14 April 2009

B. Anonymous: Fool Fascination

“Well, I’ve about decided his lactose intolerance is all in his head. Ever since I’ve been making my own butter, he’s been eating it every day and hasn’t had one bellyache. But bring a pizza into the house? He gets all accusatory and has three hissy fits. ‘You’re trying to kill me, woman! You know I have a game tomorrow!’ Then he’ll go have a long sulk in his office and pretend he’s working on his business interests when all he’s doing is playing video games. I love him, I do, but he’s a trial.”

Tisha fingered the new sports-themed butter molds her favorite gourmet supply store in east Memphis had ordered in just for her. The folks at The Culinaria did not understand Tisha’s obsession with the frou-frou molds, but the high price point quelled any questions they might have had.

“Men are babies, Tisha. My mama always told me that when I was a child and so far I have yet to meet one who belies that bit of wisdom.” Michael Jones, Tisha’s best friend among the team wives, reached for a set of miniature flower-form cake pans and placed them into his basket. “Heaven knows Juan is. When he left for the game in Milwaukee yesterday he was missing his lucky socks and I had to FedEx them overnight so he’d have them in time for the game tonight. You’d think he was gone to summer camp and forgotten his teddy bear or somesuch!”

“Shane’s the same way. But for him it’s his pillow. If he doesn’t have his special pillow to sleep on the night before a game, he gets into a funk and decides there’s no way he can win. Coach and I finally got together and we have it fixed now so I have several pillows in the spare closet all the same and Shane has no idea there’s more than one. All he knows is he has his pillow and that he will wake up on game day ready to win. Silly, silly man.”

Smiling at her friend, Tisha looked past his shoulder and saw a display of serving bowls by a sign reading: For Your Favorite Fool.

“These are so pretty! But I don’t understand. What’s a fool? Maudie! Yoohoo! Can you come over here, doll?”

Maud, who owned the shop, nodded and walked over, ending her phone call with, “I’ll be sure to let you know when we get those in, Ms. Neely. Now then, what can I help you with, Tisha?”

“These new bowls. What are they for? And don’t people get mad when you call them fools?”

“Oh! I see what you’re asking. These are serving bowls for the dessert called a fool. It’s a really old whipped cream-based dish from Renaissance times or even earlier. I discovered fools in cooking school when I needed a simple dessert using fresh seasonal fruit that would do for a Madrigal dinner we were preparing. Fools go back to cookery books dating to the Sixteenth Century.”

“Wait a sec. So what do you do? Is it just some Cool Whip with fruit in it? My Aunt Trudy used to serve us that all the time whenever we went over for a visit.” Michael was not impressed.

“My soul, no!” Tisha shook her head. “Now that you’ve reminded me, I remember reading about fools in one of the dairy books I found when I went up to Michigan with the team last fall. I wanted to try making one, but Shane and his lactose issues kept me from it. I think they have wine or some other liquor in them, not just cream and fruit.”

“Girl, it’s simple.” Michael smiled conspiratorially and said, “All you have to do is tell him you used Cool Whip and not real cream and he’ll never know. And if you’re worried, just grind up some of those little white pills with some chocolate shavings and sprinkle them over the top. That’s what I do with Beano when Juan insists on having beans and rice. The man will not take a pill, but if I tell him it’s part of the spices on top of the dish, he’ll gobble it right up.”

“Ooh, you’re conniving, aren’t you? But I like the way you think.” Shifting her attention to the storeowner, Tisha added, “Maud, I’ll take a set of these. That big one and six of the smaller ones.”

“I’ll wrap them up for you right away. Can I do anything else for you?”

“No, that’s all for now. The butter molds and the bowls will be just fine.”

Once she was home again in her apartment overlooking the Mississippi River, Tisha carried her laptop to the table on the balcony and began looking for fool recipes.

“Gooseberries and elderberry wine. I wonder where I can find those here in Memphis. Maybe that British import shop will have some.”

Tisha picked up her phone and pressed 12 on the speed dial. Her new butter molds forgotten, she scrolled through web pages. As soon as she heard the British accent that answered her call, she knew the theme of her next dinner party.

“Tell me, Miss Percival, do you have any Anthony Newley music on hand? And what about gooseberries?”


  1. Interesting slice of life, good research on the fools, (I was toying with the idea of going that route myself.) The characters fall a bit flat though, they seem too 2 dimenshional. But maybe that's the point?

  2. I liked the fooling of the spouses with the "lucky pillow" and the Beano as well as the information about the dessert (which I am going to google later. I always seem to have something to google after reading one of your pieces :>:>:>)

    Good work :>

  3. I wanted a little more. Is this taken from an excerp of something bigger. Good premise.

  4. I enjoyed this piece and the different ways you incorporated the themes. I kept waiting for the store owner to laugh at the end because she tricked them into buying more bowls -- I didn't realize there was actually a dessert called Fool (and I'm from Michigan!)

  5. Interesting, to have the best friend "team wife" be a man. I liked that! It provided a bit of spice to the prosaic day of shopping. That a sports team would have an openly gay player, complete with spouse, almost seems like more of a story than the direction it takes though. I'm trying to wrap my mind around the idea of sports-themed butter molds; do they really exist? Your take on the "fool" idea was refreshing; I chuckled when I thought of Tisha making fool for her "Favorite Fool", as she might have called him....

  6. From B. Anonymous: Helen & Jeanette -- this is from a larger piece. I first began with the character of Tisha (she had another name) in a flash last year that expanded into a much longer story once I began researching butter. I had no idea there was another story for the character until this theme arose and it went in a direction I didn't expect. And yes, I figure it will grow also.

    ASC -- Gotta keep you learning, girlie. ;-) And yeah, the Beano bit made me giggle when I thought of it, so I reckoned I'd better keep it in.

    Melanie -- Michigan State has an AMAZING!!! cookbook collection and I dream of traveling up there and spending several months perusing it. Cookbooks just make me HAPPY!


    wntrgrrl -- Well, if anyone could find sports-themed butter molds, this character could. I know there is an astonishing array of sports-themed baking accessories in the world and since it's possible to use candy molds as butter molds, I think it's more than likely you could find a mascot mold or others that are representational of a particular sport.

  7. Overall I enjoyed this piece and the tone of the early characters.

    The whole discussion about the fools felt a teency bit forced.. but the information was awesome (as I've never heard of a fool dessert! YUMMY).

    I think the front half of the piece was stronger than the back half. But I definitely enjoyed it. :-)

  8. I'm SO glad someone picked up this reference! I was tempted several times to use the concept of this dish I'd never heard of, but I wimped out and went with something easier. I liked the dialogue between the characters. It had a good natural flow, and the subject matter seemed extremely real and non-forced. Good job. Like a previous commenter said, I could see this being an excerpt from a larger piece.

  9. From B. Anonymous:

    Kat -- I agree that the second half is a bit forced. I wrote this in about an hour and consider it a first draft. I've had the MC for a little over a year and had no idea she had more stories in her until this flash.

    Terry -- Yeah, I really fought with myself about this, but then I remembered my MC and it all came, especially after I did a modicum of research. And it didn't hurt that I am an intellectual foodie and lover of cookbooks so I knew about the special collection at Michigan State.

    This is apparently part of a novella about the MC. As I said before, I'm really surprised to find she has more in her. But yeah, I'm really excited about that too. :)

  10. I love the fool dessert interpretation of the theme. I also really liked the interaction between the characters in this short piece, but the explanation of the fool strayed a bit into a lecture - it didn't seem natural in such a casual conversation (i.e. dating back to the 16th century, etc.)


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