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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Topsy Turvy!

"Who lives without folly is not so wise as he thinks"
"If it thunders on All Fool's Day, it brings good crops of corn and hay"

I had the inclination to claim credit for the above Humpty Dumpty cake, but, I knew I couldn't fool my visitors with such an absurd exclamation. I do however have the recipe below should you find yourself so inclined to assemble him.

I read online somewhere that the culinary encyclopedia, Larousse Gastronomique has an explanation as to why April Fools' Day was started. Since I don't have my copy of the encyclopedia here with me today, I offer you this:

April Fool's Day was initiated by a proclamation issued by King Charles IX of France when the French became the first to adopt the Julian calendar. Before the Julian calendar was adopted, New Year's Day had been celebrated on April 1. The change in the calendar was not popular with the general public. They protested by sending worthless gifts as New Year's gifts on April 1st. The gift recipients became known as April Fools.

Vanity is the food of fools

In lands across the world, the ancient custom of sending others on fruitless errands has long been practiced on April Fools' Day. In Scotland this was called "hunting the gowk" (cuckoo). In France a person who was fooled this way was dubbed a poisson d' Avril (April Fish). The theory attributed to the April Fish stems from the fact that young fish, which were spawning early in the season, were easily caught at this time of year in France.

The joke of the day is to deceive persons by sending them upon frivolous and nonsensical errands; to pretend they are wanted when they are not, or, in fact, any way to betray them into some supposed ludicrous situation, so as to enable you to call them An April Fool. (John Brady's Clavis Calendaria) 1812
The first of April some do say
Is set apart for All Fools' Day
But on this day are people sent
On purpose for pure merriment.

In medieval times, the April Fool Feast was served in reverse order with the least important person, say a servant, who was served first and the most important person, let's say the king, was served last. I once gave a spring party along those lines except the guests weren't served in reversed order, as all guests are important, the meal began with dessert and ended with appetizers. Another year, we went topsy turvy salt and pepper shakers were switched. Pepper in the salt shaker visa versa. Forks for soup, milk in the sugar bowl, sugar in the creamer, well, you get the idea. Don't snirtle, it was quite a fadoodle!

Don't give cherries to pigs or advice to fools
~Irish Proverb~

Shakespeare's birthday is celebrated on April 23rd, although that is not his birthday. I posted a few morsels about Shakespeare last year, so I'll leave the link in the resource section. Today, I have included some "foolish" words from Shakespeare's Glossary and two books by Susan Kelz Sperling; Poplollies and Bellibones "A Celebration of Lost Words" (1977) and Murfles and Wink-A-Peeps: "Funny Old Words for Kids." (1985) Poplollies (Special loved ones) and Bellibones (A lovely girl, both pretty and good) and the book Murfles (freckles) and Wink A Peep (eyes) are two of my favorite collections of obsolete words. Words that have been lost in the caves of the Middle Ages. They are not words you will find definitions for or words the author has fabricated. Ms. Sperling has harvested them much the same way as a cookbook collector gleans book shelves. Like Dr. Seuss, Ms. Sperling's books remind us how words can be fun. Now grab some bellytimber, and read on...

Foolish Morsels
Antick: the fool in old plays
Geck: a fool
Greenly: foolishly
Lurch: to shift, to play tricks
Motley: the many-colored coat of a fool
Motley-Minded: foolish
Ninny: a fool, jester
Toys: trifles, foolish tricks
Poop noddy: a fool, the game of love
Fonkin: a little fool, a clowning person
Fopdoodle: a fool
Fadoodle: Nonsense!
To kiss the hares foot: late or miss dinner
Fizgig: a dizzy person
Reak: trick, joke
Brillig: 4:00 in the afternoon, the time for broiling things for dinner"
According to Mischmasch, by Lewis Carroll Brillig is derived from the verb to bryl or broil. It was defined by Humpty Dumpty in Jabberwocky.
"Only a fool argues with a mule, a skunk, or a chuck wagon cook"

A Dollop of Clotted Cream

A trifle notion I suppose, but what would a topsy turvy be without a spot of clotted cream? The etymology of a "fruit fool" as we know it today, was first introduced by Hannah Glasse in the Art of Cookery where she offers a dish for a Gooseberry Fool. According to Arthur Schwartz, The Food Maven, "Fools are old-fashioned desserts, nothing but whipped cream folded into fruit puree. The result has the texture of mousse." Traditionally fools were made with tart fruits such as raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries, loganberries, and rhubarb but today virtually any fruit can be used..."Fool" is believed to have originated from the French word "fouler" which means "to mash" or "to press". source

The three British desserts, Syllabub, Fool and Trifle are all closely related.

"Among the creamy dishes of the Tudor and Stuart period were trifles, fools and white pots. An Elizabethan trifle was made thus: Take a pint of thick cream, and season it with sugar and ginger, and rosewater, so stir it as you would then have it, and lake it luke warm in a dish on a chafingdish and coals, and after put it into a silver piece or bowl, and so service it to the board. In later recipes the cream was boiled and lightly renneted to make it thicker and when you serve it in, strew on some French comfits. By 1751 trifle was being made with broken Naples biscuits, macaroons and ratafia cakes wetted with sack at the bottom of the bowl, good boiled custard in the middle, and then put a syllabub over tha'. Subsequent recipes replaced the syllabub with whipped cream, milled in a chocolate mill; and the modern trifle was established." source

I was going to include Mrs. Beeton's recipe for Gooseberry Fool in today's post along with a few other foolish desserts but it seems, there are an abundant of fool recipes in flight across the internet. I've left a few links below. Many visitors are well aware of the fact that there is no way out of this world that I would be baking a Humpty Dumpty cake today or even on Mother Goose Day which falls on May 2nd this year. However, I would absolutely LOVE if someone would attempt a re-creation of this cake recipe found in McCall's Books of Cakes and Pies #5 in the McCall's Cooking Library Set published in the 1970s.

Humpty Dumpty Cake Recipe

In the time of Shakespeare, Fool was also an old fashioned term of endearment. So, who do they say was the once living original Egghead?

FYI: Today is also National Sourdough Bread Day, Tomorrow is National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day and Casanova's birthday! PB&J & Oysters. I shun the thought! Let's see what The Old Foodie has to say about The Loves of Casanova. I'm headed to Pennsylvania, I'll "see" ya in a few days.
Resources
1. The Traditions of All Fool's Day
2. Enlightened Lemon Fool @ Enlightened Cooking
3. Rhubarb Fool @ Closet Cooking
4. Strawberry Fool Tarts @ A Good Appetite
5. Guava Fool
6. Boodles Orange Fool
7. Gooseberry Fool
8. Morsels of Shakespeare