In a two-story home nestled in the woods on the Severn River, the aroma of baking goods accents the preparations of the coming evening’s festivities.
This is Ashlee Gamble’s first time hosting a Halloween party, and she is running from food to decorations and back to food again, like a conductor’s baton, leading different parts of a symphony.
“I usually go about once a year during the Halloween time,” says Sam Dollar, who is helping Gamble prepare. “It’s typically the best time to go to a Halloween party.”
One of the basic elements of any party, and what binds us together socially, is what takes up the majority of Gamble’s time.
“I love food and I think it’s a great centerpiece,” says Gamble. “Whenever you look at a recipe, and you look at the time it takes, I usually have to double that.”
She has a variety of ghastly hors d’oeuvres for the guys and ghouls that are going to haunt the house in a few hours. She munches on some snacks as she cooks.
“I think my favorite,” says Dollar, “is the little weenie thingies covered in the mummy stuff.”
This mummified version of pig in the blanket plays the string section of the food orchestra. The accompanying elements include the percussion of white chocolate-covered Nutter Butters that look like ghosts. The woodwinds are represented by some long, thin sugar cookies with a shaved almond that looks like a witch’s finger. The brass is a fruity green juice that fills a black cauldron in the corner of the table. The stage is arranged in such a way as to present the food in both an aesthetically pleasing and an easily accessible manner.
Gamble’s ideas came mostly from Pinterest, a social media platform where people share pictures which link to different websites. These pictures can be organized into different groups so that parties like this one can be planned in a single isolated board.
Another important Halloween element is the costume. “A lot of adults now have kind of a stigma wearing them,” Dollar says. “They feel it’s childish. Which is funny because I feel like you are more mature by wearing a costume, because you’re leading by example and you’re showing the kids that it’s okay to wear a costume and you’re still able to be a mature person.”
He may have been the only adult wearing a costume at the party. Dollar says, “I think the one guy was wearing a costume, but it might just have been his normal attire. It was kind of hard to tell.”
A two-year old girl is dressed as Dumbo the elephant, with a frilly red and yellow ruff bringing color to the otherwise grey outfit. Another girl, less than a few months old, is sitting in her stroller in a fleece pumpkin outfit.
“I’m actually surprised with how much I was able to get done today,” said Gamble, chuckling. “I wish I had started a few days ago.”
The mummy snacks are the biggest hit. Everybody gets wrapped up in them. The plate of ghosts disappear one by one. A pile of rib bones builds up, no longer bearing the sweet pork dripping with sticky barbeque sauce. The two dogs are gnawing on a couple of them. Dollar is sipping on the green juice.
“It’s actually pretty good,” he says, “which is surprising, because I normally don’t like pineapple, and that was the main ingredient.”
After some games and a few last-minute treats, the guests leave the party, saying their good-byes. Gamble and Dollar take the remaining two mummies as they relax, the ghosts are gone. All that remains is a half-empty cauldron and a couple of crumb-splattered platters.