Culinary April Fool’s Pranks, Japes and Larks

Have you ever played a food or beverage related April Fool’s prank?

When I was about four or five years old, I did.

It all went down like this.

Even as a kid, I am told that I had a wicked sense of humor, and was apt to do things that were unexpected. The April Fool’s Day in question, when this prank occurred was unseasonably warm, and as there had been a great deal of rain the week before, our huge front, back and side yards were endowed with a verdant overgrowth of lush grass–the kind of grass that makes you wish you had a lamb or two to graze upon it, because it is such a shame to just cut it.

But, lacking a sheep, my mother had to cut the grass, since Dad was working long shifts at Union Carbide. Which, truth be told, she didn’t mind doing because, being a farm girl by birth, Mom preferred yard work and gardening to any sort of housework.

The only downside to her mowing the lawn was we only had one of those old non-motorized push mowers, which required quite a bit of muscle power to use–it was pretty decrepit–and strong as Mom was, she was pretty small, and the lawn was really big. And the grass was really tall, making it all the more difficult.

So, there she was, pushing the mower, the whirring sound of its spinning blades making a steady rhythm punctuated by her periodic grunts and sighs.

I was playing on the porch, and after a steady half-hour of mowing without a break, Mom called to me. “Barb, can you go in the house and get me a glass of water?”

I looked up to see my Mom sweating and and winded and I said yes, and dashed in the screen door, letting it slam behind me, to keep our cats from sneaking outside without their harnesses and leashes.

My heart pounding with excitement, I ran into the kitchen. I knew it was April Fool’s Day, and I had not had a chance to ever play a prank on anyone in my life and I always wanted to. And all of the ones outlined in various kids’ publications–such as putting a bit of fishing line on a dollar bill and putting it on the sidewalk and when someone stopped to pick it up, pulling it away from them–seemed lame to me even then. And, the neighborhood where we lived had a distinct dearth of kids in it, so I had no peers upon which to practice my natural bent as a practical joker, and my Dad was at work, so it looked like my Mom was going to be on the receiving end of my prank.

And the inspiration hit me as soon as she asked for a glass of water.

I dragged a chair to the cupboard and pulled down a tall glass–one of the big ones my parents always used for iced tea. Then, I dragged the chair over to the refrigerator, climbed up and pulled open the freezer, and reached in to scoop out five ice cubes which I plunked into the glass, one by one.

Then, I dragged the kitchen chair back to the table instead of over to the sink. Instead, I opened up the low cupboard where Mom stored our canned and bottled goods, and pulled out the big bottle of white vinegar.

And I poured the chilled glass full of vinegar, and swirled the glass around to get it to bead up with condensation a bit.

Then, out the back door I walked, carrying the the glass carefully in two hands to keep from spilling it.

Mom saw it, and saw the ice and smiled, “I wondered what took you so long–you put ice in it–you are such a good girl.”

I smiled as she took the glass from my hands and watched as she tipped back her head and gulped a huge mouthful of it down.

The poor woman was so thirsty, she didn’t even smell the vinegar when she brought the glass up to her lips, she just guzzled the clear liquid in it.

That is, until she choked and spewed the vinegar that was in her mouth on the ground, coughing and sputtering.

“April Fool’s Mommy!” I chimed, giggling with wicked glee.

Mom’s face, usually a dark golden brown (her mother, my Grandma, was in large part Cherokee, so both she and Mom had the dark skin, hair and dark almond-shaped eyes that told their heritage) turned a fierce red and she growled at me, “You little….if I get a hold of you, I’m going to….” and she lunged at me, tossing the glass into a soft pile of cut grass, where the ice cubes and vinegar slithered and drizzled out into the lawn.

That was my cue to take off running as fast as my legs could go, out of the gate, down the driveway, through a gap in the hedge and into the front yard. I have to admit I laughed the whole way, even though I knew my fate was dire if she caught me–it was too funny.

And after me she went, yelling imprecations the whole way–threatening all sorts of corporal punishments if she caught me.

From the front yard to the side yard I ran, then wiggled under the fence back into the back yard, then in the back door, and out the front, so that I was -behind- Mom back in the front yard.

She went around to the side yard, back into the back and didn’t see me, but she could still hear me laughing.

This enraged her and she started yelling again, and dashed out the gate and back down the driveway, figuring I had gone that way. She started cussing so bad, our next door neighbor, Mr. Sigmund, who was pruning his beautiful roses, poked his head over the fence and said, “Judy, Judy–what are you doing? What did Barbra do?”

