Saturday, November 5, 2011

Occupy Halloween: Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

(with apologies to Stephanie, and others who have had their fill of pumpkins and are just too kind to say so ...)

Our street is Halloween Central.  The houses sport giant cobwebs, the walkways are lined with pumpkins, the trees filled with filmy ghosts hanging from the branches.  People drive from miles around to drop their kids off for trick or treating because the houses are closer together than in the surrounding townships (more candy bang for your walking buck). And most of the residents on the street take on this responsibility without too much complaint; even though it's pretty expensive to supply treats for over 300 kids (especially for folks like my ninety year old neighbors), it's something we've always done.  Very few people turn their lights out for Halloween.

Which makes it even more frustrating when this kindness is taken for granted.

Every year I have my "pet peeve" trick-or-treaters.  One year it was the two moms pushing babies in strollers up to people's doors (the babies couldn't have been more than a year old, if that, and were not walking), collecting candy "for the kids."   Ummmm, right.  Other years it's the kids who come to the door without even an attempt at a costume.

This year, two groups stuck out.  (Here, friends, is where I completely toss the teachings of my kind Buddhist friend from the other day about not being able to change others, but only my own perspective.  No, I'm not proud to say that.  I am going to try again tomorrow.)  The first, tweenaged twins, came to the door, and stood there, pillowcases open.  My husband, jokingly, opened the door and said, "Can I help you?"  To which one of the kids replied.  "Yeah, give me candy."  My mouth hit the floor.  "Seriously?" I said, frowning, storming up to the door.  "Take a hike.  That was really obnoxious.  How about 'please' and 'thank you' and 'trick or treat' and 'happy Halloween'?"  The kids looked at each other in disbelief, as if no one had ever said anything like this to them before.  My husband, who is more of a nice guy than I am, urged me to let it go; he was probably thinking he didn't want our house egged.  He gave them the candy and they walked away, snickering nervously.

A while later, the second group of offenders, a pre-teen boy and his father, rang the doorbell.  Both of them were holding sacks.  "Trick or treat," said the boy.  It was nearing the end of the night, and so I gave him a few pieces, instead of just the one we'd been handing out to each child.  As I turned away, the father held out his sack, too.  I looked at him quizzically.  Really? I thought.  "It's for my daughter," he said, gesturing towards a group on the sidewalk.  "She's right down there.  She's just tired."  "If she's tired," I said, "maybe she should go home.  I don't do parents collecting candy for their kids."  "Oh, all right," he said, turning away.  Did I mention he was dressed as a Jesuit monk?  The irony did not escape me, though perhaps it escaped him.

The evening got me thinking (and I realize some people will hate me for this, but I'm going to say it anyway): if people don't like the Occupy movements, they should look at what we're teaching kids, starting with Halloween.  I'm not advocating for socialism or communism, just human decency.  Teaching kids compassion.  Saying please and thank you.  Helping them to understand that the night is not about bankrupting neighboring towns just to amass a stockpile that's going to end up rotting your teeth anyway.  And you know, while we're at it, maybe we should Occupy Thanksgiving.  And Occupy Christmas.  And Occupy Hanukkah.  And every other holiday, and every other day of the year.  Because (again, completely disregarding what the monk told me about people being able to give only what they have) the reason we're in the mess we're in is that some people forgot the lessons they learned the first time they ever went trick or treating: how to be polite, and thankful, and know when you have enough and should go home for the night, and maybe even when you might be able to share with someone else.

Like these, for example.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

1/2 c. flour (or spelt flour, oat flour, etc.)
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/8 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. allspice
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
1 egg (or 1 T. ground flax stirred with 3 T. water until gelatinous)
3 T. brown sugar (or agave, though you may want to lower the oven temp by 25 degrees)
2 T. regular (white or turbinado) sugar
1/2 c. cooked, pureed pumpkin
2 T. nondairy milk
2 T. coconut oil (vegetable oil will do)
3/4 t. vanilla
for frosting: cream cheese mixed with a little agave or honey or maple syrup to make it spreadable, or use your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe

Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine dry ingredients, then add in wet. Spread into an oiled 8×8 pan and bake for 20 minutes. Allow to cool fully before frosting.
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  1. I love this post! The whole concept of "Occupy Halloween" cracked me up, and yet it makes so much sense! How can we expect the world to be a better place if we teach our children to be greedy? I think that's what I dislike the most about Halloween...the greed. I love the costumes, and I love the excitement of little kids trick-or-treating, but the greed really gets to me. My "favourite" trick-or-treater this year was a man out of costume, with a pre-teen boy. He told me that his niece had peed her pants and gone home to change, so he was collecting candy for her. I couldn't help but least he was being original.

