Saturday, April 30, 2011

May Day and Maypoles

Every May 1st historians generally agree that May Day celebrations probably originated in ancient Rome. May Day occurred the same time of year marking the celebrations honoring the goddess of spring, ”Flora.” By the Middle Ages, the day was celebrated with a procession led by a “Queen of the May”. She was chosen from a population of teen girls, followed by the townspeople dancing around a Maypole which was decorated with streamers and colorful spring flowers.

The Maypole is a tall wooden pole (maple or birch tree) erected to celebrate May Day or Midsummer. It may be decorated with several long colored ribbons suspended from the top, festooned with flowers, draped in greenery, hung with large circular wreaths, or adorned with other decorations of the region. It is most popular in Germany, Spain, France, Sweden, Austria, England, USA, and many other countries. In Italy, May Day is called “Albro della cuccagna“ which translates in English as “trees from the land of milk and honey.” May Day, is a public holiday all over Italy as the day of the worker. Many services will be closed but you may find interesting parades and festivals to celebrate the day. Maypole Dancing is now regarded as the most 'traditional' of May Day's characteristics.

In the United States today, a Maypole Dance is an important part of many Elementary, Secondary or High School celebrations. Often the Maypole dance will be accompanied by other dances as part of a presentation to the public. Since 1929, graduating seniors at Portales High School in Portales, New Mexico wind the Maypole. This school is the only high school in the country that has performed this event for more than eight consecutive decades.

When I was in elementary school, (PS 107 in Flushing, Queens, New York) our class had many May Day celebrations. It took place in the school yard and all the grades participated. Many of my readers will remember my grandmother “Nanni” who I have written about in past posts on my blog. For those who do not know her story, I will tell you a little about her. Nanni’s profession was a milliner and an interior decorator. She made hats for those of you who do not know what a milliner does.
She was very creative and had a flare for making beautiful things. She had her own business which was called “Roberta Originals.” Well, one year she had heard that my school wanted to have a May Day celebration. She thought that it would be a wonderful idea if she made and donated the Maypole for the children to use for the celebration. She spoke to the school and they agreed. So she made this huge very colorful Maypole. She attached streamers of colorful ribbons on the top and added decorations to the pole which gave it just the right touch. I was so proud that my grandmother (Nanni) made this for my school. I remember all of my friends saying that I was very lucky to have a grandmother that made such a beautiful Maypole. After it was made, and the school had possession of it, we learned how to dance around it to create the braided ribbons. My family came to see the classes perform with the Maypole in the school yard that spring. If I remember correctly it was in the 1960’s. My parents took movies and photos of the Maypole celebration, but to no avail I have not found any photos yet. I have been searching for them in my parent’s photo albums and boxes. If I find them I will post them on my blog.

If you’re a teacher or anyone else looking to throw your own May Day celebration and you’d like to include maypole dancing, it is fairly simple to get your own pole up and running, you will need a wooden pole with some sort of knob fastened to the top. Try to make your pole at least 7 or 8 feet high, and anchor it firmly into the ground so the pull of the dancers’ ribbons doesn’t make it topple over.
Tie the ribbons to the top of the pole securely, and hand the end of each ribbon to a child.
Children can then braid the ribbons around the pole as they are dancing, and then retrace their steps to unwind it again if so desired.
Maypole dancing is an enjoyable activity the whole family can get involved in. From constructing your own pole to visiting a local celebration that includes this dance style. Consider making May Day a tradition in your home this spring.

Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II Beatification Ceremony is also May 1, 2011.Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to flock to Rome and Vatican City to witness the ceremony. If you are interested and want more information on the Beatification of Pope John Paul II check out the Beatification Events Guide on

Great Grandmother Sofia 1898

Enjoy dancing the Maypole and the Raisin Loaf cake...Till next time.....

Now, I have a very unforgettable recipe to share with you. It is called a Raisin Loaf Cake. This recipe belonged to my great grandmother Sofia. It is very good especially with a cup of coffee or tea. The raisins become plump and sweet. Plus the aroma of the loaf cake baking in the oven brings back memories of home, family, and fun mainly May Pole Dancing.