She said, “She made me drink vinegar, the little–” Well, you can guess what she called me, and the truth is, I don’t blame her a bit for anything she called me that day.

So, Mr. Sigmund, afraid she would kill me if she caught me, came through his gate and joined the chase, huffing as he trotted after Mom, “Now, Judy, calm down, she didn’t mean anything by it, just now, wait!” I ran, still laughing, with my Mom behind me, still yelling, and Mr. Sigmund behind her, still trying to talk reason into her.

Mom was tiring out, so she slowed down and finally stopped. I had doubled back again and was behind she and Mr. Sigmund, and so I hid behind the gate and watched as he caught up to her, and took hold of her, both of them panting and wheezing, Mom with exhaustion, and he with suppressed laughter and exertion. I was breathing hard, and had my hand in my mouth to keep myself from laughing and giving myself away.

“Now Judy–how did you end up drinking vinegar?” Mr. Sigmund asked.

Between gasps and wheezes, Mom told the story, and when she finished, Mr. Sigmund’s snickers overflowed into laughter.

“That’s a pretty good one for such a little kid, you have to admit,” he said.

And then, my Mom who does have a sense of humor, started to laugh, softly at first, and then roaring. Between laughs, she wiped her eyes, and said, “Well, it is no worse than what we kids used to do to Mom.” (This is true–the stuff she and her brothers used to do to Grandma was beyond belief–and they got spanked nearly every night for their shenanigans.)

I crept out from behind the gate and sidled up to Mr. Sigmund, and shielded by his stocky dark green overall-clad frame, peered around and up at Mom.

“I’m sorry,” I whispered. “I just wanted to play an April Fool on someone.”

Shaking her head, Mom reached out and roughly stroked my head. “It’s ok, she said–just go in and get me a cup of real water this time.”

I obediently went inside and did as she asked and all was forgiven. When I gave it to her, she and Mr. Sigmund were still talking in the driveway–he had gone to his side of the fence and had returned to his work with the pruning shears, and she was leaning on the fence, and all was well again.

Mom told Dad about it that night over dinner, and he laughed until he cried–just like Mom did after Mr. Sigmund caught up to her–and asked Mom what she expected-I being the child of both of them.

So, that is the story of my very first April Fool’s joke.

Have any of you ever played a similar food or drink related prank, on April Fool’s Day or any other time of the year?


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  1. No, but that was an adorable story. Thank you.

    Comment by Veronica — April 1, 2009 #

  2. During a dinner party when I was little, I asked my parents for a drink of grape juice. They handed me red wine and all the adults cracked up when I took a sip. I was not amused.

    Comment by Alison — April 1, 2009 #

  3. That was a hilarious story and i think i’m going to do that to my dad!

    Comment by Shelly — April 1, 2009 #

  4. My son was working at Tim Hortons (which is a chain kind of like Dunkin’ Donuts would be to you) as overnight baker and came back to his apartment with (as usual) left-overs for his room-mates. However he had made special, filled-with-partly frozen Minestrone soup jelly doughnuts.

    Comment by wwjudith — April 2, 2009 #

  5. Did you see our upmarket April Fool prank? It was a bundle of fun. And some chefs fell for it.

    Comment by Trig — April 2, 2009 #

  6. Well, it wasn’t for April Fools’ Day, but back in second grade I did engineer a food-related prank on this big kid named Robert.

    He had been strong-arming me out of my sack lunch desserts for several days, so this time I brought in some graham crackers on which I’d spread copious amounts of Chinese hot mustard. I told him it was a honey-and-butter spread, and he believed me (heh). He took a big bite…

    …I had to run pretty fast, but he never touched my lunch again.

    Comment by Alan P. Scott — April 3, 2009 #

  7. Rather like Alan, I had someone taking my lunch, so I seasoned the potato sticks with alum, injected the apple with ipecac syrup and did something with the sandwich (I think it was chocolate sauce between the slices of bologna).

    I got the inspiration for the alum from a Bugs Bunny cartoon involving an opera singer given alum. It makes your mouth pucker up and your throat tighten up.

    When Brian took my lunch, as usual, he was caught just as he was about to eat it. The teacher, Mr. Delgado, then ate it instead.

    Needless to say, I had to do a bit of explaining, when he found out whose lunch it was and asked me what he had just eaten.

    Comment by Dan Jenkins — April 6, 2009 #

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