“No, no, no. Stop! You are going to overcook that thing!” Mother was beginning to lose patience with me. Grabbing my wrist she pulled it, along with me, away from the flame. “The meat will be as hard and chewy as shoe leather. Now keep your skewer further back and s-l-o-w-l-y cook it.” As she spoke, her words came out more slowly and her voice took a deeper pitch.
Reluctantly, I took two steps back sighed and pointed my skewer towards the fire. “What good is cooking over a fire, if it won’t be done quickly?” I pouted.
“It’s tradition to cook our meals over the open flame for the October full moon. You are the one who wanted caramel and chocolate covered bugs. Now, if I’m to eat that spider you have on your spit, I want it nice and juicy on the inside. Not all dried out like a raisin. Do that right, or I’ll ask your know it all cousin to come over here and help us. She’ll drive us both batty, but the job will be done right.” Mom turned and began skinning the large snakes she had captured.
“I think I’m going to be glad when all this celebration is over. Most kids just beg candy on Halloween, we have to host a whole coven of goofy witches who want to eat the weirdest things. Who ever heard of eyeball pudding? I like tapioca, but does it have to be real birds eyes? I sure did have to unsocket enough of ‘em! And why do we always have to have bird feet soup just for Nana Holly? I know she doesn't like it anymore than I do. All those toenails getting stuck in my teeth. But, she insists we have it just because of tradition? Cheese!
My mother simply grunted while she continued to pull the snake out of its skin. “Can you see the wood pile?” Mom was trying to look around the side of the tent we had staked up. “I can’t see around there. Have those boys collected all the wood? Is there enough? I can’t hear them, they must be up to no good.”
Just as Mom was getting to her feet, the boys rounded the side of the tent, yipping and yelling at the top of their lungs, “Ma, look what we got ya! Just look at ‘im Ma, ain’t he the biggest thing you've ever seen?”
My mother put her hands on her hips and tilted her head as though she were really trying to figure if the toad the boys had found was indeed the biggest she’d ever seen.
“That toad will be especially tasty tonight as a pâté for your guests. Why don’t you boys just pop that big ol’ toad right here into this pot? I think that will be just delightful. Give us something good to eat besides the bugs your sister is roasting. Thank you boys.”
Wriggling to get away from the heat, the toad thrashed about making the boys laugh and jump all the more. “The atmosphere you create and the foods you serve help create the tradition of the holidays. Halloween has always been my favorite.” Mom smiles at me and I know I will always make Nana Holly’s birds feet soup for Halloween.