Saturday, October 24, 2015

Murder for the kiddies from Betty Crocker

I'm going to kind of cheat today because I want to do a Halloween post and I've already hit up my obvious Halloween choices in the cookbook department (and a lot of older cookbooks don't consider Halloween a proper food holiday at all-- those are Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter). Today we're dipping into Betty Crocker's Parties for Children (1964), which admittedly only has a few recipes in it.

Here's Betty's plan for a Halloween party:

I guess the girl is dressed as a witch, although only the mask and broom make me sure it's a witch. Her hat doesn't have the classic witch brim and her dress is pink, so this could easily pass as a princess costume with slightly different accessories. The black cat is quietly weighing its options and deciding it might want to spend Halloween night hunkered down under the porch rather than accompanying this sad witch.

I was briefly excited that the cat seemed to have a dragonfly friend, but then I realized the "dragonfly" was supposed to be a bit of grass. So much for the dragon. Even a stretch to make this slightly creepier turns up nothing.

The menu is pretty simple: Witches' Cauldron Soup (any old soup you want served from a kettle), Goblin Franks, Vegetable Relishes (because the kids need something to ignore), Ice Cream Jack-O'-Lanterns, Milk, and Halloween Cookies (because if any day calls for TWO desserts, it's Halloween. There may not be enough sugar in all the candy!).

What are Goblin Franks? I thought they might be similar to the crescent roll mummies so popular today, but not quite:

With a cornmeal/ flour crust, these are more baked corn dog than monster. I'm not sure what part of these is "goblin." At least throw some parsley in to make them green or something....

The last recipe is for Ice Cream Jack-O'-Lanterns:
These are pretty cute: scoops of ice cream (although I'd use orange sherbet to make them, you know, orange!) with chocolate chip and cherry faces. Nothing revolutionary, but certainly appropriate....

The real draw is the list of recommended party games. 

The first Halloween game is "Murder!"

The book even includes a picture of the murder-- not something I'd expect from Betty Crocker! Apparently this little girl picked the hammiest boy in class to kill.

And how would you play "Murder!" besides by making Donald dramatically clutch at his heart?

Well, the Murderer and Detectives are all drawn from a deck of cards. The detectives are exiled, the Murderer gets to pick a victim, and then the Detectives have to return to figure out whodunit.

My favorite bit of advice is that the suspects should be instructed to give out alibis like "I was swimming in the goldfish bowl" or "I was eating electric light bulbs." The trick is that "The Murderer's alibi should always be false." So apparently, the kids who weren't the Murderer should be permitted to swim freely in the goldfish bowl or eat the light bulbs so their alibis can be true. It's just the kid who got picked as the Murderer who has to boringly refrain...

The next Halloween game is "Under the Broom":

This is a pretty standard limbo, but there are a couple of things I like about it.

  1. The game requires two piles of books, each about four feet high. I imagine that might be a challenge in a lot of households, but I could definitely stage this one with no problem! In fact, I could probably run five or six simultaneous rounds of "Under the Broom" if I had more brooms. (For me the cleaning products, not the books, are the limiting factors. That gives  you a pretty good insight into what my apartment looks like...)
  2. I love that "Pony tails, sashes, and stiff petticoats do not count" if they touch the broom. Imagine stiff petticoats at a children's party!
The third game is "Ghost." 

The picture makes it look WAY scarier than it really is, as this is just a spelling game. It's one I would have hated, too. The object is to add a letter to a string of letters without completing an actual word. I'd hear the kids in front of me pick letters like "D" and "I" and I would think of something like "dinosaur," so I'd pick "N." Then I would have been out because "din" is actually a word, and I would have been pissed off because "din" wasn't MY word. My word was "dinosaur" and we would not have been even CLOSE to finishing that one. I would have sulked for the rest of the party that the cruel world just didn't understand me (while the other kids just got progressively more bored by having to sit around spelling words on what was supposed to be a day off from school).

Finally, Betty recommends a rousing game of "Fortunes."

The planner will hate this one, as it starts with a typewriter and carbon paper. Prepare for a kids' party by typing out enough fortune sheets for everyone in the class! How fun!

Then the children have to fill out the forms: names (of opposite-sex children who are not one's sibling), years, numbers, colors, etc. Later it is revealed that these details are their fortunes: the name is the name of one's spouse, the year is the year of the wedding, the number is the number of kids, etc.

A game like this would have WRECKED child-me because it reinforced all of the things I was afraid of about being a grown-up. I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to get married, but apparently grown-ups had to. I was positive I didn't want to have kids, but apparently grown-ups had to. Even though I would have realized the chances I would have 42 kids with purple eyes and green hair were pretty slim, the premise of the game alone would have been the scary thing-- way worse than the scare of sticking my hands into grape "eyeballs" would have been. Why didn't Betty recommend that instead?

All right-- I know I'm in too-long territory by this point, so have a spooky late-October weekend! Just don't listen to any fortune-tellers.


  1. Great post, Poppy!
    I adore that ghost illustration, it makes me want to go eat lightbulbs :-)

    1. I know lightbulbs look tempting, but try not to eat them! If they come on, they'll cook your innards! ;-)