To celebrate April Fool’s Day I’d like to pay tribute to one of my favourite pranks. On April Fool’s Day 1957, the BBC’s current affairs program Panorama aired a story about a family in Switzerland harvesting spaghetti from their spaghetti tree. The family were celebrating a bumper harvest due to a mild winter and the almost total eradication of the spaghetti beetle.
Apparently, spaghetti was not well known in the UK at that time so many were fooled by the story. Some viewers contacted the BBC asking for advice on how they could grow their own spaghetti trees! Wouldn’t it be awesome if there really were spaghetti trees?
To celebrate this foodie prank I just had to make a big bowl of spaghetti. Naturally I couldn’t resist adding capers to my spaghetti. Not only do capers add a tasty burst of flavour to a dish, but a “caper” is also another name for an escapade, joke or prank.
Spaghetti with Capers
Ingredients 180g spaghetti 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil good squeeze of lemon juice 1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained 1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan
Instructions Cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente. Drain and return the spaghetti to the pot. Add the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss until combined and the spaghetti is glossy. Place into bowls and scatter with capers and parmesan.
I recently enjoyed a concert at the Melbourne Recital Centre by Vardos, a three-piece band that performs traditional folk music inspired by their travels through Eastern Europe. The concert I attended was “The Balkan Cookbook” which explored the culinary identity of Eastern Europe through song. During the hour long performance we were taken on a mouthwatering journey through a traditional Eastern European menu. While my body responded to the vibrant music, my mind began concocting recipes for the food and dishes being celebrated.
The starters began with a song about bacon, followed by a basil song and then one about bread. My stomach rumbled as I pictured a toasted bacon and basil sandwich! The soup course was next followed by mains, side salads, sweets and Turkish coffee. While I do love coffee and a Balkan sweet, it was the soup course that really fired my imagination – especially the tale of the stone soup.
Before launching into song, we were treated to tales about Balkan soups. It may be surprising to learn that Balkan soup courses can sometimes feature fruit soups, which are slightly sweet, usually served hot, but can also be served cold. I’m a big fan of fruit soups and have previously posted recipes for Cherry Soup and Blueberry Soup. The other soup discussed was stone soup – yes stone soup!
Stone soup is a European folktale about hungry travellers who visit a village. Carrying only a large cooking pot, they ask the villagers if they will share some food with them. The villagers say no. The travellers go to the stream, fill their pot with water, drop a large stone in it and then place it over a fire. One curious villager asks the travellers what they are making. The travellers say it is a tasty “stone soup” which they are happy to share but it could be improved with the addition of a few more ingredients. The curious villager, wanting to try the soup, says they have carrots which they are happy to share with the travellers. One by one the rest of the villagers bring ingredients to add to the soup until the pot really does contain a flavourful soup. The inedible stone is removed and the travellers and the villagers all share the soup. Although the travellers have tricked the villagers, they have taught them the value of sharing and the importance of coming together as a community.
Stone soup begins with a trick so I thought it was the perfect tale to inspire an April Fool’s Day recipe. I chose a mussel soup as it contains mussel shells which reminded me of the stone. Just remember that the shells, like the stone, are inedible so discard them once you have scooped out the tasty mussels. 🙂
Ingredients 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 small onion, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced 1 medium red chilli, deseeded* and finely sliced 1 tablespoon tomato paste 1/2 cup white wine 1 lemon, juiced and zested 1kg tomatoes, finely chopped 1/2 cup fish stock sea salt to taste pepper to taste 1kg mussels, scrubbed and debearded 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped 1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped
Instructions Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and chilli and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add wine and cook for 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and cook for 3 minutes. Add lemon juice, zest and stock. Stir until combined. Increase heat to high and bring the stock to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add mussels to stock. Cover and steam, shaking the pan occasionally, for 3-5 minutes or until the mussels are opened. Discard any unopened mussels. Stir through the parsley and basil before serving.
This April Fool’s Day marks the 6th anniversary of my blog. To celebrate, I thought I’d share a favourite recipe from each year. As most of us are in some sort of isolation, food is one of the things we turn to (well certainly one of the things I turn to!). So please enjoy this trip down recipe memory lane.
