Bunny, tiger, punk, Casper the Friendly Ghost, devil, punk again. These are some of my ghosts of Halloweens past. Classics. When I think back on my life in costumes, it strikes me that I have only twice dressed up as an actual human historical figure. The first was Pocahontas. The second was Jennifer Lopez.
I was a fifth-grade Pocohontas at least a few years before Disney rewrote her story. I probably got the idea from Thanksgiving-season school activities on Jamestown. I’m not sure all the backstory about conquest, colonization, and civilization really registered. I think I just wanted to dress up like a woman with black hair who was young and brave and popular.
Speaking of wanting to be popular, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I was a twenty-two-year-old JLo a decade later. Was JLo even twenty-two then? She sure looked good in her pink velour jumpsuit in the video for “I’m Real.” I wore the velour that Halloween, but believe it or not I appeared in no music videos while doing so.
My first thought was that Pocahontas and JLo seem pretty different in a lot of ways. But what if they’re not that different? And what if the similarities between them, the things they have in common, add up to me? After all, I’m sure I’m the only South Asian American who has ever thought of dressing up as both of these beautiful dark-haired people.
Let’s see. Both women are unquestionably American originals. Pocohontas’ marriage to John Rolfe was the first documented case of interracial marriage in North America. Jlo played a winning wedding planner who was well on her way to an interracial marriage herself by the end of that early aughts classic. Both rose from humble beginnings to international stardom—but always remained regular gals from the block. It’s a match!
This Halloween, I decided to dress up as the cocky, deluded version of myself—the girl who thinks she’s Pocahontas and JLo in one. How do you like my costume? Now I’m going to change into my sweatpants and get back to eating this toffee popcorn.
Chocolate Toffee Popcorn
Makes about 10 cups
Be sure to pick out the unpopped kernels of corn before proceeding with the recipe.
8 cups popcorn (from about 2/3 cup corn kernels)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for the pans
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1. Transfer the picked over popcorn and pecans to a large bowl. Butter two large rimmed baking sheets. In a medium, heavy-bottomed pot with a candy thermometer attached, heat butter, sugar, water, salt over medium until butter is melted, swirling the pan occasionally. Cook the mixture until a candy thermometer reads 300°F. Remove from the heat and quickly stir in vanilla. Be careful. It will sputter a bit. Then stir in the baking soda. Carefully pour the mixture over the popcorn. Immediately stir the popcorn well to coat it in the warm toffee. Spread the coated popcorn out onto the prepared sheets. Sprinkle with more salt. Let the popcorn stand until completely cool.
2. Melt the chocolate. (Tempering it (instructions here) will give it a nicer set and make it more stable at room temperature. But you can simply melt the chocolate, use it, and expect to have slightly messier fingers when you eat.) Drizzle the melted chocolate over the popcorn. Let the popcorn stand until the chocolate is firm (or pop it in the refrigerator for a few minutes) then transfer it to an airtight container.