Homemade Goodness, the Stuff of Legend now

I made my mother’s traditional pot of Halloween chili last night and we watched a couple of scary movies to put us in the mood.

My mother would make her chili recipe, usually the first for the season, on Halloween. My sisters would bring my nephews over and we would all warm our bellies before heading into the neighborhood to beg for candy.

In addition to homemade chili goodness, we always enjoyed going into some of our neighbors homes and receiving homemade candy and caramel apples, Rice Krispy treats, popcorn balls, hot cider, cookies and other homemade goodies.

Oh, sure, in the late 60s and early 70s, there were plenty of packaged candy too, but the neighbors who had those homemade goodies were the ones with the real treats.

As rumors spread of pins in candy bars and razor blades in apples, those homemade treats themselves became legends of the past.

I read an article after I was grown that only a handful of those incidents ever occurred, I think less than a half dozen of confirmed treat tampering across the country, but when the rumors started, you would have thought everyone knew someone who had been harmed.

Makes you wonder if it was the processed food industry that helped those rumors along.

If kids do go trick or treating today, they’re not likely to find the old woman who hands out homemade popcorn balls or cookies. Even at parties, parents are encouraged not to bring any homemade goods and I find that just sad.

Today, I’m even less convinced of the homemade goodness of our homemade pot of chili, given I can usually only find organic onions and canned tomatoes at our grocery. I was able to use all natural grass fed meat I picked up on my trip to Kansas City last month, but the other ingredients, chopped green chilies, chili beans and tomato juice were all well-known brands.

Were our beans GMO? Did everything in our chili originate in the U.S?

Given that cans even contain BPA, the whole prospect of eating is a little scary, even when it’s not Halloween.

What do you think of the proliferation of processed foods today and even encouraging parents not to bring homemade goodies to parties?  

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32 Responses

  1. Donna Hull says:

    My fondest childhood memories of Halloween were the homemade treats. One neighbor dressed as a witch, stirred her smoking cauldron on the front porch and handed out homemade candied apples. We always knew where the best treats were on Halloween and headed for those streets.

  2. Sheryl says:

    The whole issue of processed foods and GMOs is a scary one. And. I think it’s so sad what has happened to our food industry at the cost of other people’s health-and sometimes, lives.

  3. Alisa Bowman says:

    Yeah, I do think that was all urban legend. It really killed the homemade treats. But I do like that some people hand out things like pencils, erasers and other non candy items.

    • Kerri says:

      I don’t know what the kids will do with pencils, Alisa, I’m told they do not teach them how to write in long hand anymore!

  4. Here’s one idea that surprised me this year. One of our neighbors passed out necklaces instead of candy. My daughter loved this.

  5. Jane Boursaw says:

    It’s a tough one, because when I was a kid, you pretty much knew all the neighbors and could count on them not to toss poison into the cookies. Maybe a happy medium now is to buy sustainable, fair-trade, organic things from a local food co-op or buying club. I don’t know…

  6. Merr says:

    As I mentioned in reply to Sarah’s commentL “…I find myself always look­ing for the coun­try of ori­gin on labels…everything from human food to pet treats to makeup.” I have also heard the issue of food allergies, and how it has changed the food landscape in schools (not to mention Halloween). I have heard of schools that do not allow peanut butter in the lunchroom…what would we have done without it in “our” day!

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, my, I never thought of having a ban on PB&J, which was my favorite lunchtime meal! It wouldn’t surprise me if some of our food allergies aren’t originating in our poor, processed food diets.

  7. NoPotCooking says:

    I think parents are asked not to bring homemade things often because of food allergy issues. At least I hope that is the reason and not because we think they have improperly cooked the food.

    It often seems to me as if we can’t escape things like BPA no matter how hard we try.

    • Kerri says:

      Good point on the food allergies, but I think it is our consumption of processed foods that have caused children to have these in the first place. The BPA is a serious issue and one we should all be lobbying our government to pay attention to.

  8. sarah henry says:

    Heard a super scary story on PRI’s the world about where processed food really comes from and how labeling doesn’t always give us the full story. Most apple juice concentrate, for instance, out of China. Who knew? Buy local and fresh seems to be the way to go.

    • Kerri says:

      Yeah, Saray, I didn’t know about the apples either until I did a post on this a couple of months back. Pretty scary stuff. More scary, I think, than what could come from people’s homes. I don’t know, debatable.

    • Merr says:

      That is scary, and why I find myself always looking for the country of origin on labels…everything from human food to pet treats to makeup.

  9. Heather L. says:

    It’s really sad that we’ve come to not being able to take homemade cupcakes to school for birthday parties, but everyone is so suspicious and schools certainly don’t want to be held liable. I’d much rather eat something when I know what the ingredients are.

    • Kerri says:

      Not people know that the FDA sets standards for the types of foods and what is allowable in rodent hairs and poop and bug bodies and parts. These are the ingredients in our commercially prepared foods that they don’t tell us about!

  10. Carley Ash says:

    We watched the movie FOOD, INC and were appalled at the power certain corporations have, and the laws designed to support them. It’s inherently wrong.