Rosewater is one of my favourite flavours. I grew up loving Turkish Delight and I’m one of the rare people who enjoys Turkish Delight chocolate. These cupcakes are also a symbol of friendship as they were created for my friend and fellow panda enthusiast Anne Belov from The Panda Chronicles. Her pandas love eating cupcakes, which they call cuppycakes, so I hope they enjoyed these offerings.
I love cornmeal and grew up eating bowls of cheesy polenta. When I discovered cornmeal muffins at a Mexican restaurant I started making them too. Then I discovered hush puppies – deep fried cornmeal fritters – and I haven’t looked back!
Potatoes are one of my comfort foods – especially mashed with lots of butter and salt. There is something cathartic about taking to a cooked potato with a masher. Happily these baked potatoes also appreciate a good smash with a masher.
The ultimate comfort food – so tasty and so versatile. It takes hours to cook and fills your home with spicy aromas while making your mouth water. Serve it hot with vegetables and a lovely sauce and then use the leftovers for an assortment of recipes like corned beef hash or corned beef sandwiches.
I’ve only posted three recipes for 2020 so I’ll share another recipe from 2017. Chocolate Salami is supposed to look like a salami but is actually a cookie dessert. It is tasty, comforting and can be cut into portions and frozen so you can enjoy it in small pieces or you can just eat the whole log! It is perfect for April Fool’s Day as you may actually trick someone into believing they are eating a savoury instead of a sweet.
On April Fool’s Day I pay homage to the tarot Fool. The Fool represents going on a journey. Well we are all already on a very strange journey. We don’t know when or how this will end but it will end. On my walk today I saw these words in chalk on the footpath. They are very wise words.
This Sunday is both Easter Sunday and April Fools’ day and I know which one I am most excited about!
April Fools’ Day for me is a day to celebrate the spirit of the tarot Fool. The Fool is the first card in the major arcana and it is the Fool who journeys through the tarot and learns the lessons of the cards. The Fool is so important it is the only major arcana card to be represented in modern playing card decks. In these decks the Fool plays the role of the Joker.
The Fool symbolises new beginnings, adventures and journeys – that’s why I have adopted April Fools’ Day as my personal New Year’s Day. On April Fools’ Day I take time to look back on the year that has passed and make plans for the year ahead. What is most exciting for me is that my plans for this coming year are intertwined with the journeys I made this past year.
Last year I travelled to America and fulfilled a childhood dream of visiting Salem, Massachusetts. I also got to meet in person a friend I have known online for many years. Plus I visited the island where an Atlantic puffin I sponsor spends their summer. A few weeks ago I travelled to America again to attend a giant panda fan convention in San Diego, something I have wanted to do for many years. I ended this trip with a visit to San Fransisco where my partner Paul and I celebrated 30 years of not being married by walking on the Golden Gate Bridge 🙂 Both trips have been enriching and will provide me with inspiration – and recipes – for this year’s blog posts. They may also have given me material for a book or two!
What does this have to do with Shakespeare? Well Shakespeare was no stranger to the power and importance of Fools. Many of his most memorable characters were witty and clever Fools. Plus, it was two Shakespeare inspired establishments that provided me with comfort and nourishment in San Diego. That’s right – Shakespeare’s influence extends around the globe!
One of the things I love to do before I travel is research places to eat. Two of the places I picked in San Diego were the Shakespeare Pub & Grille and Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe and Afternoon Tea. I couldn’t wait to visit them.
The Shakespeare Pub & Grille was established in 1990 by British expats. It is modelled on a traditional British pub in English Tudor style. The food is classic British comfort food and the bar stocks beers from around the world. We ordered a couple of beers and their signature dish – Fish & Chips. We were treated to crisp and crunchy pieces of beer battered cod with peas and chips (fries) served with tartare sauce and malt vinegar. It was delicious. After such a tasty meal we had to try their desserts. Paul chose Sticky Toffee Pudding – a steamed light sponge cake covered in a sweet and sticky toffee sauce. He couldn’t decide between custard and ice cream so he had both. I chose something I have never tried before but have always wanted to – Spotted Dick! This amusingly named dessert is a steamed suet pudding containing dried fruit and is traditionally served with custard. YUM 🙂 Each bite melted in my mouth and I was rewarded with the scent and taste of a soft, warm and spicy fruit cake. The custard was smooth and creamy and complemented the pudding perfectly. We were ready to go back to the hotel and have a nap but we had one more culinary stop to make.
