Yankee Doodle and Macaroni: Americanisation of a Nonsense Verse and an European Recipe

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Kraft put the famous macaroni and cheese in a box, in 1937, and set a tradition of American  growing up with this converted dish. The American version of macaroni and cheese has two places of origin, one in New England and one in southeastern Connecticut. It was famous as a Church casserole in New England and as macaroni pudding in Connecticut. Accounts say that it could have come as recipe after Thomas Jefferson’s return to Virginia after his trip from Italy. It is said his daughter served this dish with parmesan cheese and took credit for inventing it. Later cheddar cheese became the perfect partner for this famous dish. Anumita delves into the legacy of the song and the recipe, in the weekly column, exclusively for Different Truths.

went to town
A-riding on a pony
He stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni…”

The tune was stuck in my head and I kept humming while driving my son to his classes. After few awkward glances from him, I looked at him questioningly. He made an incredible face and said, “Ma what is wrong? Why are you singing ‘Yankee Doodle’? You know it’s a baby’s song. Neither I or brother likes macaroni and cheese.”

When my kids were toddlers, most kids were gaga over macaroni and cheese. It seemed to everyone, it was the American after burgers and hot-dogs. Even the advertisements on television call the cheese with macaroni as liquid gold. But I was the only mother who never made it or got the easy way of with it. My children never liked it.

Kraft put the famous macaroni and cheese in a box, in 1937, and set a tradition of American children growing up with this Italian converted dish. The recipe can be found in circa 1248-1309. A Latin cookbook has a version called the ‘de lasanis’. Although the macaroni used were squared fermented lasagna sheets, boiled and tossed with cheese.

The American version of macaroni and cheese has two places of origin, one in New England and one in southeastern Connecticut. It was famous as a Church casserole in New England and as macaroni pudding in Connecticut. Accounts say that it could have come as recipe after Thomas Jefferson’s return to Virginia after his trip from Italy. It is said his daughter served this dish with Parmesan cheese and took credit for inventing it. Later cheddar cheese became the perfect partner for this famous dish.

The ear-worm, ‘Yankee Doodle’, would not stop playing in my head. So, I looked up the song and did a bit of digging about it. ‘Yankee Doodle’ was a very famous Anglo-American song. It dates back to the Seven Years War and the American Revolution during 1775-83. It was sung previously as a patriotic song, now the state anthem of Connecticut. The tune is rather older than the worlds. It filtered down from various European countries and had many nonsensical  embedded in it.

Sources say the English version was written by British Army surgeon Dr. Richard Schuckburgh, while campaigning in upper New York, during the French and Indian War. The English soldiers sang it to mock the style of the Yankees with whom they served. The word “Doodle” was the derived from a Low German language which translated to ‘simpleton’ or ‘fool’. The macaroni wig once in fashion was later considered a fashion oops! So, the song was a mockery of fashion and the way the Yankees dressed.

The song had changed versions many times, one of them the version attributed to Edward Bangs, a student at Harvard College, who wrote a ballad with fifteen verses which circulated in Boston and surrounding towns. The present version is:

Yankee Doodle went to town
A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap
And called it macaroni.

Yankee Doodle keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy.
Father and I went down to camp,
Along with Captain Gooding,
And there we saw the men and boys
As thick as hasty pudding.

And there we saw a thousand men
As rich as Squire David,
And what they wasted every day,
I wish it could be savéd.

The ‘lasses they eat every day,
Would keep a house a winter;
They have so much, that I’ll be bound,
They eat it when they’ve a mind to.

And there I see a swamping gun
Large as a log of maple,
Upon a deuced little cart,
A load for father’s cattle.

And every time they shoot it off,
It takes a horn of powder,
And makes a noise like father’s gun,
Only a nation louder.

I went as nigh to one myself
As ‘Siah’s underpinning;
And father went as nigh again,
I thought the deuce was in him.

Cousin Simon grew so bold,
I thought he would have cocked it;
It scared me so I shrinked it off
And hung by father’s pocket.

And Cap’n Davis had a gun,
He kind of clapt his hand on’t
And stuck a crooked stabbing iron
Upon the little end on’t

And there I see a pumpkin shell
As big as mother’s basin,
And every time they touched it off
They scampered like the nation.

I see a little barrel too,
The heads were made of leather;
They knocked on it with little clubs
And called the folks together.

And there was Cap’n Washington,
And gentle folks about him;
They say he’s grown so ‘tarnal proud
He will not ride without ’em.

He got him on his meeting clothes,
Upon a slapping stallion;
He sat the world along in rows,
In hundreds and in millions.

The flaming ribbons in his hat,
They looked so tearing fine, ah,
I wanted dreadfully to get
To give to my Jemima.

I see another snarl of men
A-digging graves, they told me,
So ‘tarnal long, so ‘tarnal deep,
They ‘tended they should hold me.

It scared me so, I hooked it off,
Nor stopped, as I remember,
Nor turned about till I got home,
Locked up in mother’s chamber.

Although words of a dish and a song have similarities, their histories are quite different. This makes our lives more interesting in the American way.


Pix from the Net.

Anumita Chatterjee Roy

Anumita Chatterjee Roy

Anumita Chatterjee Roy is an artist at heart. She has an eye for the unusual. Her naturescapes make her the quintessential Romantic. She paints, is passionate about photography, creates word images in her verses and loves to write. She cooks delicacies and is a foodie. Born in India, she was brought up in several countries. These strengthened the global citizen in her. She now lives in the Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two sons.
Anumita Chatterjee Roy

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