    We’re putting in our own organic garden, but you have to watch the seeds you buy too. Here’s a website that helps anyone interested in finding safe seeds.
    http://www.councilforresponsiblegenetics.org/ViewPage.aspx?pageId=261

  11. Jan says:

    I taught elementary school for 25 years and not all the families were as “clean and tidy” so serving homemade treats from some of those homes was scary. Not the child’s fault, I know so how could you NOT serve the treat that they had brought? I was so happy when the school district adopted a “commercially prepared” treat policy. It put my mind at ease and ended my inspection of treats for stray dog/cat hairs and other foreign matter.

    • Kerri says:

      I agree, Jan, that having treats from some homes was probably a scary prospect. But what comes in our commercially prepared food is equally as scary. Did you know that so many bug body parts are actually allowed in commercially prepared food? Now, that’s gross.

  12. mat says:

    Anymore, it’s so hard to know what it is you’re buying. You hear stories about counterfeit olive oil or “honey laundering” and you get the feeling that all of it is part of some larger effort to make money at the expense of…well…EVERYONE. I can’t help but wonder how long it’s all been going on…and if it’s already too much of a juggernaut to change direction.
    As a parent, I know how easy it is to be scared of razor blades in the apples–after all, “they” always say that the neighborhood serial killer was such a nice, quiet guy…. I suppose it all comes down to trust and knowledge. You need to KNOW who your neighbors are. If our next-door neighbors made my son a giant rice-crispy treat or a caramel apple, there’d be no hesitation in letting him chow down on it. The people 2 blocks down, who we see once or twice a year…not so much.

    • Kerri says:

      I agree, Mat, I know I wouldn’t trust just anyone to give something to my kids. Even back in the 60s and 70s, I remember my dad taking me and my nephews just to the neighbors we knew (but of course, we knew most of them). As for the stuff in our food, I have to wonder the same thing, can it be turned around? I don’t know.

  13. Ember says:

    I was actually thinking about this last night when it occurred to me that I haven’t seen a trick-or-treater in a few years in my neighborhood. We always have a big bowl of candy in hopes that someone will come up our driveway this year, we have our lights on and everything but no one ever comes. Last night as I drove to the post office at dusk I saw no one, like it was just another night. I started thinking of that razorblades in apples ordeal and it’s just so sad that this even happened, but also because even if it was a few cases it ruined it for everyone. I love cooking treats and goodies, and I’ve noticed that you’re encouraged to buy store bought product now for parties which is not anywhere near as good as homemade. The world is changing, this is for sure. But those of us who hold on to the homemade tradition will always know how things used to be. 🙂

    • Kerri says:

      Oh, Ember, you made me feel so sad thinking of you there with your bowl of treats and no trick or treaters! We know we will not get them way out here, unless someone were to move here with children. But we did have them in the neighborhood we left and I always enjoyed handing out the candy. Yes, we do have the memories of the way things were. It is too bad kids today only have memories of the malls and no homemade goodies made by good neighbors.

  14. My kids were little when media blew the whole “razor blades in apples” story completely out of proportion. Not only did it end home made goodies, but they also actually convinced people that it was safer for your kids to trick or treat at the mall than your own neighborhood. I remember being so ticked off at that, because of course there was nothing “safer” about the mall than our own neighborhood and I felt the same as you did, that this was about money and putting people in a place to buy things, instead of having a fun night seeing neighborhood kids dressed in their costumes. Why should I trust some kid working at mall food court, more than my next door neighbor? It made no sense, except that it got people into the mall to spend money. Sickening.

    For a few years, we had few trick or treaters as they were all at Oak Park Mall getting “safe” goodies from the same teenagers that would sneeze into your cheeseburger. But, eventually, our neighbors started back with trick or treating in our own area. But I think it’s a shame that people fell for it in the first place, and that the admonishment to only let your kids eat something that is individually wrapped in a factory still prevails. I loved the popcorn balls and candy apples that we got as kids. In fact, they were usually my favorite treats. We need to stop letting retailers rule our lives.

    • Kerri says:

      I think it also had to do with the neighborhoods, too, Kathy. I was very transient for most of the 80s, living in apartments and duplexes and of course, I do not remember many trick or treaters there. By 1990, when we bought our first home, maybe that’s when it began to turn around because we typically spent a lot of money on candy and always ran out! I agree, though, that getting parents and kids into the malls was all about perpetuating this materialistic consumer driven society in which we live.

  15. Alexandra says:

    This was really interesting to me, because I lived in France from 1969 to 1997, with only one year spent in the USA during that period, and missed out on how these changes occurred. Knowing what I know now, I bet you are right, and that the media overdid the scare tactics, as well. I try to avoid processed foods, but that is not always an option. I do not understand why all the mommy bloggers are not all over the threat of GMOs. I try to shop at Trader Joe’s for canned goods, when I used canned goods, because I read that huge store at least makes an effort. I also enquire. Like, last week we took a friend to the new restaurant in town, PB, and asked pointedly if it used GMOs. The answer was no, that the chef did his best to avoid them. Now, avoiding them is a challenge, but at least the cooking staff was aware of this perversity in the types of food available. I think it is important to keep spreading the word. The food industry, with the assistance of the FDA, were able to sneak GMOs into our diets. At the very least we need to demand labeling. Don’t you think?

    • Kerri says:

      At the VERY least, Alexandra. I would like to see the U.S. be an actual leader on this, but sadly, Europe has already banned GMOs and the U.S. is once again behind the curve.