Raisin Loaf Cake

1 ½ cups of water
2 tablespoons of Crisco
½ lb raisins
2 eggs
1 cup of sugar
4 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon of baking soda

Great Grandmother Sofia 1950's
Put 1 ½ cups of water in pot. Then add 2 tablespoons of Crisco and raisins. Let them come to a boil, then cool off for at least 5 minutes.
Beat 2 eggs, 1 cup of sugar. Then add the water mixture to the eggs. Once that is mixed then add the 4 cups of flour and the baking powder/ baking soda. Mix all together and then put in greased and floured baking pan.
Bake in oven at 350 ° for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Then let cool for at least 30 minutes.

Copyright © 2011 All Rights Reserved

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter For Children

Easter is a day to dress in your Sunday best, go to church, celebrate life, enjoy brunch with your family and of course eat way too much chocolate. But, sometimes we forget about the children in our lives. Have you thought to include some fun family games in your Easter celebration? It's a great way to occupy sugar fueled kids and build memories. Gather friends and family around the table for a fun filled day of Easter games and activities.

Chris my brother coloring eggs late 1960's 
I remember when I was growing up and it was a week before Easter, we would color hard boiled eggs. My Mom would use the Paas Easter egg coloring kit. It was always fun to see what different designs we could create by mixing some of the colors together. My Mom would get out her coffee mugs and each one of us would have a mug and a teaspoon. Then my Mom would put in the mugs, water, white vinegar and a Paas color tablet. The Paas colors were so pretty, just want you wanted for Easter time. They usually were pastel colors, but depending on how long you left your egg in cup, would depend on how deep the color would be. Sometimes my brothers and I would fight over which color we wanted to use, but we always had an opportunity to have one egg in each of the Easter colors.
Then on Easter Sunday, we would always have an Easter egg hunt after Church services. My parents would scatter the plastic colored eggs which would be filled with candy and coins, and try to hide them in our yard. Then we would run all over the yard and see how many we could find. That tradition continued when my brothers and I had children of our own. It was always fun and great activity for the kids.
After Easter dinner is finished and the table is being cleared, it is a perfect time to play a multitude of games and participate in some fun activities. You can find these games and many others on the internet. You will be able to learn how to play them and you can even print out coloring pages as well.

But these are some of my favorites:
1. Guess how many M&M’s are in a jar
2. A scavenger hunt---kids love to find things
3. Egg on a spoon race
4. Easter Bingo game
5. Easter Coloring pages
6. Pass the Easter egg (similar to hot potato)
7. Word finds and puzzles with Easter theme
8. Baking Easter cookies and cupcakes/nests with coconut

I do have a fun and easy recipe that you can do with your children for a really cute Easter Bunny Cake. My niece Lauren made this Bunny Cake for my parents one Easter a few years ago. I am sure most of my readers have seen this cake and may have made it before, but for those of you that are not familiar with this recipe I will be happy to share it with you.

Bunny Cake

1 pkg. cake mix, (any flavor)
2 cans ready to spread vanilla frosting
¾ cup of marshmallow fluff (which you combine with vanilla frosting)
2 cups Baker's angel flake coconut
2 snowballs (coconut cupcakes: white)
Food coloring
Candy to decorate (jelly beans (for eyes) M&M’s etc.)

Prepare and bake cake in two 8 or 9-inch round cake pans as directed on package. Pour batter evenly into pans. Cool completely. Prepare fluffy frosting with food coloring. Cut one of the cake rounds as shown in first diagram to form ears and body.
Frost sides of each cake piece. Assemble pieces as shown in lower diagram on cookie sheet, large tray or 18x15 inch cardboard covered with aluminum foil. Frost top of cake.
Sprinkle about 2-2/3 cups coconut evenly over top and sides of cake, gently pressing coconut onto sides.

