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apple fools day

"The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool."
– William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 5, Scene 1

To be born on a holiday is often considered an auspicious event, unless that particular holiday happens to be April Fools' Day.

Legends abound concerning the origins of April 1 pranking, each one plausible, some more likely than others, but all inherently unprovable.

Hilarious Hilaria happenings in ancient Rome.
For one, are April Fools' Day teasing traditions truly tied to folks being fooled by spring's changing, unpredictable weather?

Or perhaps this celebration really is the last vestige of Hilaria, that ancient Roman festival when folks dressed in disguise to fool friends and family?

What if the historians who insist that the jesting is due to confusion over the western world's switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar in 1582 are actually correct?

Or, does all this fooling around merely commemorate the end of the Celtic New Year's festivities?

No one knows, and they are clearly joking if they say that they do.

However the April Fools' Day pranking customs began, most April fool jokes have been documented as historically unfunny, seemingly designed to annoy rather than amuse.

In the early post-Julian days, French peasants would unexpectedly visit isolated neighbors on April 1, hoping to confuse them into thinking it was New Years. Meh.

In the 1700s, English pranksters popularized the tradition of April Fools' Day practical jokes. Sending unsuspecting victims on pointless errands was an especially popular pastime.

In Scotland, this noisome tradition became a two-day event, starting with "hunting the gowk" (the pointless errand as performed by the gowk, or fool) and followed by Tailie Day, where normally well-behaved citizens of all ages spent untold hours pinning fake tails and "kick me" signs on unsuspecting derrieres.

The Victorians took their practical jokes very seriously. Seemingly unable to resist playing pranks on friends and strangers alike, some of the most audacious, ambitious, and cruel tricks were orchestrated by the media:

Washing the Lions, 1856. An official-looking invitation from the Tower of London, inviting the public to a fictitious event;

The Grand Exhibition of Donkeys, 1864. A London newspaper announcement enticing a crowd to gather outside Agricultural Hall and therefore become the butt of the joke, and;

Edison’s Food Machine, 1878. The New York Graphic’s false news story detailing a machine that “could turn soil into cereal and water into wine” picked up by newspapers throughout the states.

In France, folks who fell prey to these practical jokes were called, "Poisson d'avril!" (an April fish). This moniker, dating back to 1564, refers to a young, easily-caught fish, implying that the victim is someone very easily duped.

Collectable Victorian-era postcards featuring April fish-themed funnies (printed in France, of course) popularized Piscum pranks. The verses prompted the receiver to send unsuspecting servants and loved ones on false errands to docks, aquariums, and fishmongers. The ease and efficiency of this tease was apparently irresistible to any practical housewife desiring a few moments alone.

With the advent of the telephone, tricking folks into placing calls to local seafood restaurants, markets and fish stores became de rigueur, as did making an anonymous call, asking someone to hold the line, hanging up, then calling back to inquire if “there’d been any bites.” Groan.

Whether or not these traditions have provenance, April Fools' Day does have a modern-day set of unofficial pranking rules. The pranking period begins at sunrise on the 1st of April and expires at precisely noon (a good excuse as any to sleep in). Any pranks pulled after that will result in bad luck for the prankster. Guys fooled by pretty girls are fated to marry them (duly noted). And anyone who fails to be a good-natured victim is slated for bad luck until the next April.

And what of the hapless humans saddle with April first as their natal day? We concede that April Fools' Day is an odd day to be born, but no worse than being born on February 29, October 31, or December 25. Sharing the glory with a day designed to try the patience of Job doesn't have to be difficult.

Some folks may disbelieve your birthday claims, forgetting that pranks are for April Fools' Day and don't hold true the rest of the year. Remind them of this commonsense fact, and the joke's on them.

Very few people will attempt to ruin your birthday with retaliatory pranks: those that do should be treated as the scourges of society they are. If you have a talent for delivering nonsensical claims in a straight-faced manner, offer this conflated fact: "Founders Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak created Apple Computer Fries on April 1, 1976, in Cinnamon County, California."

Then smugly finish off your traditional birthday apple fries as the offending pranksters are tricked into an Internet search session, or even more amusingly, proceed in proud ignorance to disseminate this tidbit of absurdity to the world.

apple fries with sweet dipping sauce

Serves 2

A favorite byte of semi health-conscious computer programmers, designers and developers, no matter what the platform.
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/4-inch sticks
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  •  
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, stir together sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg; set aside.

In a medium bowl, toss apples and butter to coat. Spread apples evenly on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 7 minutes, remove and allow to cool for 2 minutes, then sprinkle the sugar mix over the apples.

While the apple are baking make the sweet dipping sauce: In a small bowl, stir mascarpone, honey, and vanilla until well combined.

Serve apple fries, warm, with dipping sauce on the side.

For a crisp, deep-fried version: Heat oil to 375°F in a deep fat fryer or in a saucepan with 1” of oil; toss the apples with 1/4 cup cornstarch until well coated, then fry in batches for 2-3 minutes until very lightly golden. Remove from oil, drain fries on paper towels, then sprinkle the sugar mix over the apples.