it's witchcraft, fashion trends and roadkill

I planned a crafts post to help you get ready for Halloween, it's been a long time since I took cuticle scissors and bedazzled tweezers in hand to make something of at least questionable functionality out of remnants, discards and fuzzy stuff. The economy caught up with me, however.  I feel like I felt when someone asked me for a recipe for leftover chicken. in my house such a thing does not exist. If a piece of a roast bird survives dinner, it won't make it into the fridge. Trust me.  I usually put together a few Halloween-themed oddments from "uh, stuff," but this year I couldn't gather the usual assortment of shopping mistakes, prematurely aged teeshirts, and sweaters that mysteriously morphed from alleged cashmere into pilly and matted stuffing matrix. The money hasn't been there. Given the choice, I voted for food, and I am happy to have had the choice.

Still, ever wishing to be of benefit to my fellow persons, I trudged past stores, scrolled through websites, and stared rudely at people waiting for busses. I also read a few menus. Here are some shamelessly copied and unattributed shots from a few windows and websites, with my conclusions.

There is definitely a costume-y look going on. The suppressed premise is that these are not one-night purchases, these are things that you can wear in your daily life that just happen to be Appropriate for Halloween as well. Based on personal observation, not editorial blather, the look for this fall and winter is Witches, Gypsies (the stereotypical, not the people who buy real jewelry and expensive china), and superannuated waifs and strays looking as if an evil fairy has cast a clumsy spell on them. Here, then, for your inspiration, are regular shots of new clothes and accessories, not of items meant to be sold as costumes and party make-up.

There's a lot of leather out there. I attribute this to the current tendency, noted on food blogs, to consume the whole animal, leaving the hides. Himself even called my attention - I begged him not to, it was still early - to an article in this morning's paper which featured a society of men who gather to eat parts of animals hitherto considered food only by history's victims and pet food manufacturers. Truly: if you had choice in a perfect but non-vegan society, would you eat steak or tripe? Would you eat intestines and tail or loin chops? The poor, the serfs, the enslaved did not trudge home from a weary day's work and say, "Oh, goody, here are some leftovers from the slaughterhouse that I can spend another 3 hours bending over a hot fire turning into something we can try to get down." The history of cooking can be viewed as the history of colonialism and exploitation, and if you like something only because Grandma fixed it, say a prayer for Grandma's grandma.

There's also a lot of black-and-white combinations, in shoes, in tweed-like fabrics, in houndstooth and herringbones. I wonder if this has anything to do with
a culinary controversy heating up in England. It seems badgers, another useless but cute animal, are being culled because they are suspected of spreading bovine (yes, cow) tuberculosis. It has been suggested that, the economy being what it is, the meat from the badgers be eaten. A brave fellow has stepped forward and admitted to having eaten badger meat for 55 years. This would be roadkill, as it's been illegal to kill badgers in England since 1922. Before that, it is said to have been a staple in the diet of - yes! - the rural poor. Here is a link to a story that appeared in the Manchester Guardian, which explores the history of badger consumption and the current controversy. I even found a recipe for badger, a French recipe no less, which contains the wonderful instruction to "Eviscerate and skin your badger, and soak it in a fast-flowing river for at least 48 hours. This will help you to de-grease it more easily." I have the feeling I'll never know.

One of the Bards of Long Island, Tom Paxton, has made the point that many people are more comfortable eating vegetables than animals, because animals are cute and sweet in popular culture. Indeed, gaze at the badger, above.
In his stirring anthem, Don't Slay That Potato, Tom urges that equal consideration be given to innocent vegetables:

There ought to be some way of saving our skins.
They ought to be passing a law.
Just show anybody a cute little lamb
And they'll all stand around and go "Aw!"
Well, potatoes are ugly. Potatoes are plain.
We're wrinkled and lumpy to boot.
But give me a break, kid. Do you mean to say
That you'll eat us because we're not cute?

Oh, no, don't slay that potato!
Let us be merciful, please.
Don't boil it or fry it, don't even freeze-dry it.
Don't slice it or flake it.
For God's sake, don't bake it!
Don't shed the poor blood
Of this poor helpless spud.
That's the worst kind of thing you could do.
Oh, no, don't slay that potato
What never done nothing to you!

If your kids don't have Tom Paxton's albums, they should.


  1. Yes, badgers look cute in a racoonish way, but they are vicious and have claws like talons.

    That jacket shown with the bottle of what looks to be spirits, must you be drunk to purchase? I think you'd have to be totally blotto to buy that long jacket with the sleeves cut off. WTH? Recently my sister mentioned that women wore lab coats as suit jackets. I can't even imagine it but the long vest may be close I guess.

