Don't be fooled: before you eat that sandwich, check the cheese

THERE are ways to fake it in the kitchen and still make good in the dining room -- with foods that look like something they are not, but make a good impression on the palate, anyway. Then, again, there are ways to just fake it, period, with ``foods'' that have no redeeming gastronomic value at all.

Inedible fake foods have always been good for a laugh, and not just on April Fools' Day. Ask ``Mac'' McAdam, manager of the Jack & Jill Fun Shop here intown.

``Your rubber hot dogs are always a popular item -- especially around the Fourth of July. And these go very well with your fake mustard. Just give a little squeeze to the plastic container and the mustard-colored string goes all over the front of someone's good shirt. That's very popular,'' he says.

``Of course, if red is more your color, you can get the squeeze bottle of ketchup. Then there's the rubber fried egg that also comes with bacon. Just remember it's a good idea to moisten it a little first. It makes it look, ya know, more realistic.''

But don't ask for rubber hot dogs right now. ``We're out of them,'' says co-worker Ron Kelly. ``They're very big in the early spring. We do have several of these great rubber hamburgs, but you have to supply your own sesame-seed buns. You bite into it and when you pull it away, you're left with the hamburg hangin' out of your mouth and the bun in your hand. That's a very nice item.''

``What about my all-time boyhood favorite, fake Swiss cheese?'' I asked.

``We used to carry the plastic Swiss cheese but for some reason we found that dogs ate it. So we don't carry it anymore.''

Don't fret because you can't get plastic Swiss cheese. Edible fakes are more fun than rubber or plastic versions anyway. The reward is that after a belly laugh you get a belly full.

The classic fake, of course, is Mock Apple Pie, made with Ritz crackers.

While some people read the recipe on the cracker box and smile, Carol Fee, manager of public relations for Nabisco Company, knows that many others take it seriously, because they complain when the recipe is taken offthe box.

``We're not exactly sure where or when it originated. It may have been an offshoot from a recipe from the Great Depression. Perhaps when apples were scarce,'' she speculates.

From Mock Apple Pie to Eggplant Fish, there is a wide selection of edible fake foods.

Here are four tasty recipes for mock dishes that can fool a whole family, from appetizer through dessert. April Fools'!

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