To Tint Coconut:
In small bowl, toss 3/4 cup coconut with 2 to 3 drops red food coloring until evenly colored. Repeat with 1-1/4 cups coconut and 2 to 3 drops green food coloring.
Sprinkle pink coconut over ears and bow tie; outline with chocolate chips. Use snowball cupcakes for cheeks Decorate bunny face using jelly beans for eyes (and maybe even a pink nose!). Sprinkle green coconut evenly around cake for grass. Surround the bunny with foil wrapped chocolate Easter eggs.

I wish each one of my readers a very “Blessed” and “Happy Easter.” Try this recipe, it is easy and fun. It gets your kids involved. They really love to help and it gives them self esteem that they have created a wonderful dessert. Also enjoy playing games with your children and I hope that new traditions will be born with your family and friends. Till next time…….

Copyright © 2011 All rights are reserved

Saturday, April 16, 2011

“ Buona Pasqua !!!“ Happy Easter.....

Spring has finally arrived with a full array of tulips, daffodils and many other pretty colored flowers that are beginning to pop up from the ground. The weather is still cool but that is not stopping the coloring of eggs, bunny rabbits, Easter bonnets, parades, and egg hunts for Easter is right around the corner. It’s also time to start thinking about baking Easter cakes and sweet desserts for your Easter dinner.
Christians in over 80 nations will be celebrating Easter. Easter is known as “La Pasqua” in Italy and is celebrated in many Italian homes with breads, cakes and pastries.

As I promised in my last post, I have a recipe that I would love to share with you. It is a very traditional Italian Easter cake called Cruzzupe or Cuzzupas. This recipe comes from Calabria, Italy. It is made with Anise seeds (licorice flavor) and made into a braided wreath or nest with hard boiled colored eggs placed into the dough, and then colored sprinkles are added to top off the cakes. The consistency is a cake type of dough not bread and the anise flavor adds a very distinct taste to them.

Sofia / Great Grandmother
I remember a time when I was about 10 or 11 years old and lived in Queens, NY……..
We had a large kitchen and we would prepare for baking day with a large wooden board that we used to roll out our dough and create our special cakes and cookies for Christmas or Easter. This pastry board was my Grandmother’s, but it may actually have been from my great grandmother (Sofia) and we are really not sure about the age of this wonderful board. Now, I have inherited this antique wooden dough board to create my own delectable sweet treats and as I roll out my dough, I will think back to a simpler time. I remember at Easter time we would make the Cruzzupe. There were many different shapes that my family would make, sometimes a nest, crosses, and dolls. My Mother would create these beautiful baskets out of the dough and then place the colored eggs in the middle of the basket, when it was baked; it looked so pretty, you really didn’t want to eat it. The dolls were made in the shape of boys or girls like stick figures and then a colored hard boiled egg was used for the head. My job in helping them was not only to watch and learn but to brush the egg white on them and dot with candy confetti sprinkles. I always enjoyed that as I used to sneak some candy confetti in my hand and eat it. Believe me my Mother knew what I was doing, because after eating the candy your tongue would turn colors, so I really wasn’t fooling her. The smells in the kitchen would always give me that warm and toasty feeling. The aroma’s that could be smelled were like sweet clouds of licorice from heaven. It was a feeling of love, family and food. Food was and still is a big part of my family and it always seemed that everything centered around the kitchen for a gathering whether it be a holiday or not.

So here’s to the familia, (family) enjoy the recipe and if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me and I will try to answer you the best way I can.

“ Buona Pasqua !!!“ Happy Easter in Italian to one and all. Also want to wish all of my Jewish friends out there a “Happy Passover” as well. Passover starts on Monday evening April 18th. Everyone enjoy Easter or Passover.



