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Monday, March 25, 2013

...And Called It Macaroni...

by Susan F. Craft

Macaroni was the name given in the 1770s to an extravagantly dressed man, who wore bizarre and over-the-top fashions such as narrow breeches and short, tight waistcoats, usually decorated with large buttons and lace. Macaronis also wore high heeled shoes and small hats. They would often carry a posey of flowers in their hands or pinned to their waistcoats. The name came from people who had been on The Grand Tour of European countries who liked all things foreign, especially food and who referred to something that was Italian in style as very Macaroni.

Macaronis, or fops as they came to be known, frequented the fashionable places of London and won and lost vast fortunes gambling.

The newspapers of the day often made fun of them. For example, The Oxford Magazine published this account: “There is indeed a kind of animal, neither male, nor female, a thing of neuter gender, lately started up among us. It is called a Macaroni. It talks without meaning, it smiles without pleasure, it eats without appetite...”

The British employed the song as a dig at people from the American colonies who they thought were trying to give themselves airs and graces but looking ridiculous. During the Revolutionary War, the colonists reclaimed the song and made it their own patriotic song.

Speaking of macaroni as a food, macaroni and cheese was a favorite dish of colonists, especially Thomas Jefferson. In 1787, upon his return to America from his tour as minister to France, Jefferson brought back a pasta machine he had bought in  Italy. He improved on the design of the machine and also came up with recipes that included not only American or English cheddar cheese, but also goat cheese and truffle cheese.

Pasta Machine

 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.

Fath'r 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 saved.
The 'lasses they eat it every day,
Would keep a house a winter;
They have so much, that I'll be bound,
They eat it when they've mind ter.
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 inderpinning;
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 bason,
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


  1. SUSAN you have made my night!! What a fun post to read on the night we had mac-n-cheese for dinner! Thanks!!

  2. Teresa, so glad you enjoyed the post. I love mac-n-cheese. I've got a fantastic recipe for cooking it in a crock pot. Okay, so now I'm hungry. Let me go see if I have all the ingredients. :-)

  3. Great post, SUSAN! I haven't read all those verse before. Thanks!

    1. Thanks, Carrie. The verses are funny, aren't they?

  4. I love this post, Susan! I knew a bit about this from my research, but it was great to have it all explained thoroughly. And who doesn't love mac and cheese? It's one of the best comfort foods. How fun to know Thomas Jefferson loved it and experimented with different cheeses. I have two favorite recipes, one with broccoli. I've never cooked it in a crock-pot though!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. Because I was a working mom and sometimes didn't have enough time to cook, my children grew up eating the boxed mac and cheese. One time, I tried to feed them the "real" stuff, but they preferred the boxed kind. Sigh.

  5. Yankee Doodle would never have been such a notable without that nod to macaroni! Fop is much less fun!

    This must be the first time I've seen all the verses. Thanks for sharing them and hurrah for mac and cheese!!

  6. Yes, Debra, huzzah for mac and cheese!

  7. Oh my goodness, what a fun post! I didn't know all of that stuff about Macaronis! LOL Thank you for such a fun end to my night. God bless!

    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Amber. I love doing research and finding little treasures to share with others.

  8. "... Stuck a feather in his cap
    And called it macaroni."

    That makes much more sense now that you have elucidated on the subject! (I love that word and haven't been able to use it in a long time!!) Thank you for your fun post. ~ leaving the "i" off, we'd have a cookie.

    Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House

    1. It's always so much fun to discover the origins of phrases and words. When I do, I'm always amazed at how much more sense those phrases and words carry.

  9. This was a fun post. I knew most of the facts, but had never read all the verses of the song. Of course, I had to sing it in my head as I read it, so it took longer to read -- all those choruses, you know.

    Kathleen, I love the word elucidate, too. But I'm out of the habit of using my polysyllabic words. It's fun to have a place to say things where you don't have to explain what you just said. :-)

    1. I'm the same, Judith. I hardly use the vocabulary that I worked so hard to attain, not for any thoughts of impressing, but because I love words and the sounds of some of them more than others. For instance, I love the sound of macaroni and of elbow. So imagine my delight when they came up with elbow macaroni. I know. I know. I'm a nerd.

  10. I had no idea macaroni and cheese was an 18th century dish in this country. I love learning these little historical tidbits. Thanks!

    1. You're welcome, Lori. I love to learn and share tidbits, which I call "my treasures."

  11. I'm commenting way late on this, but I am so glad you posted this. I never knew what that line in the song meant, and now thanks to you, I do! :) Makes sense now. Thank you for clearing up this mystery I've carried since childhood, Susan.


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