Rather than going all out preparing a costume and joining the goblin street carnival know as the New York Halloween Parade., I’m making holiday confections to give to friends.
Since I grew up in Hong Kong, I never experienced Halloween trick or treating as a young boy, so I just jumped into the adult version once I got to the U.S.—getting together with friends at parties and celebrating more with cocktails, not candy. I certainly knew about kids dressing up and going door-to-door in the neighborhood. It all seemed simple—until M and I started spending time in a small town upstate.
Early in our exploration of small town life, Halloween grabbed my attention. I excitedly bought candies and decorations for the neighborhood kids we would see riding their bikes in the warm weather and snow mobiles in the cold. In this part of the town, the houses are spread out and separated by swaths of tall oaks and most are well set back from the road, so you can’t see the neighbors that well.
It happened that M had to work that Friday, so I drove up from the city early that morning to prepare for the weekend and planned to pick him up at the train station that evening. As the darkness descend, I saw groups of bobbing flash lights along the road several hundred feet away. (There are no street lights. On an overcast night, it’s completely black at night.) The trick or treat activity had started. I mindlessly munched on some candy I had bought, wondering if any of our neighborhood kids would walk up driveway that cut through an acre of trees to get the goodies I had ready for them. An hour had gone by and nothing happened. I felt like a ghost that no one could see
As the flash light activity diminished, I concluded that the kids were done and they were heading back to home for dinner. With a sigh, I tossed the bag of candies aside and got ready to pick M up at the train station. As I pulled the car out of the garage, I saw dots of lights bouncing up the driveway.
I ran back in the house to pull out the bag of candies. Suddenly came the knock on the door.
I approached the door with hesitation, suddenly unsure exactly what I was supposed to do. I couldn’t hide. They knew I was inside. What happened next was a surreal moment of cultural misunderstanding. I greeted the neighbors and proceeded to offer my candy filled plastic jack-o-lantern to the children. To my horror, they politely put their tiny hands into the basket and took out ONE candy per child. I told them to take as much as they want but my offer was declined politely.
Did I do something wrong? Did the kids not like my choice of candy? I thought the point of this exchange was a chance for children to overload with abundance of confections. (Maybe I was connecting too much to my own missed opportunity to trick or treat as a child and wasn’t thinking like parent s who had kids raised to be polite and not be hoarders.) Then, my neighbors thanked me for lighting up the driveway with the car’s headlight so everyone could more easily safely walk up to the house. (In my haste, I had left the car lights on.) Little did they know that I was on my way out and their approach scared the Martha Stewart out of me. As I later recalled the entire situation to M, he told me, after laughing for most of the ride home from the train station, that I was suppose to put a handful of candy into the children’s bag instead of offering the confections like a platter of hors d’oeuvres to four-year-olds.
Ever since that traumatic experience, I decided to stick to my idea of Halloween—making tasty confections that both kids and adults can enjoy. The treats should be simple and a reminder of childhood, so for me that would be Rocky Road from See’s Candy. These were given to our family whenever a family friend or relative came to visit from the States. I thought they were the best thing ever. The crunchy nut contrasted with the soft spongy texture of marshmallows, all encased in delicious chocolate. So I’m offering Rocky Road Fudge this year as an All Hallow’s Eve treat, so we can all avoid the unexpected tricks that come our way.
Rocky Road Fudge
recipe adapted from America’s Test Kitchen
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped fine
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup peanuts, coarsely chopped
1 cup mini-marshmallows
Cut 12-inch length extra-wide heavy-duty aluminum foil; fold edges back to form 7½-inch width. With folded sides facing down, fit foil securely into bottom and up sides of 8-inch-square baking pan, allowing excess to overhang pan sides. Spray foil with nonstick cooking spray.
Toss chocolates, espresso powder, baking soda, and salt in medium heatproof bowl until baking soda is evenly distributed. Stir in sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. Set bowl over 4-quart saucepan containing 2 cups simmering water. Stir with rubber spatula until chocolate is almost fully melted and few small pieces remain, 2 to 4 minutes.
Remove bowl from heat and continue to stir until chocolate is fully melted and mixture is smooth, about 2 minutes. Stir in peanuts and marshmallows. Transfer fudge to prepared pan and spread in even layer with spatula.
Refrigerate until set, about 2 hours. Remove fudge from pan using foil and cut into squares.