When Dad retired he and Mom built a home and moved to the country on his family farm. More than anything Mom missed the daily interaction with others—the neighbors nearby, sound of children playing, church bells ringing, and the annual knocking on the door of costumed kids holding out their bags and yelling with excitement, “Trick or Treat!”
The rural off road area where my parents lived didn’t make an inviting place for kids to trick or treat. However, Mom, as usual, found a way to fill her home with the sounds that she missed so much. One Halloween, she decided to make a large pot of stew and invite her grand kids and family to come and eat before they made their way to other events. Once was all it took, everyone for twenty-something years expected an invitation to visit Nannie’s house on All Hallow’s Eve.
One year, my nephew brought one of his friends with him, after that, he was hooked, and came every year until he went away to college. On one occasion, Mom recalls his dad dropping him off, she was waiting by the window in anticipation, watching as Justin jumped from the truck with a wooden spoon in his hand, saying,”I brought my own spoon this year!” We suppose that it was because Mom’s stew was known to be piping hot and a wooden spoon would not conduct heat as much so he could start eating it sooner. Whatever the reason, it is still the topic of conversation at our annual gatherings over the steaming bowls of Mom’s stew brew.
Another year, someone gave Mom a large pumpkin shaped soup tureen with a ladle and salt and pepper shaker to match. To this day, even though Mom prefers to serve her stew straight from her pot to preserve the heat and the tradition of the wooden spoon, we get them out for this special night.
This year is the first “Family Stew Brew” since my daddy passed away and I want to make it special for Mom. Of course, since she’s the cook and I prefer to make crafts and decorate, she will make the tasty stew brew. I am going to bring back the spoon theme this year and make each person their own “dunkin’ spoon (after all Justin’s last name is Duncan). Maybe, for ‘ol times sake, we can get in touch with Justin, his wife, and their baby to join us. In order to give it an updated twist I’m thinking of asking everyone to dress in costume this year, not just the little folks. I think these kinds of traditions are perpetual and continue down through the generations because each person adds a their own personal touch each year to keep the memories and ‘stories’ flowing and that makes it appealing to each new generation.
Just thinking about it makes me smile and long for that warm cozy feeling I get on this night. If you haven’t experienced this feeling I suggest you plan a gathering this Halloween. It is the perfect time because the internal excitement that cooler autumn weather brings to people provides a perfect setting for lighting candles, decorating porches, and heating up a big pot of stew, Start with a small simple gathering, then, sit back and watch it become a big event that resounds itself every year after.
If you would like the recipe for Mom’s Stew Brew you will find it below, however, I think by making it your own it gives it the mysterious taste that keeps them coming back year after year! Enjoy!
Mom’s Stew Brew
1lb. ground beef or stew meat ½ tsp. oregano
1T. oil (veg. or olive) ½ tsp. basil
1 tall or 3 small cans of tomato sauce ½ tsp.crushed red pepper
3 cups water ½ tsp. garlic powder
1 small onion ¼ tsp chili powder
1 can of whole kernel corn, drained salt and pepper as you like
1 C. cut green beans, drained
1 C. green peas, drained
6 baby carrots
1 med. potato diced
1/2 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Brown the ground beef or stew meat and onion in the oil, add tomato sauce and 3 cups of water. Add all other ingredients and mix evenly. Then add, the oregano, basil, crushed red pepper,garlic powder, chili powder and salt and pepper to taste. Cook until boiling, then lower heat and cook until all vegetables are done— about 20-30 minutes. Serve PIPING HOT with cornbread like mama does!
Make personal cookie containers decorated with Halloween themed paper and ribbons and fill with decorated cookies or small toys like plastic spiders and gooey ghosts. And once you have a event you will get ideas for decor and treats similar to my wooden dunkin’ spoon ! Have fun, make memories and Happy Halloween!