In My Foolish Kitchen

gabera_daisies

In my kitchen are multi-colored Gerbera daisies that make me smile. The bright, jaunty colors remind me of Harlequin, the jester-like comic figure from Commedia dell’arte. Or, come to think of it, they are like the flowers worn as big boutonnieres by clowns – the practical joke kind that squirt. Foolish flowers for April Fools.

raspberry_mousse

By coincidence, over the last few months, I’ve found some amazing connections between fool and food – that is, beyond the mere substitution of the final “l” for a “d”. It all started with ladyredspeck’s post for Passionfruit Flummery back in early February. As a descriptive word, flummery means complete nonsense or foolishness. It is also the name of a certain type of mousse-like dessert – like my raspberry “cheat” mousse, made with flavored gelatine, whipped evaporated milk and the last of my garden’s raspberries that had been frozen last September. Coincidentally, the slang “blowing a raspberry” is another bit of slap-stick nonsense – from Cockney rhyming slang, “raspberry tart” ⇒ “fart”.

pap_oatmeal_2

The original flummery, popular in Britain from the 17th to the 19th century, was a type of sweet made using the strained gelatinous liquid from stewed grain flour (generally oats). It has its origins in the traditional Welsh dish, Llymru, from which it derives its name. It’s also like the traditional Slavic oat gelatine known as kissel in Russian, or the Germanic Grütze puddings. My experiments recreating flummery eventually led me to the unfortunately entitled 17th century recipe “Pap of Oat-Meal” – a kind of custardy version of flummery. Let’s just say those experiments are still a “work-in-progress”. While I was making it, I kept having déjà vu of all those school craft projects involving homemade glue. Despite the texture, the taste was nice. However, I guess it’s back to the drawing board to perfect that pap of oat-meal. However, the accompanying blackcurrant sauce, made with more berries frozen from the garden, was just right – absolutely delicious, tart and sweet.

gooseberry_fool

The use of nonsense words for similar sweets at the conclusion of a meal was commonplace in earlier times – hence flummery, but also trifle and of course, the ultimate fool. In an attempt to use up yet more frozen berries from my freezer, to make room for this year’s crop from the garden, I unearthed both red and green gooseberries beneath the container of raspberries I used for the “cheat” mousse above. Gooseberries make a classic fool – in this case a bicolored one with two different types of gooseberries (see my post Goosegogs). Ironically, British slang “gooseberry” can be applied to someone who plays the fool – that is, the third wheel, an unwanted person attached to a couple. So, does that make Gooseberry Fool doubly foolish?

humbugs

In my kitchen are humbugs for “grumpy ol’ gits” – a British species of hard mint candy. Humbug means something devoid of sense or meaning and often applied to something that tricks, deceives or perpetrates a hoax. Another sweet edible piece of nonsense and the only “grumpy ol’ git” I permit in my kitchen.

duck_joker

For a bit of savory nonsense, one does not have to look further than the duck, French canard. Yet, as an English word, canard means a hoax, a fib, an exaggeration…very much like many April Fools’ jokes. Its origins is based on a long forgotten punchline from a French joke that seems to have involved a confidence trickster’s sale of a non-existent duck to a foolish mark. However, there is nothing foolish about Römertopf Roast Duck posted by Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial. I followed her instructions, modifying the temperature and timing slightly to meet the needs of my particular clay pot. It produced a beautifully roasted bird, the succulent meat literally falling off the bone. I highly recommend this cooking method for the duck and will, no doubt, be roasting more duck in my clay pot in future. The duck was sublime with a green olive and fennel sauce from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking. And speaking of fennel, the Italians have a saying non farti infinocchiare, don’t let yourself be fenneled – in other words, don’t let yourself be fooled, based on the way the unscrupulous winemakers and innkeepers mask the smell of inferior wine with the strong aroma of fennel (Italian food sayings from epicurious.com).

