Halloween food around the world

For most American families, Halloween "treats" mean one thing: candy – mounds of bite-size morsels heaped into kids' bags in exchange for that magic phrase: "Trick or treat!" Other cultures, however, celebrate All Souls' Day, All Saints Day or Dia de Los Muertos (Nov. 1 and 2), from which our Halloween (All Hallows Eve) is derived, with different sorts of treats. Why not expand your family's cultural horizons this Halloween by trying some of these traditional sweet treats from around the globe?

Here are a few ideas about food from Halloween around the world - about what people eat in other countries, and recipes to go with them.

Soul cakes (England and Ireland): These sweet, round cakes were traditionally given out in England and Ireland on All Saints Day or All Souls' Day during the Middle Ages to those who went door-to-door saying prayers for the dead in what may be the forerunner to today's trick-or-treating. They can be made with raisins and currents and aromatic spices like allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger. (Soul cake recipe)

Fave dei morti (Italy): In Italy, All Souls' Day may be celebrated with delicate cookies (sometimes white, brown or pink) – made with almonds and covered with sugar – called Fave dei Morti or Ossei dei Morti, whose name translates to "Beans of the Dead" or "Bones of the Dead." (Fave dei morti recipe; Ossi dei Morti recipe)

Pan de Muerto (Mexico):  This soft sweet bread is a Dia de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition in Mexico, sometimes eaten at the grave of a loved one or placed on an altar. It may be flavored with orange zest or decorated with a teardrop or bones, perhaps placed in a circle to represent the cycle of life. Some people even mold the bread into animals, angels or other evocative shapes. (Pan de Muerto recipe)

Guagua de pan (Ecuador): These "bread babies" – sweet rolls molded and decorated to look like small children or infants – are part of the Day of the Dead tradition in parts of South America. Often made of wheat and sometimes filled with sweet jelly, they may be exchanged as gifts between families and friends or used ceremonially. (Guagua de pan recipe)

So what are you waiting for? Put down those miniature chocolate bars and start baking. These tasty treats will not only satisfy your sweet tooth, but your appetite for cultural exploration as well.

International Day at Emmett's School

On Friday night my family went to International Night at my son's school - this was sort of a glorified potluck dinner for the whole school with dishes from all over the world and a music performance. Because we live in Battery Park City (at the tip of Manhattan) which has a very international population to begin with, there were at least 10 countries represented. The fact that Emmett goes to school with kids from Korea, India, Australia and China is one of the things I love about his school. Even though Emmett is in one of his "picky eater' phases (OK it's more than a phase) where anything that isn't fish sticks, white meat chicken, pasta, yellow pepper or pizza meets with a resounding "no thank you!" I was happy we could share this international experience. His little brother Adrian was slightly more experimental, taking a crack at some chick peas with yellow rice.

The kids, who helped organize the evening, (along with a parent volunteer committee) drew colorful maps of each continent which hung on the walls, and the food was grouped by region. That way, as you went down the buffet line you could sample empanadas from Spain, fried ravioli from Italy and then move on to Samosas from India and sushi from Japan. Each dish was numbered so we could vote for our favorite one at the end.

We had a great time and it was a fun way to bring some of these countries my kids have not had much experience with to life through the foods they eat (we've been doing a lot of spinning our globe lately and learning about where it lands). There were also signs up all over teaching kids how to say "hello" in a variety of languages! Of course I loved that! All that was missing was Little Pim himself.

Does your child's school or daycare have an "international night" or activity? if it did, would you attend?