6 cups of flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
Anise Seeds (between 1/3 and 1/2 oz of crushed and cleaned anise)
4 tablespoons Crisco (room temperature)
1 cup of sugar
6 eggs (save 1 egg white to brush on cakes before baking)
3/4 cup of milk
Confetti candy sprinkles


Color hard boiled eggs ( amount is up to you)
Preheat oven to 350° -375° depending on your oven. Grease flat cookie sheets or pans.
Crush Anise seeds and put into dish (before, use a cotton handkerchief to gather anise and twist hanky under it. Then rub hard on the ball of Anise. After rubbing it rolled up in between both hands (make fists.) Open carefully and sort out Anise from brown husks and sometimes small stones.)
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Then mix in Anise. Mix in Crisco with sugar and after make a well shape. (Remember, this is the traditional old Italian way, but you can also use a bowl to mix all ingredients.) Put in eggs (save/1 egg white) and milk.
Gradually take flour from sides of the well and mix with eggs and milk. Don’t break the wall as all liquid will run out. When all mixed you knead dough till all mixed good and a smooth texture. Might have to put a little flour on board or counter, so it will not stick. Not to much flour or the cakes will be too dry. Then cut a chunk and leave the rest on the side of board or counter.
Roll out dough in a long and thin strip. Make the strip the thickness of a wooden spoon handle, not any thinner as the dough will break. If you twist 2 strips together to make a braid make each a little thinner than your finger. They will swell as they bake. Put your colored eggs in the braid, nest or dolls, whatever you decide to create. Be careful as you put them on a baking sheet so they don’t break or crack. Roll small pieces of dough and then flatten out with the palm of your hand to cover around the side of the egg on dolls or nests. This helps keep the eggs more secure. If you make dolls, put a slit on feet and hands.
Now beat saved egg white and with a pastry brush, brush egg white on all parts of your cakes. (Careful not to get egg white on cookie sheet or pan as it will burn and also try to keep egg white off of colored eggs as they will be spotty after they bake.) The egg whites make the cakes brown in the oven. After the egg whites are on brushed on the cakes dip a finger in egg white mixture and then dot with candy confetti sprinkles on the dolls, crosses or what ever you made.

Then bake in oven for about 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. They should be lightly browned. Let them sit about 10 minutes to cool off before taking them off the cookie sheet/pans, they may crack or break so be careful removing them from the pans.
You can store in an air tight cookie tin for about a week, if they don’t get eaten before that.

Copyright © 2011 All rights reserved.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Palm and Easter Sunday Dinner

As Easter Sunday is quickly approaching, millions of Americans are starting to think of what to cook for their traditional Easter and Palm Sunday dinner.
In the United States, ham is a traditional Easter food. In the early days, meat was slaughtered in the fall. There was no refrigeration, and the fresh pork that wasn't consumed during the winter months, before Lent was cured for spring. The curing process took a long time, and the first hams were ready around Easter. So ham was a natural choice for the celebratory Easter dinner.
I remember when I was a young girl; my Mother would cook either a Leg of Lamb or a Ham. Sometimes she would make a fresh ham with the bone, and other times I remember she would cook a baked canned ham for Easter dinner. Now, in those days which were in the late 50’s, 60’s, and the 70’s the Italian family would celebrate Easter and Palm Sunday as two separate holidays. Palm Sunday is the final Sunday before Easter which marks the beginning of Holy Week. Christian churches distribute palms on Palm Sunday to commemorate Christ's entrance into Jerusalem, when palm branches were placed in His path, before His arrest and Crucifixion on Good Friday.
On Palm Sunday we would go to church and receive the Palms and then go back home to prepare the dinner which was a large feast for many family and friends. I have many happy memories which I can recall of creating palm crosses and beautiful braided wreaths that my Mom and Grandmother’s would show me how to make. We would take these crosses and braided items and place them where we considered being a holy place in our home. Sometimes around religious photos, statutes of Mary the mother of Jesus, or other holy objects.
Then Holy Week began and it is the holiest of all the weeks in the Catholic faith. We would go to church on Wednesday, Holy Thursday and most of all we went on Good Friday. That was the last day of eating a meatless meal and the day that Jesus died on the cross at 3:00 pm. Some times I would go with my family to the Easter vigil. This took place on the Saturday night before Easter. It was so beautiful, we all held candles and it was a very solemn long ceremony that finally lead up to the resurrection of Jesus, which is (Easter).  
During Holy week, between going to church, we would do all of our Easter baking. Easter cakes, pies and many desserts. I have a wonderful recipe for a very traditional Italian Easter cake called Cruzzupe. This recipe comes from Calabria, Italy. It is made with Anise (licorice flavor) and made into a braided wreath or nest with hard boiled colored eggs placed into the dough, and then colored sprinkles are added on top of the cakes. The consistency is a cake type of dough not bread. If you are really interested in this recipe, please come back next weekend as I will post the whole recipe.

