Introduction: Gena Philibert-Ortega is a genealogist and author of the book “From the Family Kitchen.” In this blog post, Gena searches old newspapers to find recipes used by our ancestors to celebrate Halloween.
Getting ready to entertain some ghosts and goblins? How about trying an old Halloween recipe for your party? I know it can be difficult to come up with Halloween-themed foods (after all, you can only eat so much candy). In my many years of celebrating Halloween I can only think of two recipes that I’ve enjoyed that were specific to the occasion. One involves a punch that includes lemon-lime soda, sherbet, and dry ice (great for that spooky fog affect). The other is a brownie that is cooked in the shape of a pumpkin, with the aid of a pizza pan, and then decorated to look like a jack-o’-lantern with orange frosting and candies.
But what types of Halloween recipes did previous generations enjoy? Looking through old newspapers gives us a sense of what yesteryear’s Halloween hostess may have served at Halloween parties.
Witch Cake, Goblin Pie & Gnome Salad
For example, in 1912 Halloween meant Witch Cake, Goblin Pie and Gnome Salad all washed down with some Caldron Punch. If sugar truly makes children hyper than this punch with its one pound of sugar and ginger ale might just do the trick!
Hot Drinks, Doughnuts & Pumpkin Pie
Helen Robertson’s 1930 article “Games to Play and Things to Eat on Eery Halloween” in the “Women’s Magazine and Amusements” section of the Plain Dealer asserts that for Halloween:
Not that we would ever want to serve real party dishes—they have no place in the Halloween’s feasting, for custom has long banished them in favor of pumpkin pie, cider, doughnuts and coffee.
In multiple Halloween food columns I read, there was confirmation that it’s a night for hot drinks, doughnuts and pumpkin pie. Surprisingly, while Robertson does suggest adding some decorations to pumpkin pie, there are no recipes for the traditional feast. Instead she has everything from Witch’s Salad to Halloween Sandwiches (made with gingerbread, butter, and American cheese and then decorated to look like faces) to Sardine Rarebit that is made from sardines on toast.
But in case you would like some pumpkin pie and doughnuts (and quite frankly I don’t know why you wouldn’t), the following recipes from 1919 include a pumpkin pie without eggs. I was surprised that this recipe called for canned pumpkin. I had assumed that that was a more modern shortcut used by today’s busy pie makers.
Pimento Cheese Halloween Sandwiches
I love how newspaper recipes give us a glimpse of how life has changed. In this food column from 1931, Halloween sandwich recipes include one for Harlequin Sandwiches—which is basically buttered bread using alternating white and wheat slices—and a Pumpkin Salad which isn’t really made from pumpkin but instead is largely made out of pimento cheese shaped and decorated like a pumpkin.
Interestingly enough, the Harlequin Sandwiches call for slicing the bread in ½-inch slices. But at the bottom of the page a large advertisement for bread announces “Good News for the Bread Lovers of New England. SLICED!” Considering the time it would take to slice an entire loaf of bread to the correct thickness, sliced bread seems like the way to go. The old news advertisement also announces that you can still purchase unsliced bread if you prefer.
Must-Haves for Halloween Parties
It would appear that two things the newspaper Halloween recipe articles agreed on was that the color scheme should be orange and black, and that super sugary sweets to drink and eat are the rule of the day. But when they start suggesting other foods for the party, it becomes more interesting. Adding a Halloween word to a recipe like “pumpkin” “ghost” or “deviled,” as in the case of this Deviled Tuna Salad, is all one needs to transform humdrum into a Halloween feast.
On the same page as the Deviled Tuna Salad recipe is a photograph of a child and a cake with a caption that reads:
Halloween is a children’s holiday and the refreshments served should not only be appropriate color but they should be flavors and foods which the young people will like.
I couldn’t agree more.
What’s on your table this Halloween? Is it all treats or are there some types of healthful foods as well?
Related Halloween Articles:
- Halloween Fashion History: Costumes & Decorations of Yesteryear
- Princess, Gypsy or Hobo? A Look at Halloween Costume History
- Researching Old Ghost Stories & Haunted Houses in Newspapers