Cute or Scary?

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I have often felt that Halloween is the holiday that is rather overlooked. Summer is well and truly over, Christmas is eight weeks away; Halloween can tend to slip through the cracks and pass us by with nothing more than a few extra sweeties or maybe the annual viewing of Hocus Pocus.

It was only last year, when I spent October 31st with a bunch of Canadians and Americans that I realised just how much we are missing out on.

Halloween is the chance to let your creative side run absolutely wild. Slather on that eye liner! Carve up that pumpkin! And if you are like me – your artistic abilities rival those of a chimp – then you have that old fall back, “It’s not meant to be pretty, it’s scary”.

Although the North Americans went all out on the party planning, I discovered that this concept of turning everything dark and bloody was entirely new to them. When I asked my friend what she wanted to be for Halloween, she told me, a ballerina, to which I replied, “Oooh, the Black Swan. Good one.” She said, “No, no, a normal ballerina. I want a little pink tutu and a cute little bun.” I proceeded to tell her that that wasn’t very scary which led to her staring at me with a completely blank expression before saying, “Well… no… it’s not meant to be.”

And so began my history lesson. Halloween is an ancient Pagan festival that began in the Celtic-speaking countries. It marks the end of summer and the harvest season, and the beginning of the darker winter. It was believed that at the time when nature was dying, the walls between this world and the world of the spirits were weaker. For one night only, the souls of the dead would return home and they needed to be welcomed. Bonfires were lit, offerings of food and drink were made, and prayers were said for the souls. The night of ritual became a night of song, dance and games. If the souls did not receive such hospitality then they would wreak havoc – livestock, and sometimes people, may not survive the winter. By the 16th century, some people were beginning to dress up as spirits of the departed and knock on doors to receive the offerings of food. If they were not accommodated then they would take it upon themselves to cause mischief. And so trick-or-treat was born. Contrary to what many may believe, Halloween is not an entirely unreligious event. Roots of the festivities can also be found in the Church’s three day celebration of the saints, beginning on All Hallows Eve.

Somewhere along the way – and my guess is fairly recently in the timeline of events – Halloween has entirely lost its meaning. It has become a night of fancy dress rather than terror. Regina George of Mean Girls fame had more of an impact than she knew when she said, “Halloween is the one night of the year when a girl can dress like a total slut and no other girl can say anything about it.” My friend was astounded to find out that she had been doing Halloween wrong her whole life. I told her tales of egging houses, covering the village hall in toilet paper (after explaining what on Earth a village hall is), and parties with apple bobbing, what’s-in-the-box, and everyone doing the Thriller dance moves. She couldn’t deny that it sounded like much more fun. I lost her, however, when I explained that for the first few years of my life I would dress up as a pumpkin – orange from head to toe – until the year I purchased a bright blue, furry Sully from Monsters Inc. outfit. Eventually I reached an age where it was no longer acceptable to go knocking on strangers’ doors and demanding sweets, and so Halloween became a non-event.

We eventually came to a compromise. We would bring back Halloween for me, and “scary” it up a little for her. We dressed up as dead baseball players in caps, oversized sports jerseys, knee high socks and fake blood everywhere. It ended up being a Halloween like neither of us had ever experienced before.

I love glitter and sparkles just as much as the next girl. I can’t get enough of my new highlighter. Anything rose gold and I’m obsessed. But I also love pumpkin spice anything, and scary movies in the dark. I say, save your inner fairy princess for Christmas. We get one night a year to let our inner faery loose. Bring back Halloween!

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Arkansas: Locally Sourced Servings for the Soul

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On a blistering cold Saturday morning, many people are tucked in bed with a nice, hot cup of cocoa or sleeping under their flannel sheets.  However, in Northwest Arkansas, young people and young families are standing outside at restaurants like the Farmer’s Table, waiting for upwards of thirty minutes for a table inside of a three room, older home.  There is no fancy menu, or a world-renowned chef. These people are here for simply delicious and nutritious, locally-sourced, comfort foods.

Food trends in the USA have historically focused greatly on food on the go – quick and easy meals for millennials to grab while rushing from work, to sporting event, to home. Recently, however, a new culinary trend has emerged among the younger crowd, who are less concerned with speed of preparation and convenience, and increasingly focused on the quality of the meal, the taste, and enjoying locally sourced produce.

Eating food grown by local farmers may seem an old notion for consumers in Europe and elsewhere in the world, but with the enduring dominance of super chains like Walmart in the US this has meant many of these once thriving local farming communities in the US are suffering, or have completely disappeared.

As Northwest Arkansas is developing and younger families are moving in, a revitalized community spirit is growing, this shift is predicated on promoting health, community and local food for the family. A growing number of young families are therefore attempting to develop a community spirit based on happiness, activity and healthy eating. A new wave of new restaurateurs have subsequently emerged, extending the focus on  local community by supporting local farmers and promoting sustainable living.

On any given Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday at 7 a.m. central time, local farmers come to sell their produce, meats, and breads at Farmer’s Markets that are growing in popularity. One such market is located in the town square in Fayetteville, Arkansas, this hosts approximately 30 vendors. These farmers, who once had problems selling once or twice a week, can now sell out in a few hours.

Out on the early morning hunt are local chefs and restaurateurs searching for their next featured dish. Because of the different seasons here, the produce available is constantly changing, creating an amazing array of possible new delicacies for local, and some not so local, patrons to enjoy, while giving local farmers income year round.

After the farmers market, many common items like bacon from local farmers in Gentry and eggs from a chicken farm in Farmington are the basis Sunday brunch.  The only herbs used are the ones grown next door in the restaurant’s garden. Nothing is frozen or genetically modified. Anything that is served on these menus is organic and free of chemicals, leaving only the natural goodness that our bodies crave.

Local restaurants in Arkansas are also keeping waste at a minimum. Composting is a large part of this equation, diminishing the amount of trash being thrown away. The egg shells and left over plant waste are redistributed in the garden to help the soil in the garden. Chicken bones are used to create a broth. Very little packaging or plastic is thrown away simply because there was none in the first place.

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These ‘locally sourced’ restaurants are growing in number, and include; the Farmers Table, Herb and Elks, Four Corners Kitchen, and Greenhouse Grill. The philosophy that these eateries are promoting is easy to buy into because of the quality of their menus, the delicious and colorful nature of each meal, and the knowledge that this is helping our local community and promoting sustainability. These culinary developments have revitalized what it means to eat local and have created a more wholesome and healthy community for families in Northwest Arkansas.

 

Picture: The Farmer’s Table, a ‘locally sourced’ restaurant in Fayetteville, AR.