The recipe that I am including in this post is called “Baked Fresh Ham with Port Wine.” This recipe was found in the New York Times, many years ago and thought my Mother would like to prepare this as our Easter Sunday Dinner one year. And I must say it was delicious. Between the ham, wine, rosemary and sage, the aromas were incredible as well as the taste. This dish can be prepared for any day or any occasion.
So please enjoy this recipe and don’t forget to come back next weekend to get that recipe for Italian Easter cakes. I promise you will love them and make a new tradition in your family.

Baked Fresh Ham with Port Wine

Ingredients:1 12-to-14-pound fresh ham, un-smoked and un-cured
3 large garlic cloves cut into 12 slices
1 tablespoon crumbled leaf of rosemary
1 tablespoon crumbled sage
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 medium-size onions, peeled
½ cup port wine
2 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups water, if necessary.

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. Place the ham, skin side up, on a flat surface and, using the tip of a very sharp knife, make 1/4-inch-deep gashes, from the butt end to the shank end, cutting through the skin at 1-inch intervals. Insert a sliver of garlic into each gash.
3. In a small mixing bowl, blend well the rosemary, sage, salt and pepper and rub the mixture on the ham.
4. Place the ham, flat side up, in a large baking dish or roasting pan and place in oven.
5. Bake, basting occasionally, for 2 ½ hours. Remove all the fat from the roasting
Pan and add the onions. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and cover with aluminum foil. Continue baking and basting for an additional 30 minutes. Remove the fat from the pan.
6. In a small mixing bowl, blend the wine, chicken stock and tomato paste. Add to the ham in the roasting pan. Re-cover ham with foil and continue baking for 1 ½ hours or until the ham is thoroughly cooked to an internal temperature of 165 degrees. If the liquid is reduced too much, add 1 or 2 cups of water.
7. Remove the ham from the roasting pan. Tilt the pan and using the spoon, skim off the fat and return the ham to the pan. Cover with foil and let the ham rest for at least 20 minutes before carving. Serve the ham sliced with the pan gravy spooned over.
Yield 12-20 people

