It’s hard not to get dragged into the spooky-scary-skeleton-pumpkin-spiced-flavoured Halloween fever when October comes, especially if you’re neighbours with the country where this now very commercialised festivity came from. Originally from the pagan Celtic festival of Samhain, Halloween celebrated the bridge between life and the day of the dead. Nowadays it’s the same deal, only with less scary costumes, a few more evil spirits, and an insane amount of sugar. We can thank Irish immigrants who took this tradition with them when they crossed the Atlantic at the beginning of the 20th century, making ‘All Hallow’s Eve’ as we love it today. Minus the pumpkin-spiced lattes.
Step into any supermarket or bakery chain at this time of year, and it’ll be hard not to be bombarded with mounds of sugary treats, 90p ready-to-be carved pumpkins, and some last-minute tacky low-effort costume. If you’ve taken a closer look, you will probably find some Christmas items hidden there. Mince pies. Advent calendars. Before they disappear, here is an almost comprehensive review of the Halloween food items you can find in Durham– the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Whether it’s on a break from lectures, a quick sugar fix or on a hunt for Halloween party treats, it is safe to say Tesco, Greggs and Cooplands have got you covered. I initially set off to Greggs after hearing about their cheaper version of the pumpkin spiced latte, a drink that holds so much power that if you insult this characteristic-anything-but-coffee beverage you might be caught hanging from your feet on Prebends bridge with the help of an oversized scarf, holding on for dear life, with only a boat full of college rowers ready to catch you underneath. If you like sugar, milk and cinnamon with a dash of coffee, topped with whipped cream, then go for this. You will love it, and your wallet as well. Because who has the money to go to Starbucks and get one of these? Tesco also sells Califia’s Pumpkin Spiced Cold Brew, which is slightly better than the above. Although if you’re seriously broke, I would simply recommend making your own pumpkin spiced syrup and adding a dash of it in your morning coffee. Tesco pumpkins are thankfully cheap. They cost less than an Arriva day ticket.
If you’re still hungry, head into Greggs to try one of their Halloween-themed bakes. “No tricks, just treats” is their motto for this year and they couldn’t be any righter. There is not much to be scared about, apart from a cute, chocolate, bat-faced biscuit, and a not-so-scary “Spooky Bun”. I would argue this cupcake sets a slightly underwhelming tone for the season: the only chilling thing about this one is the slightly deranged smiley pumpkin face staring back at you. And whoever said vanilla was a Halloween flavour clearly has a slightly boring, sugar-coated life.
On the other hand, Cooplands win the decoration competition with their chocolate orange cookie monster and the range of orange-coloured cakes. Hosting a Halloween party and have slightly questionable baking skills? This Durham landmark has got your back with this one. You can cut it up and serve it without worrying about food poisoning your friends.
Wander into Tesco and you will find an endless list of ghoulish-themed food items with questionable ingredient labels – don’t get me started about the Pizza company’s slime-filled pizza crust. I would rather insult a pumpkin-spiced latte drinker and be chased around the Bailey than eat this. If the ingredient “Copper Complexes of Chlorophylls and Complexes of Chlorophyllins” doesn’t give you goosebumps, then I can’t help you out.
So, whilst you try all of these out, and recover from your sugar frenzy, I will be dressing up in a tacky, low-effort costume myself, readying myself for another night of mischief at Jimmy’s, secretly wishing that Urban Oven released a non-toxic version of the slime pizza crust.
Photography by: Eleanor Strain