Mom thought every plant or animal that thrived should arrive on our dinner table. This was even true when we lived in the inner city of Chicago. Ink cap mushrooms grew in the desolate destruction of a stamp-sized yard where a building had collapsed. Trees provided salad greens and unnamed recipes came from Mom’s kitchen.
April Fool’s Day challenged my brothers and me the most. We awoke with fear of what Mother would put on the table. She delighted in deviously crafting “new” recipes for our nourishment.
Pancakes? Oh my. We tried to cut a perfectly syruped pancake. But what a surprise: a knife and fork just wouldn’t cut it. What was going on? There was a white rag inside the pancake. Mom just stood there grinning. “April Fool’s!”
Each year brought exotic challenges: doughnuts with strings inside. Twice-baked potatoes with no potato — just canned peas hiding in the skin of the potato. One year, we sat around the dinner table, and there were cooked lumps of meat on a platter: shiny, with some sort of gravy, and it looked like eyes on the meat lumps. Mom explained, “Oh, I got tired of emptying the mouse traps and I decided to cook them. They’re pretty good. They taste like chicken!” That brought a real reaction from me and my two brothers. We definitely put on a show, just barely aware of the unreality of her recipe. Yes, Mom had removed the meat from chicken drumsticks, and shaped it in round lumps. She poked two tiny currants in the front of the meat.
This was the April Fool’s fun from a mother who loved to play tricks — never dangerous — but definitely weird. Creative, talented and ever-so-much fun, Mom never let us know the “cupboard was bare.”
Read more stories in the “Memories of Mom” series here.