    (And, for what it's worth, I'm making pumpkin bread today. So I'm not a total grouch! Ha!)

  2. We had a couple teenagers sans costumes as well. What is that about?

    I think you have thwarted my plan to stay in bed. I might need to bake some pumpkin bars...mmmmmm.

  3. Amen, sister.
    With all the bigger issues at hand (obesity, unemployment, the economy, etc..) shouldn't we take a more fundamental look at where and how it came to be this way?
    Recently, someone said to my dad, "You got really lucky with your girls---they turned out to be responsible and successful."
    My dad's response -- "That's not luck. We worked really hard for that to happen."

    I have college nutrition students right now who have never had a job, don't show up to class (and still expect to pass), and who have no idea how to cook (without the microwave). I get emails that start out with "hey," and have no capital letters..
    Oh man, I could go on :)

    Halloween was similar here this year---we actually turned out the light when it was just big kids with no costumes left coming around.

    I ended up here by following Stephanie's this post! (and nice to meet you...apparently I had a lot to say!)

  4. preach on sister!
    kids without costumes get no candy at our house. if you want the prize, then do the work!

  5. Oh. I'm sad that your Halloween was tarnished by a few people who left their community spirit at home with their costumes. I think that you are right to say sometime, though. It's true that as parents it is our responsibility to teach our kids principles like respect for others and the dangers of greed. It's also true that parents can't do it all and, if given the opportunity, we should all do our part.

  6. I have an enormous smile on my face reading this post, Justine. It's Cheshire huge. :)

    Our old nabe in VA wasn't a trick-or-treating hot spot, but we did have a few years where the turnout was decent. N's approach to handing out candy (which I think is a perfect metaphor for his approach to life) is to hold out the candy dish for the child to take whatever he likes. I would constantly scold him for this--when who I should have been scolding were the kids--because the kids would take fistfuls, sometimes TWO. And then we'd have to turn our light out early because we were out of candy. Kids were rarely polite, and I'd be left in the doorway awaiting a "thank you" while they turned and sprinted, without an utterance of gratitude, to the next house.

    So, this year. In Missouri. In a neighborhood that sounds very similar to yours--very festive, loads of costumed foot traffic--we had easily the nicest, most polite candy-dispensing experience ever. All the kids said "trick or treat," nearly everyone was in an identifiable costume, and everyone said "thank you." The kicker? When N extended the candy bowl, the majority of the kids only took ONE piece, and they looked uncomfortable and uncertain when he eagerly encouraged them to take at least one more piece. What gives? What does geography have to do with this, I wonder?

    I have been jonesing for some pumpkin bars! With bittersweet chocolate!

  7. As a teacher who has to deal with these miscreants all day I have to say, I'm not surprised. ;) It's really sad to see how kids are not taught basic manners anymore and so many of them are out for themselves before anyone else. I recently allowed my students to decorate sugar skulls for Day of the Dead in Spanish class. I told them a bit about what was entailed when I explained what day we'd be doing it, so they had some idea that I had to buy all the stuff, make the sugar skulls ahead of time so they could dry, mix all the icing into different colors and put it in the bags - many hours of prep work. Not ONE student thanked me for the activity on the day we did them. NOT ONE.

    Later we talked about our social contract and I asked them if it was nice or polite for them to not thank me. You should have seen how sheepish they all looked. A few came up to me later, even after class, to apologize and thank me again. I wonder if they realize it doesn't feel nearly as good when you have to ask for it.

    I'm sorry you had some annoying kids making a mess of your Halloween. I have to admit, I don't look forward to answering the door myself some day. If we stay where we are I won't have to. I do end up doing it, you can bet kids will be getting a lesson in manners from me, along with ONE piece of candy. ;)

  8. (Here from Mel's 11/11/11 post ;)

    The bars sound fantastic. I have some pumpkin that's just begging to be used...

    And I could have written your post on trick or treaters and the lack of holiday spirit/sense of entitlement. Almost makes me want to turn off the porch light and close the drapes.


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