While the exact origin of April Fools’ Day is unknown – some say it has something to do with switching from the Julian to Gregorian calendar, others say it’s related to the arrival of spring – the first recorded association between April 1st and foolishness was in Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in 1392. Over the centuries, April Fools has grown in popularity and today the media take great delight in pulling pranks on an unsuspecting public. Probably one of the most amusing foodie and media-generated April Fools dates back to 1957 when the BBC’s Panorama aired a report about the spaghetti harvest. At that time spaghetti was not yet a widely-eaten food in the UK and the program showed women picking spaghetti strands from a tree and laying them out in the sun to dry. Hundreds of viewers called in wanting to know where they too could buy the spaghetti plants, and the BBC took the hoax one step further by offering this helpful tip ‘Many British enthusiasts have had admirable results from planting a small tin of spaghetti in tomato sauce.’
It’s hard to believe that anyone could fall for that type of prank, but they did. And before that, in 1950, it was Norway’s turn for high jinks when its biggest newspaper reported that there was a huge surplus of wine on its way to the government-run wine stores (wine was in short supply after the war), but alas, it was arriving in vats and not bottles (which were also in short supply) so everyone would need to bring their own containers. On the upside however, it would cost 75 percent less than normal. Needless to say, hundreds of people queued outside the stores, all with big empty buckets in hand only to realise they’d been taken for fools. Legend has it that one man, after realising he’d been had, poured some wine into a bucket and took it off to work to show his colleagues, who all promptly rushed off to the store as well.
‘Fake news’ and media-generated pranks aside, if you feel like getting your prank on this April consider the good old switcheroo: toffee onions masquerading as toffee apples; chocolate-covered Brussel sprouts; replacing the white icing in Oreo cookies with white toothpaste; filling doughnuts with mayonnaise; or if you really want to freak someone out, pop a few plastic bugs in their lunch box, better yet – slip one into their coffee cup while they’re not looking. Pranker or prankee – Happy April Fools everyone, have the best and the silliest of days.