It’s Halloween on Monday so what better way to get into the holiday than learn some history about Washington Irving, Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman. My friend Chef Mark Vogel wrote this article about these guys and finishes it off with a recipe for Peach Pie to “honor Ichabod and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.” I hope you enjoy both. – RG
The Gourmet & the Goblin
Washington Irving, (1783-1859) was an American writer, historian, biographer, and diplomat, (he served as the minister to Spain from 1842-1846). He loved the town of Tarrytown, NY and took up residence there in a home that he called Sunnyside. Irving was enthralled by the region’s folklore, particularly its abundance of ghost stories. The nearby village of Sleepy Hollow was forever immortalized in his most famous work: “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
In this iconic tale published in 1819-1820, the protagonist, Ichabod Crane, is pitted against two nemeses. The first is the rugged and Herculean Brom Bones, Ichabod’s rival for the affections of the town beauty, Katrina Van Tassel. The second, and far more sinister, is the Headless Horseman. Reputed to be a Hessian soldier decollated by a cannonball in the Revolutionary War, his decapitated spirit gallops through Sleepy Hollow at night in quest of its lost head.
In the story’s denouement Ichabod is chased and apparently murdered by the horseman who hurls a pumpkin onto his cranium. Interestingly, Irving insinuates that Brom Bones may have been the culprit, thus leaving the reader to draw his own conclusions as to the actual cause of Ichabod’s demise. Of course the tale is rendered more intriguing by attributing the treachery to the headless ghost. Otherwise it’s just another humdrum example of a local bully victimizing the weak.
Formerly known as North Tarrytown, in 1996 the residents voted to change the name to Sleepy Hollow to honor Irving’s tale. Visitors can take a guided tour of the famous Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and view Washing Irving’s grave. Many other notables have been laid to rest there as well.
For the history buff or simply those with a morbid curiosity, it is a worthwhile endeavor. Be sure to stop by the Old Dutch Church, a reputed haunt, (pardon the pun), of the headless horseman.
Overshadowed by the more pertinent, and often lurid aspects of Irving’s story is Ichabod’s love of food. Irving makes numerous references to his gastronomic passions. Ichabod is depicted as a “huge feeder” with the “dilating powers of an anaconda.” He frequently accompanies students home at the conclusion of the school day, particularly those whose mothers were “noted for the comforts of their cupboard.”
His mouth “watered as he looked upon the sumptuous promise of luxurious winter fare.” Irving further characterizes him as a man “whose spirits rose with eating as some men’s do with drink.”
Irving also describes the charms of the Dutch country table which included cakes, crullers, and pies made of apples, peaches and pumpkins. Then there was the ham, the smoked beef, roasted chickens, broiled shad, pears and quinces. Ichabod “could not help rolling his large eyes” at the sight of these delectable offerings.
I’ve chosen one in particular, namely peach pie, as our recipe to honor Ichabod and the Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Halloween Peach Pie Recipe
- For the Crust
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¼ cup sugar Pinch of salt
- 2 ½ sticks 10 oz. cold butter, cubed or a combination of 5 oz. butter and 5 oz. shortening
- Ice water as needed about 5 tablespoons
- For the Filling
- 9 medium-large peaches peeled and sliced into ½-inch wedges
- ¾ cup light brown granulated sugar
- Juice of half a lemon
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of nutmeg
- Pinch of salt
- 4 tablespoons cornstarch
- 3 tablespoons cold butter cut into small dice
- 1 egg beaten
- Granulated white sugar as needed