I love cooking. I love eating. I love eating what I have cooked. I do not, however, like decorating my food. Don’t get me wrong, I love a theme, and am always delighted by playful seasonal fare, but I am severely lacking in artistic skills. I am also quite lazy, and easily frustrated by detailed work.
So while other food publications pump out slideshows and roundups of delightfully spooky Halloween treats, I have no choice but to watch with envy. I will never be the type of person who whips up green Frankenstein corn dogs, adorably decorated pumpkin cupcakes, or a dark and mysterious charcoal cocktail. I only have three spooky food tricks: Proscuitto, olives, and sliced almonds.
When in doubt, drape something in prosciutto
It’s impossible to look at prosciutto and not know that it is meat. It’s pink, streaked with fat, and unsettlingly sticky. Wrap it around a fake femur, drape it over a skull, or place it strategically on a creepy mask (like I did for the photo above), and you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a delightful char-spook-erie platter. (Just make sure you clean the mask and/or fake bones first.)
Make finger foods (complete with fingernails)
Fingernails are incredibly unsettling. Imagine finding one in your food. Terrifying. Sliced almonds, for better or worse, look a lot like fingernails. You should take advantage of this.
Carrots, breadsticks, and sausages are all instantly creepified with the addition of an almond nail. All you have to do is find a finger-shaped food, dab it with a bit of cream cheese, and press the almond nail on top. (If you’re using carrots, carve out a few slim pieces near the center to create a knuckle to make your snack scream “phalange!”)
Make some olive spiders
A lot of people use olives to make eyeballs, but mine never look right, because, again, I’m very bad at decorating. But I am capable of slicing up some pitted black olives and arranging them so they look like a clunky, improbable spider. I once made 24 olive spiders to perch atop a batch of deviled eggs that I took to a Halloween party, and people were very charmed (though they may have just been charmed by the presence of deviled eggs).
All you have to do is grab a jar of pitted olives and slice one in half to make two spider bodies. Then, slice another into four rings, and cut those rings in half to make the legs. Place the body of the spider in a dip, or atop a cheese ball, or on some deviled eggs, then arrange eight little legs around the body. There, you made a charming little spider. (And now you get to eat some olives! It’s a win all around!)
If those three incredibly lazy food styling tips are too involved for you, you can always fall back on beets: Slice them up on a cutting board and use the board as a bloody display for horror d’oeuvres, serve pickled beets alongside a cheese plate, or blend them into dips and hummus. A beet will always look bloody, without any futzing on your part. (Thank you, beets.)