“Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf
Witches’ mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin’d salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg’d i’ the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver’d in the moon’s eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar’s lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver’d by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add there to a tiger’s chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.”
– Act IV Scene I, The Tragedy of Macbeth
If I have to identify Halloween with a passage it would be The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act IV Scene I, where the three witches circle a cauldron, mixing in a variety of grotesque ingredients while chanting together.
It was up in the hills of Kalimpong, that my younger sister Nitika and I, first got acquainted with Shakespeare as well as Halloween. Once Sandy our elder sister reached senior school, “The tragedy of Macbeth” was part of her syllabus. She was fascinated by the Shakespearean language and would go into her own theatrical delivery of dialogues from the book. Nitika and I watched in fascination, a bit amused by her drama and a tad baffled because the language made no sense to us. One evening, Sandy excitedly spoke about Halloween. There were no stories given about the origin of Halloween. She had heard about how it was celebrated from her friends and shared with us, “People dress up as witches and ghosts and anything that’s gross, slimy or scary becomes a part of it.” she told us. “Let’s dress up as witches, girls, just like the three witches of Macbeth.”
In that far away, huge house on the hill, we only had the Ghosh family and their daughter Sanjukta as our neighbours. As a result, we had to depend on each other for companionship. Once back from school, we used to spend a lot of time climbing trees and plucking guavas from the trees that lined our pathway. Sandy was a voracious reader and loved Enid Blyton books. Along with Sanjukta, she had formed the “Adventurous Four” group where every Sunday we four would meet in a shoddy shed and try to solve imaginary mysteries. Honestly, Nitika and I hardly knew what was happening but we played along with the other two senior girls. There was no internet those days and hardly any television to watch since the reception was awful. Yet, we never got bored. There was something exciting to do every day, Sometimes it was Mom’s cooking classes, dancing on disco numbers or listening to Sandy as she narrated the story from a book she had just finished reading.
That day it was the Halloween party. Mom joined in the madness. She made each one of us a typical witch hat with a conical crown and wide brim and dressed us up like Mori girls in loose dresses, vintage prints and accessories. We sat around the dining table and made a list of things that we would cook in our respective “cauldron” or dishes. With a “Spooktacular” menu in mind, a whole range of ingredients was lined up on the table and given sinister names. Toffees as rat’s droppings, cherry juice as dragon blood, vanilla ice cream as candle wax, witches blood for ketchup, phoenix tears for sugar and so on. Imagination was used to give names and create fantastic dishes. We made Monster Sandwiches, Giants Nail Dirt with Caramelized Popcorn, and Cat’s Booger which were slimy, sluggish pink jelly worms served on a bed of biscuit soil. By the time dad returned from his office, the three witches were ready with the table full of dishes with eerie names. Needless to say, the Halloween party was such a hit and mom and dad enjoyed it just as much.
As October 31st is a couple of days away, I decided to make the jelly worms in biscuit soil once again. I found a recipe on www.delish.com It is extremely simple though a bit tricky. The tricky part is pouring the jelly mix into the bunch of straws that are used to create the jelly worms. Please make sure that the straws used are expanded to full length and the bendable neck part of the straws are below in the jar. It is important that the base of the straws touch the jar in which they are placed. While pouring the liquid do not worry if you see the liquid filling up the jar. It is bound to happen but there will be enough liquid in the straws to produce the worms. The end result is spectacular and looks just the same as what Mom used to make. The pink worms appear slimy and if a couple is rolled in the mud they look even more real. This Halloween, do give this recipe a try. Trust me, the little “witches and monsters” at home will not be disappointed.
Hope you all have a very Happy Halloween!