Next door to the Shakespeare Pub is Shakespeare’s Corner Shoppe and Afternoon Tea which is run by a British family. We had hoped to have a cream tea in their patio tearoom but we were too full from lunch. Instead we decided to check out the store and see what they had on offer. Not surprisingly the shelves were stocked with British produce. Missing my nightly tea and shortbreads, I was happy to find a box of Earl Grey teabags and a packet of Scottish shortbreads. I also found an interestingly shaped spoon which the staff told me was a Black and Tan spoon used for pouring layered cocktails. As a fan of layered cocktails, I had to have it. In the fridge I saw a jar of clotted cream which I was so tempted to buy but valiantly resisted. When I went to pay I noticed they were selling scones to take home. I looked at Paul and he knew exactly what I was thinking – Cream Tea for Dinner! We grabbed scones, a jar of strawberry jam – and the jar of clotted cream 🙂 That evening we sat on the balcony of our hotel room and enjoyed our cream tea. We even had enough scones, jam and cream left for a cream tea breakfast the next morning.
While there may not have been too much “Shakespeare” in this story I shall make up for that in Act 2, which tells a tale of my Shakespearean adventures in Melbourne. It will be closely followed by Act 3 – a recipe inspired by these tales.
If you are need of more adventure this Easter weekend there is a Full Moon to celebrate. And for those of us in Melbourne, Australia, due to time zone differences, this will be a Blue Full Moon!
I remember celebrating April Fool’s Day when I was a youngster at school. Every year we would try and trick each other before noon. As the years went by, the day meant less and less. But then I discovered tarot and the day was reawakened for me with a whole new meaning!
For me, April Fool’s Day is a day to celebrate the spirit of the tarot Fool. As the first card in the tarot deck, the Fool symbolises journeys, adventures and new beginnings. We don’t know if our endeavours will lead to success or failure but we surge cheerfully ahead, hopeful of a positive outcome. The Fool card is the perfect symbol for a new year. As someone who loves Autumn and Winter and looks to them as the times when I am most productive and eager to get out and about, celebrating April Fool’s Day as my personal new year makes sense to me. As someone who loves humour, starting my year on a day dedicated to mischief is just perfect.
One of the ways I love celebrating April Fool’s Day is by thinking about recipes that trick you. Tricking the senses by serving a cold soup when everyone is expecting a hot one or serving a shot of alcohol which turns out to be a solidified jelly shot are some ideas. The names of some dishes can also be tricky, like Welsh Rabbit, which doesn’t have any rabbit in it. Visual tricks are great too and there are lots of examples of savouries made to look like sweets and sweets made to look like savouries. One of my favourite Foolish Foods is a Chocolate Salami which is a sweet made to look like a savoury. When you slice it, the chocolate, cookies and walnuts trick the eye into thinking you are seeing a salami. It’s both a fun visual and a delicious treat 🙂
100g unsalted butter
3/4 cup double cream
2 tablespoons sugar
100g dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g shortbread cookies, broken into various small and medium sized pieces
3/4 cup walnuts, chopped into various small and medium sized pieces
icing sugar for dusting
Heat the butter and cream in a medium sized saucepan over low heat.
Stir in the sugar.
Add the chocolate pieces and stir until the chocolate melts.
Add the cocoa and vanilla. Beat with a wire whisk until combined. If the mixture looks like it has split, don’t worry. Keep whisking and it will come together as it cools.
Allow to cool for a few minutes. You have to allow it to cool long enough so that the cookies don’t turn to mush when added, but not too long or the chocolate will set.
Add the broken cookies and chopped walnuts to the chocolate mixture. Stir until combined.
Place in the fridge and allow to cool. Again, you don’t want to leave it too long or the chocolate will set and you won’t be able to roll it. I check the mix every 5 minutes. You want the mix to be pliable enough to roll but not too wet.
