Kage Baker always cooked a feast on Halloween.
Pork roast, corn, stuffing – grain, bread, autumn vegetables, and the sacred meat of that fairie-bred creature, the pig. It’s a Welsh thing, the pork. You gotta read the Mabinogion to understand it. Stuffing is just force-meat, one of the oldest meals on the British Isles; the onions and turnips and apples and nuts went into the stuffing. And grain is … grain, the quintessential Fall food. Kage served creamed corn because, well, she liked it.
It was all carefully prepared, served on our best dishes from serving bowls and platters – not from the stove (we were working ladies; there were a lot of skillet meals in our house.) Candles and linen graced the table. We used the good glasses. And, though there were only the two of us, Kage set out three plates.
Kage would fill the first plate and set in the place of honour. I would pour a mug of good ale and a glass of old whiskey and set them out as well. Then we’d fill our own plates, toast the beloved dead, and share our feast with our loved ones who were gone.
The strange and isolated places Kage and I lived, we seldom had more than two or three trick or treaters. We had a quiet, sedate dinner with our dead. But where I am now – we get hundreds of kids! Come dark the front steps will be swarming with happy children and we’ll take it in turns here to restrain the Corgi, soothe the guard parrot, and answer the door. With all this furor to cover – we’re having pizza.
A plate and a glass will nonetheless be set aside. There will be pork sausage. There will be a glass of Coca Cola added to the beer and whiskey.
Soul cakes. The Day of the Dead. The funeral meats. The plenty of the traditional wake, the covered dishes and green bean casseroles. Halloween, All Soul’s Day, La Dia del Muerte, Samhain – they aren’t about blood and demons and death, not at heart. All that other is just spooky fun and nonsense, an excuse for the young and thoughtless to run around in the dark and eat sweets.
This night the door between the worlds is unlocked, and may in fact swing free. The honoured and beloved dead may walk out a little ways and ease the hearts of the living. Good reason for a party, eh? And nothing to fear. If any shadows coalesce on my doorstep, I will welcome them in.
Especially the tall, distracted-looking redhead at the back …