poisson-d-avril_chocolates

But nothing surpasses the French (and Belgian!) Poisson d’Avril – April Fish. On April 1st, cut-out paper fish are attached to the backs of the unsuspecting – a fishy kind of prank – marking them as Poisson d’Avril, the fool. Somewhere I read that this custom came about because of the abundance of young, newly hatched, fish in April that were easily tricked and caught – hence foolish fish. So…in my kitchen are chocolate sardines from the French chocolaterie Michel Cluizel.

gabera_daisy_single

There is unexpected humor in my kitchen. My freezer is also lightening its load of last year’s garden produce of all those lovely stocks of berries harvested to see us through lean fruit months. As you can see in my previous post Around My Edible Garden, I’m looking forward to Spring and the beginnings of the new growing season.

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who lists all of us IMK bloggers, writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.
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30 comments

    • I enjoyed writing the post. However, your flummery was most definitely much better than the “pap of oat-meal”! It was interesting making it, but I’m not sure I want to pursue the matter any further. The cookbook I got it from was interesting, so may write up a post on the book rather than the recipe.

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      • I guess our modern palates have refined expectations, spoilt by affluence probably. Even the name pap is a bit off putting. I’d love to learn more about your source, I find your posts really interesting, a great mix of history and food, both of great interest to me! Thanks for all the research you do!

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      • Yes, “pap” is definitely off putting! However, this was not the only instance of pap being used to describe similar concoctions in 17th century recipe books. I suppose we associate it with unpleasant nursery food. I’ve made notes on the cookbook, so will eventually post something on it. The author was particularly colourful!

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  1. A remarkable post- I was engaged right from the beginning, with mention of the Italian jester, Arlequino, but so many more surprises to come. I didn’t know the background of ‘blowing a raspberry’ and the English meaning of canard- intriguing. Finocchio ( fennel) is also slang for homosexual in Italian. ( I think its the first word my younger adolescent students used to learn- finocchio, finocchio- pointing to each other.) And your food looks wonderful too. I like the Victorian April Fools card with the the fish! Thank you.

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    • i didn’t know the other slang for finicchio. I must pass this on. to a friend who collects such things. There are a lot of the Poisson d’Avril postcards on the internet if you are interested. Leave it to the French to bring L’Amour into April Fools!

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  2. An April fool’s post, how fabulous! I never gave much thought to flummery, trifle and fool before, maybe they were created at a time when dessert was a frivolous luxury. Or something so wonderful that it made one laugh like a fool with delight? 🙂 So glad your duck worked so well – the clay pots are a wonder, aren’t they?

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    • I am totally converted to the clay pot cooking for the duck! Loved it as well as the fat and the wonderful stock produced. I think these particular types of desserts got foolish names because they were light, almost insubstantial things…something to tease the palate after the meal? I’d have to a bit more digging into culinary history to answer that one.

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      • I couldn’t believe it turned out just like your photos. I did get more stock and less fat, but that might have been because I was roasting a Gressingham duck (a cross between mallard and Peking duck) which I believe is leaner. Brilliant technique!

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    • You could probably find almost anything in the kitchen – tears and laughter, horror and humour… the good, the bad and the ugly! Just recently read a post from Francesca @ Almost Italian who puts the phallic in the kitchen in the form of her Javanese Uleg! Glad you liked the post.

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  3. Brilliant entertaining and informative post. The French have April fish? Really! I never knew. And blowing a raspberry ….will never be the same.

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    • I was introduced to the custom of Poisson d’Avril when my son was in primary school and his French class made a big thing about it. Interesting custom. we usually buy French chocolate sardines to celebrate. I also love Cockney rhyming slang – so inventive and colourful!

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  4. Flummery. I remember making flummery for home ec in grade 8. Passionfruit. It seemed to take an age to whip and then set. I’ve not had it since but would probably quite like it so thanks for inspiring me. Loved your theme this month. Thanks for the tour.

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