Place the chocolate mix onto a piece of greaseproof paper and roll into a large sausage.
Unwrap and sprinkle generously with icing sugar.
You can present it tied with butcher’s string or partially wrapped in baking paper.
Cut into slices.
Refrigerate any leftovers.
Check out last year’s April Fool’s Day post for my tricky Doggie Treats recipe.
I love April Fool’s Day – and not because I play pranks on people 🙂
April Fool’s Day is my unofficial Name Day. It’s a day when I celebrate who, what and where I am. It’s also my self-appointed New Year’s Day. It’s a time when I look back on the year that has passed and make plans for the year ahead. It’s also the day I started my blog – two years ago!
Why have I chosen April Fool’s Day as my very own special day? Well because of tarot. The Fool is the first card in the major arcana. It is the Fool who journeys through the arcana and learns the lessons of the cards. The Fool is so important symbolically that it is the only major arcana to be represented in modern day playing cards (as The Joker).
Renfield and Wolf The Dracula Tarot
The Fool card traditionally features a brightly dressed young man standing on the edge of a cliff. His face is lifted up, not watching where he is going. His belongings are wrapped in a sack and tied to a stick slung over his right shoulder. In his left hand he holds a white rose. A dog plays at his feet while the sun shines brightly. Will he step off the precipice and fall, will he leap to the other side, or will he turn around? The Fool begins the journey of the Tarot with no knowledge of what will be. Every April Fool’s Day I too begin a Fool’s journey into the unknown.
In honour of April Fool’s Day pranks, the tarot Fool’s dog and my own very special dogs, I have created a tricky recipe for both Fools and Dogs. The oatmeal cookies below have been cut to look like dog treats and are served in a dog bowl. Surprise your friends by serving them these tricky treats 🙂
Preheat oven to 200C / 395F.
Line 2 baking trays with baking paper.
Combine the oatmeal, flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub in the butter until combined. Add the egg and milk and continuing mixing with your hands for 3-4 minutes or until the dough comes together into a ball. The dough should be firm enough to roll out. If it is too firm add a bit of milk, if it is too soft add a bit of flour.
Turn out onto a lightly floured board and roll dough out to about 5mm thickness. Use a dog bone shaped cookie cutter to cut out shapes. Repeat with any remaining dough.
Place on prepared trays and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
Allow to rest for 5 minutes before placing on racks to cool completely.
A year ago I answered the question – “what day should I start my blog?” The answer was April Fool’s Day.
A year later another question has been answered – “will anyone be interested in what I have to say?” Happily the answer is yes!
Like the Tarot Fool, I took a leap of faith and leapt into the world of blogging. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I embarked on this Fool’s Journey. I hoped people would like what I wrote and that I would get a few followers. I also hoped that I would find people I liked and could follow. I have been blown away by the encouragement I’ve received and the friends I have made. Visiting other blogs and reading what others have to say has also been fantastic.
What has surprised me is how cathartic blogging has been. Writing about painful moments in my past and present has facilitated healing I had not expected. As I wrote each piece, I felt burdens melt away on the tide of written words. Each piece made me feel lighter and happier. I was stunned and delighted as years of anger and resentment were transformed. I was also surprised by how my words resonated with others. I have been humbled by the responses and the amount of support I have received. I’m still learning the ropes, but I am so happy I began this Fool’s Journey.
One of things I have loved the most is sharing my passion for food, recipes, cookbooks, eating and drinking! Nothing brings people together better than good food and drink 🙂 I recently wrote of a cookbook that was lost to me decades ago and how happy I was when I found another copy.
Another of the recipes I couldn’t wait to try from this cookbook was Istanbul Eggs. The recipe calls for eggs to be simmered in olive oil and Turkish coffee for 30 minutes. Yum! As it is Easter time I thought I would make them. The eggs were lovely but lacked the Turkish coffee flavour I was expecting. To get more flavour into the eggs I decided to combine this recipe with one called Beid Hamine, a slow cooked Egyptian egg dish with Jewish roots. Rather than 30 minutes, the eggs would now be simmered for 8 hours! The eggs ended up having a subtle coffee flavour and turned a lovely nutty brown. I am happy to say that combining the two recipes was a success 🙂
Slow Cooked Istanbul Eggs
Make these eggs the day before you need them as they need to simmer for 8 hours.
