I remember sneaking around the kitchen on April 1st with my mom and sister when I was a child. We did our best to keep our dad from seeing the suspicious ingredients required for making dinner. Every year he thought it was nice of us to cook for him at the beginning of his birthday month. Every year he was sure to regret granting us access to the kitchen after his first bite of food.
Our goal was to create the most convincing version of a typical main course dish out of dessert ingredients. In later years we had to switch things up to keep our dad guessing, so we served dessert constructed out of savory items. My sister and I were excited by the prospect of eating dessert for dinner, so we tended to make the former whenever possible. We never had malicious intentions of filling Oreos with toothpaste, we were always aiming for an edible culinary masterpiece.
In 2004 we made our debut with a simple dish – spaghetti and meatballs. A slice of pound cake was poorly hidden underneath a pile of frosting noodles. Strawberry jam was the perfect marinara imposter which we topped with whoppers candy as meatballs. To make the whoppers look convincing we repeatedly hit the candy balls with the back of a spoon to give it a textured appearance. This was a noisy process, so we had to stage a diversion to cover up the noise and keep Dad busy.
Running bath water was loud enough to drown out the sounds of metal hitting chocolate and accomplished the dual purpose of getting me and my sister ready for bedtime. Conveniently, the bathtub was located far away from the kitchen and kept our dad occupied long enough to plate our dish. Finally, after we were both squeaky clean, we called Dad downstairs for dinner. We couldn’t remove the wide grins from our faces when he asked us to grab the parmesan cheese from the fridge to accompany our meal. Our eyes widened as he poured cheese on top of his dessert! We were convinced that we had tricked him because no sane person would willingly ruin their dessert with cheese!
Later, Mom found another fun April Fool’s recipe to try, so we set out to create a convincing and wholesome meal of fish sticks and peas. Our health-conscious dad was sure to appreciate that we were including vegetables on the menu this year. We coated sugar wafers with frosting and “breaded” them in crushed corn flakes. Our kitchen was trying to maintain its health inspection rating, so we were sure to wash our hands thoroughly before shaping pieces of green apple Laffy Taffy into pea-sized balls. This time, when we called Dad for dinner he asked us to get the tartar sauce from the fridge! In a prime example of dramatic irony, my sister and I tried to act normal as we explained that we just didn’t want tartar sauce with our fish sticks this time.
Either Dad really liked adding toppings to his food, or we had a tendency to pick meals that typically paired well with a sauce, and this time we had decided to make fried eggs. It required a special outing to the store to buy peach halves instead of the diced peaches we normally get, but the end result was well worth the trip. We gently placed half of a peach on top of a bed of vanilla pudding to create our fake fried eggs. As Dad saw what we were having for dinner he went to the fridge and grabbed the Cholula hot sauce that he always puts on his eggs. My sister and I urgently told him to not use the hot sauce, so he settled for salt and pepper instead. We squirmed in our seats as we watched him take a bite with the salt and pepper and anxiously awaited his reaction.
Our skills advanced over time with one of our more successful April Fool’s pranks – grilled cheese sandwiches. Toasted slices of pound cake with orange frosting oozing out of the sides looked even more appetizing than a regular grilled cheese sandwich. The grill marks on the pound cake were perfection and invited us to dig in immediately. Luckily, Dad didn’t suggest we should make tomato soup to dip our sandwiches in, so he was able to enjoy this prank a little more than the others.
Mashed potatoes are a versatile food that can easily switch places with ice cream if executed well. We had to act fast one year to keep ice cream solid long enough to look like mashed potatoes topped with caramel sauce to look like homemade gravy. Our ice cream potatoes were so delicious everyone wanted a second serving! The following year, inspired by mashed potatoes, we made some fake cupcakes to eat for dinner. Meatloaf was baked inside decorative cupcake wrappers and topped with pink mashed potatoes. We hoped the switch to savory ingredients would confuse Dad as he had come to expect sweet foods disguised as dinner. This time, we made our dinner look like dessert! Once he realized it was meatloaf and not a delicious cupcake he was a little creeped out about eating pink mashed potatoes. We brought some over to trick our neighbors and enjoyed seeing the look of surprise on their faces.
I’m not sure when we eventually realized that our dad had played along every year, submitting to gross combinations to make us feel proud of our trickery. Looking back at pictures of our creations I am met with the harsh reality that most of them weren’t even remotely convincing. In all likelihood, he probably sabotaged these dishes so he wouldn’t have to eat straight sugar. We were incredibly lucky to have a dad so willing to pair hot sauce with peaches just to trick us into thinking we had fooled him. After all these years, it ended up being Dad who had been pranking us.