I’ve been thinking about all of you in Sandy’s path. I’ve stationed myself with my laptop at the kitchen counter, checking updates, aware of how paradoxically peaceful our gray, damp days have been in comparison. Much of the time I’ve been on the phone with and texting my sister in Connecticut. Yesterday, I sat and watched the rice cooker chug away as I heard about her husband’s efforts with a chain saw and the tree blocking their driveway. It could have been worse for them. I’ve never lived through a hurricane. In the Hanukah Eve windstorm of 2006, hurricane-force wind gusts resulted in our loss of electricity for five days, and felled trees that ripped holes in our roof and the side of our house. It could have been worse. Cal, who was two at the time, drew pictures of windstorms for years afterward.
This evening, we'll head out in the drizzle to trick-or-treat. I’m someone for whom Halloween has always been just OK. I’ve never really liked dressing up. My kids, however, start daydreaming about it over the summer. They love that chance to assume another persona, and think long and hard about who – or what – they want to be. We have a box full of costumes – Star Wars characters, occupational wear, and anything that involves a weapon as an accessory – purchased for Halloween, though many never debuted on the holiday. Exhibits 1-4, Cal the Shark: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008. Last year I declared a moratorium on costume purchases. I’m not going to try and predict what Cal will decide to wear this evening. Abbott plans to be a ghost.
The routine we’ve developed has increased my enthusiasm for the day. We trick-or-treat at the homes of neighbors who, I’m sure, buy candy almost exclusively for us; our street is off the beaten path. Someone bakes sugar cookies in seasonally-themed shapes for the boys every year, and embellishes them with frosting and sprinkles. After we leave our street we'll head out into the neighborhood, stopping at the home of Marie, a colleague of Alexi’s. She and her husband invariably offer us a glass of wine, and we’ll accept, or not, depending on our timing and the stamina of the kids. We’ll knock on the door of friends from hockey who have a boy Cal’s age and a boy Abbott’s age, and see if they want to canvas the neighborhood with us. Then we’ll hit all the houses within a few block radius, taking in the parade of costumes and the houses tricked out for the occasion. Our last stop is always Henry and April’s house, where we might be offered chili, or briny oysters; we might have a glass of wine with them, and stay until it’s far too late.
Before we leave home for the evening, we’ll have what I usually make for the occasion due to the ease with which it comes together, and its popularity. A casserole, in fact. Yep, it’s the kind of thing you’ll see alongside jello salads with marshmallows and walnuts at a church potluck. But it’s good – rice and beans, essentially – and convenient, and kids eat it. I picked up this recipe from my friend Karen when our kids were toddlers. It takes about 10 minutes to assemble; the only thing you have to do in advance is cook the rice.
Karen’s Mexican Casserole
15 oz whole kernel corn – fresh, previously frozen, or canned
2 25 oz cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can of tomatoes with green chiles (if your store doesn’t carry it, a small, 4 oz can of diced chiles along with a can of crushed tomatoes will work just fine)
8 oz sour cream
8 oz jar of picante sauce (Sometimes I leave it out; sometimes I use mole sauce. Use what you like/what you have on hand.)
3 c cooked long grain rice
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
optional: 1 small onion, chopped
optional: 1 or 2 avocados, skin and seed removed, cut into pieces
chopped cilantro, for garnish
Combine everything in a large bowl, except the Monterey Jack cheese. Spoon the mixture into a 13 x 9 baking pan, and sprinkle with the remaining cheese. Bake at 350F for 50 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
Yield: 8 servings