Add the eggs, coffee and oil to a large saucepan.
Pour in enough water to cover the eggs by 5cm.
Bring to the boil then reduce heat to the lowest possible setting.
Partially cover the pot and simmer for 8 hours.
Check to make sure the eggs don’t boil dry and top up with water if needed.
Drain and rinse the eggs before peeling and slicing in half.
Sprinkle lightly with cumin if desired.
Serve at room temperature.
I don’t know if other bloggers had the same issue as me but one of my main concerns has always been “what day should I launch”!
It could be the Jungian or mythologist in me, or just a reflection of my love of symbolism, but April Fool’s Day just seemed right.
Why? Well, April Fool’s Day has a myriad of mythology behind it. Some to do with Fool’s being King’s for a day, some to do with Spring and some to do with New Year’s Day. It is this aspect that appeals to me.
My connection between April Fool’s Day and New Year’s Day is tarot. More than a quarter of a century ago I met my first tarot deck. While it wasn’t love at first sight, it quickly turned into love and we have been happy together ever since. As the Fool begins the journey of the tarot, I chose this symbolic Fool’s Day to be my day for starting a New Year.
The first momentous decision I made on April Fool’s day was in 2003. After almost a lifetime of wanting to change my last name, I finally did it! Why didn’t I like my birth name?
It wasn’t an ancestral name. My family come from a part of Eastern Europe that was colonised and as part of that process they had their name changed to reflect the nationality of the colonisers. Cultural identity is a big issue for me, one I will come back to many times here. But in relation to my last name, I hated people thinking I had ties to a cultural background that wasn’t my own. I always dreamed of having a name that reflected my ancestry but could never come up with one.
Personal identity is an interesting thing. I’ve loved the esoteric world since I was a child. Vampires remain my first love but as I studied more I became fascinated with witchcraft, paganism, astrology, numerology and tarot. I also loved myths and legends, particularly stories about ancient Gods and Goddesses. Wanting to reflect this I often went by the name Vicky Venus, in honour of the ruler of my astrological sign Taurus. I loved the initials VV and in my punk days I adopted the last names Vodka & Valium – but they are stories for another time! But what I really wanted was a name that had a vampire connection. Vicky Vampire just wasn’t me so I waited until a name came – it was a long wait!
The vampire connection. A large chunk of my world came crashing down at the turn of the millennium. I didn’t deal with it well but I came through it. What I needed most to move forward was a new name, a new identity, a new me. I wanted to be free of the past, free of old connections, free of family ties. It was late in 2002 and I was working on the Dracula Tarot. I heard a voice whisper the name Vladic. The word came with an image showing me the spelling. It clicked immediately. Finally, I had my last name! It was a VV, it was Eastern European and most importantly it had a vampire connection. Vlad is the first name of Dracula. I thought it was ironic that I would be taking his first name as my last name. On April’s Fool’s Day 2003 I handed in my change of name form. When the form was stamped I felt a chill run down my spine. Vicky Vladic was born and I have been her ever since
So now, 11 years later, another first is about to be born – my very first blog.
What can you expect to find here? Lots of different things.
I am a writer specialising in vampirism, tarot, witchcraft and cookery – so far!
I have a PhD in film theory, Jungian theory and witchcraft.
I have published The Dracula Tarot book and deck, illustrated by Australian artist Anna Gerraty.
I have just finished a cookbook which I am getting ready to send to publishers and agents.
I am working on a second cookbook with American artist Anne Belov.
I love all things vampire.
I love all things esoteric especially tarot, astrology, numerology, paganism and witchcraft.
I have a keen interest in politics, the environment and social issues.
I am involved in animal welfare and sponsor giant pandas, red pandas, and an Atlantic puffin.
I have dogs.
I have a long term partner.
I am also an amateur photographer specialising in food & drink, still life, architectural, gothic and nature photography.
You can expect me to talk about all these things and more.