Meanwhile, back in Austin, Texas: My friend and colleague Jim Daley had a sense of humour that you might describe as, shall we say, odd. Somehow his long scrawny hair and faintly Groucho Marx-like moustache combined well with his deadpan face and monotone of a voice. And when he chose to toss out his wisecracks at our group meetings, as he often did, the rest of us would have to struggle to subdue laughs, risking irate glares from The Boss. (Inexplicably, she never glared at him).
But such occasions as Thanksgiving and Halloween, with their inherent silliness, usually brought out the best in Daley. "Let's get this straight," he said as we parted company ahead of the long Thanksgiving weekend one year, "do they get turkeys in Detroit and Dallas to play football?"
This being a reference to the tradition that the Detroit and Dallas teams play football games every Thanksgiving day, and to feasting on turkey on Thanksgiving, and maybe even to his real feelings about Detroit and Dallas players ...
... OK, so maybe you had to be there.
Anyway, Halloween would invariably start with one more astute Daley observation on pumpkins, this of course because of the close links between Halloween and the big orange veggies. "I mean, we've got Thanksgiving and turkey, Easter and eggs, Christmas and cranberries," he once observed. "Why Halloween and pumpkins? Why not Halloween and haggis?"
Good question. Prompted us to flip frantically through our dictionaries. There, we learned that haggis is a dish from Scotland made by taking a pile of entrails and boiling them in a stomach ... yeah, that's right, we wanted to thump him over the head too.
I mean, there we'd be, watching kids trail through the 'hood, knocking on doors, asking "trick or treat?" -- and there was deadpan Daley, putting horrors like haggis in our minds. He even swore up and down that he had once, in response to "trick or treat?", offered some kids slices from a steaming fresh batch of haggis.
They went away happy, he said. I suspect they ran screaming for the hills, but if Daley calls that "happy", who am I to argue?
Haggis apart, Daley always claimed to be a fine cook. One Halloween, he circulated a recipe titled "Jim Daley's Tried and Trusted Recipe for Homestyle Halloween Brownies (The Taste That's Finger-Lickin' Good) (At Least I Think So) (TM)." None of us had ever heard of Halloween Brownies, and all of us remembered Daley for haggis, so you might say that despite his claimed prowess, we were not exactly expecting that this recipe would one day feature in the Taj Kitchens Cookbook. If you get my drift.
Still, his title was intriguing enough. And when we read the recipe, we realized how unfairly we had underestimated Daley. I mean, we just knew that this would be a guaranteed hit with trick-or-treaters.
So: as close to verbatim as I can recall all these years later, here's that recipe.
1 cup cocoa, 2 cups walnuts, 2 eggs, 1 cup milk, 2 cups flour, rum to taste.
Mix cocoa and flour. Put milk back in the fridge. Pour mix into the trash. Tell guests to go home. Throw walnuts and eggs at them. Drink rum.