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~The Story Behind Macaroni & Yankee Doodle Dandy~

6a0120a8551282970b01b8d131f9da970c-1Yankee Doodle went to town, riding on a pony, stuck a feather in his hat, and, called it macaroni. Fun song to sing?  If you've ever wondered why Yankee Doodle would name his feather macaroni, this post will explain.  Sans the folks who think Kraft Foods invented macaroni, food historians agree that here in the United States, it had its humble beginning in the kitchen of Thomas Jefferson, who returned from a trip to Paris with a macaroni maker/press which he bought while in Italy.  Thank-you Mr. Jefferson for introducing macaroni to America.

A bit about macaroni:  Macaroni is a small, fork-friendly often tubular-shaped pasta made from durum wheat and water (it does not contain eggs).  It's generally mass produced, as the extruder machine used to make the tube is difficult to use and clean.  The word "macaroni" comes from the Italian "maccheroni", which, in Italy doesn't just refer to the ever-popular bent-elbow macaroni (common to the US).  It includes other shapes, such as shells, twists, spirals. penne and ziti. Because short and stubby macaroni is generally thicker than stranded pasta, it can be used in a wider variety of ways, such as simmering in soups or baking in casseroles.

Why did Yankee Doodle Dandy call the feather in his hat macaroni?  

Gettyimages-463929691-612x612So -- why did Yankee Doodle Dandy stick a feather in his hat and call it macaroni?  Was he some sort of a nut?  In the time period, this British pre-revolutionary war song was nothing more than the British making full-blown fun of American colonists, who they deemed to be poor, backward, lowly, uneducated, country bumpkins or hicks. The British slang word for an idiot was "doodle", hence the name Yankee Doodle (or Yankee Idiot).  It was a nasty name and an insulting song.

Back in the 1700's, both European men and women prided themselves in making a fashion statement whenever they were in public, and, a man who was a fashion leader was called "dandy".  So, was Yankee Doodle actually a dandy?  Not by the British standards.  In the song they have the poor idiot, Yankee Doodle, riding into town on a pony, not even a proper horse, and, sticking a feather in his tattered three-cornered tricorne or coonskin hat in the hopes of making a respectable fashion statement equivalent to that of a stylish man of Europe.

Men in the business of importing macaroni from Italy to Britain & France proudly referred to themselves as "macaronis".  

6a0120a8551282970b0154336c5b21970cBut why would he call his feather macaroni?  Well, he (himself) didn't -- remember, the British wrote this song, and back then, "macaroni" was yet another derogatory term used to describe men who dressed in outrageously excessive clothes, which included tall, heavy, expensive white wigs laden with hundreds of small, tight curls.  In extreme cases, the wigs were custom built upon and around heavy wire forms.  These wigs were worn by the salesmen in the business of importing macaroni from Italy to Britain and France, and, they proudly referred to themselves as "macaronis".  

What does this mean for us foodies? Well, whether macaroni was named after the wigs, or the wigs were named after the curly little Italian pasta remains a "chicken or the egg" mystery, but for me: every year on the Fourth of July, I find myself proudly humming this tune and preparing macaroni salad in honor of it.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2020)


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