HALLOWEEN IS OUR TIME: Why the Holiday is a Prime Opportunity to Celebrate Food Science

By: Alex Pierce-Feldmeyer

Halloween is clearly a holiday revolved around food- specifically candy.  As food scientists we may admit this is more exciting to us than the average consumer.  My guess is that we tend to notice and appreciate the innovations of the oncoming season, while still arguing over traditional favorites, more so than the general population.  Halloween is a holiday, though, that people other than food scientists may also thoroughly enjoy– being able to appreciate their own inner ‘foodie-ness.’ Who doesn’t love candy?!  Traditional and perhaps not so traditional Halloween treats are not just meant for eating though.  There is something slightly more exciting than merely unwrapping a Reese’s cup.  What if you could BE the candy? Food as the costume and the treat! OH YEAH!


As a child, I think I was already a practicing food scientist before I consciously chose to be one.  I say this because food was always on the mind, even when it came to costume development.  “Costume development” is a sophisticated term I decided to coin for an advanced and complex method of brainstorming, processing, creating and executing costumes for all outlets: parties and contests, or a party with a costume contest.  Note: costumes are relevant almost all of the time.

If you don’t believe in the power of a food themed costume, in the seventh grade I won “most novel” in a Halloween costume contest.  I was dippin’ dots.  I handmade a hat consisting of numerous multi-sized styrofoam balls painted in the palette of the banana split dippin’dot flavor. I also hung a poster board with the dippin’ dots insignia, skirt-style, around my lower half to emulate an ice cream dish as you would expect to receive from the ice cream parlor.

Alex Pierce Dippin Dots

One friend of mine also flawlessly executed a grape bunch costume with green tights for stems and purple balloons (the grapes) around every other inch of her bodice, which also received an award later that evening.

Freshman year of college I also executed a “Mr. Peanut Man” costume, complete with a cane and monocle.  The following year I built a corn on the cob costume consisting of a yellow onesie, criss-crossed in black ink (mimicking individual kernels), with a green beanie meant to represent the corn husk. Third place-not too shabby. Another year I was mashed potatoes and gravy, which received attention from a local television news station.

The purpose of these descriptions is not to brag or attempt to convince people I am the best costume designer and executer ever, but instead to highlight the significant role of food in the element of costumes and hence Halloween.

Part of what makes a food themed costume so successful is its relevance to all people. Everyone eats and everyone can appreciate scale humor.  Seeing something as common as dippin’ dots or a bunch of grapes enormously out of scale relative to true size dimensions is funny.  Why?  I can’t be sure.  Maybe it –at some level- simulates a cartoon caricature.  Caricatures tend to exaggerate elements of a realistic vision.  This is funny.  It means someone with a relatively large nose and ears will suddenly appear ridiculous in a caricature.  Food in caricature form is entertaining to say the least because we cannot possibly fathom eating what looks like grapes and maybe feels like grapes and maybe smells like grapes?—when it’s as large as our head.

This brings me to my next point: humor in costume execution.  Halloween, while historically based on scare and gore themed costumes, is better when humor is involved- especially for someone like me that doesn’t exactly thrive in scary movie environments (I know I am not the only one out there).  Humor is happy.  Humor is fun.  Holidays are fun.  Therefore, Halloween, a holiday, should emphasize fun NOT gore/scariness…in my opinion.

What if you’re dressing with a group, a partner?  DO NOT FEAR.  Not only are food costumes the right choice for any one person.  There are multiple clever ideas for a group and/or couple costumes.

  1. Eggs and bacon
  2. Fruit baskets, or “fruit of the loom”
  3. Peanut butter and jelly
  4. Ketchup and mustard
  5. Forks, spoons & knives (a fourth friend could be a cake…or another desirable food to be eaten with forks, spoons and knives, i.e. anything edible


See what I’m getting at?  Food is THE best choice for costume.  It’s clever, relevant and most importantly FUN.  It’s even better that the autumn season brings some of the most exciting seasonal flavors.  Does a pumpkin spice latte ring any bells?

Have a good holiday and remember, as an “Official Food Geek” I am calling to action all the foodies out there to make this the most food-tastic Halloween yet.  Attend to your personal responsibility on representing food in the best humor possible.  Be creative.  Be informative. Be bold. Be impressive. Just be food.

Cover Image Source: www.bpcblockparty.com


Science Meets Food

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  1. Alex,

    your post is hilarious and truly you in every way. Thanks for sharing your costumes and passion.

  2. I don’t like Halloween but I LOVE your post. In fact, I am rethinking Halloween all together! Great post!

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