heavy cream
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 c. canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/8 t. allspice
1/8 t. ground cloves
1/8 t. ground nutmeg
1/3 c. heavy cream
2 large eggs
1 T. cornstarch
1.5 oz bittersweet chocolate, melted, for drizzling, if desired
To make the crust, place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times to combine. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse yellow meal. Whisk together the egg yolk, cream, and vanilla and pour over the flour mixture. Pulse a few more times until the mixture begins to stick together. Gather the dough into a ball, press into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
Preheat the oven to 425F. On a generously floured surface, roll out the tart dough into an 11" disk. It may crack, but that's not important; you'll be pressing it into the pan, and can make adjustments then. Fit the dough into a 9" tart pan. Prick the bottom of the crust with a fork, cover completely with aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights, dried beans, or rice.
Bake for 20 minutes or until dry and set. Remove the foil and weights, reduce the heat to 350 degrees, and bake for another 10 minutes until the crust is golden brown. Remove from the oven to cool.
Place the chocolate and cream in a microwavable bowl and melt them together, stirring at intervals until smooth. Pour the melted chocolate into the crust and let it cool in the refrigerator until set. The chocolate will not be completely hard; its consistency is more like very thick fudge.
While your chocolate is setting, combine the pumpkin, sugar, spices, and cream in a medium saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, until hot but not bubbling. Whisk the eggs with the cornstarch and add to the pan. Continue cooking, (gently) stirring constantly, until thickened and bubbling. Remove from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Pour the cooled filling into the tart shell and smooth the top with a spatula. If desired, drizzle melted chocolate on top. Refrigerate until firm.