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I hope everyone had a happy Halloween! According to History.com, Halloween has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival Samhain (pronounced sow-in), which became known as All Hallows’ Eve, and finally, simply, Halloween. For the Celts, the new year began on November 1, and they believed that, in the evening before, the wall between the living and the dead became blurred. It is fascinating to me how some of today’s traditions, such as dressing in costume and having an interest in mythical creatures, originated from these traditions 2,000 years ago.
In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as All Saints’ Day, a time to honor saints and martyrs. November 2 became known as All Souls’ Day, a day to honor the dead. On this day, children and beggars would go door to door saying prayers or singing songs for the deceased. In return, they would receive Soul Cakes, small round cakes which, when eaten, were thought to represent a soul being released to purgatory. Recipewise offers an excellent history of Soul Cakes, as well as a recipe for the treats that dates back to the Victorian age.
Although the trick-or-treaters have already come and gone this year—and pre-packaged candy is understandably more welcome by parents than baked goods—I am tempted to try out this Soul Cakes recipe this year, just for the history of it. The recipe’s ancient roots are apparent in its simple ingredients: flour, sugar, butter, cinnamon, mixed spice, nutmeg, egg and wine vinegar. The baking process itself seems foolproof, too. I guess my only hesitation is who to make them for, although I’m sure my friends wouldn’t mind a batch of fresh-baked cookies on a Friday night… I’ll let you all know how it goes.
Another, even easier, recipe I wanted to mention is the one for toasted pumpkin seeds. It’s not much of a recipe either since there are so many different ingredients you can use and flavors to choose from. I kept it simple this year with a little melted butter and salt, but there are lots of sweet and salty variations. Cinnamon, truffle salt, flavored olive oil and vinegar… Pick your pleasure, set the oven to 300 degrees, spread the seeds (coated in your chosen flavor) on a flat baking sheet, bake for 45 minutes stirring occasionally and enjoy! I’m sure jack-o-lanterns have been carved by now, but pumpkins are still around in the days after Halloween, and roasted pumpkin seeds make an excellent seasonal snack.
Learn more about the history of Halloween from History.com.