    1. I vaguely remember a short-lived fad for scrubs as daywear. Not a look I admired. Is this where I should start moaning "O tempora, o mores"?

    2. No scrubs! I banished residents from my clinic who wore them as inappropriate and disrespectful; now the TV docs wear them ( to show their biceps, I think)

  2. We just had a heated debate on the inner lives of vegetables at supper (I won't bore you with details but it all emanated from tonight's Obama-Romney debate, abortion and a myriad of other items that somewhat landed us in "if an asparagus falls in the garden, does anyone hear?") I cannot disclose the details of the debate, as there was hissing leaving the table.

    Things you should know about me:

    1) I like badgers. I can't say why, but I believe it is related to reading Rupert the Bear growing up.
    2) I am pretty sure you have a more exotic life than me - I have no fur coat to leave behind. I kind leave behind an old kleenex - will that count?
    3) Tom Paxton is a national treaure. We sang "There's a New Baby at Our House" constantly when my kids were little, along with Peanut Butter Pie.
    4) I definitely fall into the witch category. This weekend is our Thanksgiving, I need a dye job as I am showing serious brown roots (no I don't have any white hair yet - of dear - long story about my hairdresser's desire for me to be a redhead) and I think I am getting seriously chubby. There, I feel better just saying it out loud!

    Ah well - am I good witch or a bad witch? That is the most pertinent question tonight!

    1. Well, I always thought cauliflower looked like a model of a human brain.
      I like the way badgers look, but I've never met one in person. They seem to be garden pests, with a particular taste for spring bulbs.

      I'm looking at roots too but don't want to do anything until right before we leave. Just looked again, that may not be an option.

  3. This is costumey looking stuff. I used to wear a long black wool cape I made in college-- not as a costume-- until the kiddies stole it for let's play witch. I supposed I though I looked dramatic; it was the decade, I guess.

    1. hi, Lane, this is the season I treat myself to a nice pair of shoes, a good jacket, and some good books. No witchwear, no henwear, no waifwear.

  4. OFFAL BITS: My gran was descended from stern Scots stuff and, along with a family bible, inherited a notebook in spidery copperplate for everything from oatmeal-stretched sausages to painstaking sweetbreads, tripe, headcheese (jelly) and pig trotters. Thankfully, by the time I came along, the dining table was far from the barn, and she was spending her time rowing preserves and pickles, outside of the annual nibble of haggis. A hex on the Salem style inspiration and whatever buyers actually ordered it. Bet you'll see it all heavily discounted at Value Village by November 2. It's the zombie Tuesday Adams inspired make-up from some of the London Fashion Week shows that still has me shivering.

    1. Hi, GetFresh, I was just thinking that all of that unappealing leather around has to come from somewhere, maybe from "whole animal" feasts. I've tasted all of those dishes and more, Ferguson Henderson's place was a curiosity for a while but now Himself wants to give it a rest.. I do love.veal sweetbreads, lamb sweetbreads are ok, but my real passion is foie gras.

      The wide-eyed, dazed and confused look - Keane children.

    2. Coffee splutter at M. Keane. Had to look up Ferguson Henderson (that's a mouthful). And will resort, once again, to taking out the day's frustrations on tonight's mashed potatoes. A crushing and battering experience for them, yes, but pure fluff for me.

    3. People always ask me why my mashed potatoes are so good, and when I explain that I peel before cooking, cut up and drop into boiling water for the minimum time necessary to cook the pieces thru, put thru a ricer and whisk in hot heavy cream and softened sweet butter, they look ill. In the immortal words of Julia Child, hey, it's food, not medicine. And some of the potato water goes in the gravy...

  5. All of those outfits, with some clever handling of cuticle scissors and bedazzled tweezers, could become bewitching Halloween costumes.

    I am obviously callous, I have no qualms about slaying vegetables for food.

    1. Hi, tiffany rose, I am envisioning you brutally popping open a peapod.

      We'll be in France on Halloween and I hope to get some good pics of costume (rental) stores. Any excuse for a bal masqué!

  6. Baked badger, interesting I wonder what it would taste like? Our house is like yours , there is no such thing as leftover bird, it's picked clean by bed time.

    1. I wonder also, Tabs, but it will continue to be a mystery. Himself convinced me to try grouse years ago, couldn't stop laughing at my face, and because he likes the little teeny Smythson diaries with all the preposterous British holidays noted, he always reminds me of this on August 12th. One day I will get him. Hm, maybe with badger.


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