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Happy Birthday" in Heaven

When you were born, an angel smiled,
As you became a child, an angel sat on your shoulder
When you became an adult, an angel held your hand
As your family grew, an angel walked down the road with you,
And, when you died, another angel got their wings.
This poem is in loving memory of my brother Christopher, who would have been 49 years old today. He passed away on Aug 1, 1999 from a brain aneurysm. He really was a true Angel and I know that he is watching over our family from Heaven.
There are so many happy memories of Chris, I guess I should start at the beginning. I was almost eight years old when he was born April 6, 1962. I remember vaguely when my parents brought him home. Chris was a very happy baby and had a head full of brown curly hair. The curls looked like cork screws, and my Aunt Nancy used to put her fingers in the curls and twist them. He was 10 ¼ lbs when he was born so he was a rolly poly baby. He used to smile all the time. I remember when I was young, I wanted to help my Mom take care of Chris. So I asked to hold him. My Mom told me it was OK, but not to get up from the sofa as he was a handful and remember I was only about 8 or 9. So my Mom put him in my lap and then she went into the kitchen for a moment. I thought I would be strong and I wanted to be like my Mom so I got up to hold him. And thump he went down on the floor like a sack of rocks. He then started to cry, (but was not hurt, only scared) and my Mom came running into the living room. She picked him up and scolded me as I should have listened to her. I felt so bad, I cried and I cried. I thought I hurt him somehow. After that fiasco I never did that again and listened to my Mom.
Another fond memory of Chris was at Halloween time. I would help him get dressed up in a costume, with makeup and would take him out to go Trick or Treating. We were a little older then and I remember taking him up and down the streets in our neighborhood. Then we would go back to our house and dump out the candy and go back out again, up one block and down the next. At that time, you would be able to go from door to door, with no worries. By the time we would finally go home, we both would be exhausted, but it was fun and I would not have given it up for the world.
Christmas time was a really exciting time for us. I remember going into my brothers’ room early in the morning to wake them up and see what Santa had brought us. We would try to be quiet as my parents were still sleeping at 6:00 am and we would go straight for the tree. It was great to see both my brothers dig in and see all of the toys and gifts they received. But Chris was very neat. He would unwrap one package at a time and neatly put the wrappings in the bag for trash. As he grew up this trait followed him. He was extremely neat and organized. His room, his job, and even when he got married and moved into his own house his neatness continued. His clothes were immaculate and always dressed very well. He had a good sense of humor and his passion besides the family was sports. He was a real sports fanatic. His favorite team was the Pittsburgh Steelers and today his son Nicholas and his daughter Lauren are following in his footsteps.
Chris was a self made business man. At the beginning of his career he was part owner of his own company which he started. He was Vice President of a collection agency and had many people under him. He was a fair yet understanding person. As the years went on he branched out on his own and became President of his own company. He enjoyed sales, and was able to talk about anything to anyone. He worked hard and played hard as well.
As he became a husband and a father, his family ties were a extension of his love, which included his wife Lori as well as his children. He would have been very proud of his children today, especially of the accomplishments in their lives. His family was extremely important to him. His heart was filled with joy and love. He was always there for my parents who he loved very much and my other brother Robert to. His friends were a group of very special people. They were a big part of him and were always there anytime they were needed. But Chris was very attentive to me, his only sister. No matter where I was or lived he would call me at least once a week and find out the scoop of what was going on. He was not just my brother but my best friend.
One last thought about Chris was that he loved to cook and really enjoyed food. Among his favorites were my Mom’s meat sauce (or gravy) and her meatballs. He used to make my Mom’s recipe for his family. He loved all the Italian dishes that my Grandmother’s and Mom would make. Holidays were special and he really enjoyed being with the family. Especially when we would bake all the traditional Italian cakes, cookies and pies. He was into traditions and the Italian way.
My brother Chris, was a very special person who I think about all the time, and will always remember the memories that were left behind. I know that if he were here right now looking over my shoulder he would be very proud of me for creating this family cookbook as a reminder of who we are and where we came from. But I think most of all he loved life to the fullest and loved his family, friends and food. Chris, not a day goes by that you are not thought of, loved or missed. We all will cherish the precious memories you lovingly created in our lives.

A tradition in our family was to have a tray of antipasto before our meals, which I know Chris would have loved me to share with you. He really enjoyed eating this dish. So try this dish and tu mangi (you eat) !!!

Antipasto Platter
You can use anything you like instead of one of these suggestions.

Cold Cuts sliced thin:
¼ lb. Imported prosciutto sliced thin or on bread sticks
¼ lb Genoa salami sliced thin
¼ lb. Sopressata sliced thin
¼ lb. Pepperoni sliced thin

Marinated Vegetables:Jar of Marinated artichoke hearts
Jar of Marinated eggplant strips ( my brothers favorite)
Jar Roasted red peppers
Jar of marinated mushrooms
Insalata Caprese (tomatoes with mozzarella and basil)

Chunks of Parmesano Reggiano cheese
Asiago, Provolone, cut in thin stripes
Fresh Mozzarella sliced into thin slices

Breads:Breadsticks (I usually roll my prosciutto around them)
Italian bread sliced or chunked or (variety of artisan breads)


Misc:Grilled vegetables (zucchini, eggplant, peppers)
Figs (if in season)
Melon (if in season, can wrap the prosciutto around it).
Anchovies draped over the roasted red peppers

This plate can be prepared a couple of hours in advance, covered and chilled. Bring it back to room temperature 10-15 minutes before serving.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pranks and Jokes on April Fool's Day !!!

