Poisson D'Avril (and a most peculiar peg doll)

I'm not sure where I first heard of Poisson D'Avril... the origins of this odd observance are rather obscure.  One theory I came across credits Pope Gregory for creating confusion when he set up his eponymous "Gregorian Calender" in 1562.  When Pope Gregory instituted the calender, the start of the new year was moved from April 1st to January 1st, and those who persisted in celebrating the start of the year on April 1st were called "April Fools."  What this has to do with fish (and French fish, for that matter) I have no idea, but Google and Wikipedia seemed to think that, somehow, the two are linked.

The one place I was able to track down a story linking fish and April Fool's Day was within the book All Year Round by Ann Druitt, Christine Fynes-Clinton and Marije Rowling. According to the authors of All Year Round, the celebration of April Fools Day commemorates the birthday, on April 1, 1752, of Olaf Toyou, the first born son of Hungarian fisher folk.  The story goes as follows:

When Olaf was 6 months old, a strong earthquake struck far out in the Mediterranean. Olaf was sleeping in a cradle slung from the branch of a tree while his mother worked nearby.  The earthquake caused the sea to race up the beach so quickly and quietly that she didn’t notice the waves had carried Olaf away until it was too late.  She ran to save her son, but all she found in the cradle was a small fish.  Olaf's mother ran to find her husband, crying that their baby was gone, and while her back was turned, a second tidal wave miraculously removed the fish and returned the baby to the cradle. When the husband looked inside the cradle and found his son, he berated his wife as a fool.  She, however, remained convinced that her son had the power to turn himself into a fish at will!

To this day, people in France must beware of turning their backs on April 1st.  They may later discover a paper fish pinned to their jacket and realize with embarrassment that they have become the ‘Poisson d’Avril’(‘April Fish.’)

Hungarian fisher-folk? French fish?  Again, I'm a little confused.  And what, pray tell, does all this have to do with peg dolls?  Well, last year, I hosted a peg doll swap and my friend Caroline signed up to participate. She couldn't decide what type of doll to create for the swap but told me that, because of her love of cooking, she felt her inspiration would surely come from a recipe.  I glanced over at her  four shelves full of cookbooks and came up with some helpful (okay, appalling, if truth be told) suggestions for her peg dolls: Poached flounder with butter & herbs? Chicken vindaloo? Shrimp ceviche? A cheese & mushroom omelet? Needless to say, she did not take any of my suggestions.  I, however, have decided to rise to the challenge.  I submit to you a Flounder Peg Doll... my very own Poisson D'Avril.

Have you ever come up with a creative idea, so peculiar that you simply had to see it through?  This sort of endeavor reminds me of the beer milkshake, dreamed up and desperately craved by the character Doc in John Steinbeck's book Cannery Row.  Perhaps, even at this moment, you are feeling inspired by my Peg Doll Flounder.  Is it time for you to try to out-do me and create the most dreadful peg doll ever? Something even uglier than my flounder?   Now that will be quite the task...  I dare you!

1 comment:

  1. i loved this post! thanks for sharing the story, and your peculiar and lovely dolls...


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