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Stirring up memories


Just fooling around
March 30, 2005

The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.

                                                                                    Mark Twain


Watch out on Friday morning.  You might check your wrist watch when you hear the alarm ring.  College students have been known to set clocks an hour behind, so that their roommates show up an hour late and appear in the wrong class.  What confusion!  It might be almost as alarming to set the Big Ben an hour early—but surely you would notice that it was still dark outside.

If you make it through the get-up time, then you may want to dip a finger into the sugar bowl for a little taste before you load the coffee, for another favorite prank is replacing the sugar with salt. 

What are people up to?  Why it will be April First or All Fools Day, and beware—or be thinking about the stunts you can play.  It’s better not to be mean.  Forget the alarm clock and the salt and simply point to the sky saying—“Look at the flock of geese!”  (Only this time of year, be sure that there isn’t a flock of geese.) Or tell someone his shoe is untied.  As soon as your innocent victim takes the bait, you sing out, “April Fool!” Remember, the best jokes are the ones where everybody laughs.

            Not all the jokes are on friends and family, sometimes an entire nation bites—as when Taco Bell in 1996 announced it had purchased the Liberty Bell from the federal government for an undisclosed amount.  Henceforth, the announcement continued, the cracked national treasure would be known as the Taco Liberty Bell.

Outraged citizens clogged the lines of the Independence National Historic Park where the bell resides.  Taco Bell quickly gave the “April Fool!” announcement.  Later, in the spirit of the fun, White House press secretary Mike McCurry responded to a question about the hoax by suggesting the possibility of the sale of the Lincoln Memorial which would henceforth be known as the Ford Lincoln Mercury Memorial.

Earlier, in 1985, the distinguished writer George Plimpton had some fun with the American public in a Sports Illustrated article in an early April edition.  He described the phenomenal rookie baseball player Sidd (For Siddhartha) Finch who could pitch a baseball at 168 miles an hour with incredible accuracy.  The Mets had made the lucky sign-up.  Plimpton continued that Finch had not followed the usual path to baseball success, rather, he had “mastered the art of the pitch” in a Tibetan monastery.  Excited readers, mostly Mets fans, deluged the magazine with letters, until on April 15, S-I and Plimpton came clean.  

Plimpton, it turned out, had left a clue in the sub-heading of the article.  “He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse.  Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga—and his future in baseball.”  The first letters of the first eighteen words in the sentence spell it out.  “H-a-p-p-y A-p-r-i-l-F-o-o-l-s D-a-y.”

Wonder why we have this silly jokester holiday?  It goes back to the time of the change from the old Julian calendar to the new Gregorian calendar introduced by Pope Gregory.  This was in 1562.  One change was hard for folks to take.  The traditional New Year’s Celebration moved from early April to the now familiar January 1.  And some people didn’t like it.  In France many refused to observe the new date and continued with their early springtime revelries.  Others, who accepted the new calendar, called these holdouts fools, sending them on “fool’s errands” or playing tricks.

England didn’t like the new calendar at all.  It was not adopted there (or in the American colonies) until 1752.  When it was, the English and their colonists also took up the fun-seeking celebrations and laughter of April First.

You can enjoy the day in a harmless way by cooking up some “funny food.”  This first one sounds fine, but when I tried it, I didn’t fool anyone!

Meatloaf Cake

Cook your favorite meatloaf recipe in two cake pans.  (The thin layers won’t take long to cook, so watch it!) While the meatloaf is baking, whip up a batch of mashed potatoes.  Add some extra milk to make them spreadable. When the meatloaves are done, invert one on to a plate and frost the top with a thick layer of the potatoes.  Put the other layer on top and frost your whole cake.  Decorate it with cherry tomatoes, and if you are feeling artistic write “Happy April Fools” in ketchup.  (I didn’t go that far.)

In England the “fool” or “foole” is a popular dessert all year round, and it’s the perfect dessert on this day.  The name doesn’t derive from foolish person but, rather, from the French word, foulé, meaning pressed.  It’s easy.  Simply take fresh fruit—blueberries, cherries, strawberries—crush it lightly and sprinkle with sugar.  Then allow it to sit for several hours.  Layer it with sweetened whipped cream in tall dessert or parfait glasses. 

But it can be even simpler!

Foolishly simple April Fool

1 can cherry pie filling (or flavor of your choice)

1 container defrosted whipped topping

Layer the fruit and topping in a pretty glass and dig in!

I need help.  No fooling!  Linda Howard of Brinson wrote asking for recipes for sour cream pound cake and blueberry crunch.  How about sharing yours?


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