April Fool’s Day is the name given to the custom of playing practical jokes on friends and family or by sending them on foolish errands.

It all began in 1582. It was once used to be celebrated as New Year’s Day. However, at that time news traveled by foot, many people did not receive the news for several months or even years. Some people, refused to accept the new calendar and continued to celebrate the New Year on April 1. These backward people were labeled as “fools” by the general population. They were subject to some ridicule, and were often sent on “fools errands” or made practical jokes. After several centuries, lots of people from all over the world welcomed April Fool’s Day as a fun start of Spring.

Over time, a tradition of prank-playing on the first day of April began. The tradition eventually spread to England and Scotland in the eighteenth century. Later on it was introduced to the American colonies of both French and the English. April Fool’s Day then became an international fun fest, with different nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at the expense of their friends and families. In Rome, Italy, the holiday is known as the Festival of Hilaria, celebrating the resurrection of the god, Attis, which is on March 25 and is called “Roman Laughing Day.” In Scotland, April Fool’s Day is actually celebrated for two days. In France today, April 1st is called Poisson d’Avril, which means April Fish. In England, tricks can only be played in the morning. In Portugal, April Fool’s is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday before Lent. Pranksters usually throw flour at their friends. In the United States individuals would create elaborate hoaxes and practical jokes on April Fool’s Day.

Pranks or practical jokes are preformed on April Fool’s Day which range from sayings as “Your shoe’s untied, or I accidentally stepped on your glasses!” What ever the prank or joke, the trickster usually ends up saying to his or her victim, “April Fool’s !” It is a fun only holiday that is observed by many, which one must remain forever vigilant, for he or she may be the next April Fool !

When I was young my brothers and myself would play practical jokes on my parents and sometimes each other. As I reminisce about April Fool’s Day when I was young, I realized that our practical jokes and pranks to our parents weren’t very elaborate or even very funny, but when you are a young child, this was hysterical. I would remember a prank we pulled on my Mom once. We would go to the front door and ring the bell, then tell my Mom that she had company and she would get flustered because she was not expecting anyone. Then when she would go to the door, and my siblings and I would yell out to her April Fool’s, which would make her kind of mad, but then we would all laugh and try to come up with a prank for when my Dad came home from work. It was all harmless fun and fond memories to remember on April Fool’s Day.

I can recall a recipe that my Mom taught me which we would sometimes create on April Fool’s Day, was a dessert called Mock Apple Pie. This was a good joke for family and friends, as we would tell them that we made Apple Pie, and then the joke was on them as this is not made with any apples. Mock apple pie made its first appearance around the middle of the 19th century. As the North American settlers journeyed west, they yearned for the taste that reminded them of home: apple pie. Apples were hard to come by out in the wilderness, so those amazing pioneer women came up with a dessert that is surprisingly apple-y, considering that it contains neither apples nor apple juice. The recipe first appeared in Mrs. B.C. Whiting’s book, How We Cook In Los Angeles (1894) as “California Pioneer Apple Pie, in 1852.” While the original recipe used soda crackers, Ritz saw a fabulous marking opportunity during the Great Depression in the early 1930’s. Apples were very expensive at that time, so Ritz adapted the recipe to use its own brand of Ritz crackers and the recipe on the back of the cracker box. Mock Apple Pie became a favorite throughout the 30’s and 40’s.
So try the recipe and see if you can fool your family and friends too. Enjoy!!!!

Mock Apple Pie

Pastry for 2-crust pie
36 Ritz crackers or soda crackers, broken in large pieces (about 1 ¾ cups crumbs)
2 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
½ teaspoons of ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line glass pie plate with ½ of pastry. Place crumbled crackers in pie plate on top of lined pastry. Mix sugar and cream of tartar in saucepan. Gradually stir in water until completely combined. Bring to boil. Reduce to low and simmer for 15 minutes, without stirring. Add lemon juice and lemon zest. Allow mixture to cool. Pour syrup over crackers. Dot with butter. Sprinkle with spices. Put top crust on and seal edges. Cut vents into top crust. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool on wire rack. Tastes just like a real apple pie.