Thursday, March 20, 2008

Yankee Doodle Went To Lunch

0001 jefferson macaroni

I have just been looking through America's Cook Book(1942 edition) - I'll bet you didn't know America had actually written a cookbook. Me neither. Actually it was the people at the Home Institute of the New York Herald Tribune,and they were mighty proud of it, too. A lady called Mrs. William Brown Meloney writes in the Introduction that "a gratifying stream of enthusiastic letters have poured into our office." Furthermore, lots of people came to the Home Institute to learn all about food preparation, and "some have even given us recipes which they considered better than ours." And also, writes Mrs. Meloney, even the people who didn't have really good recipes - and were terrible at cooking, though she is too polite to do more than merely imply this - helped them. They showed the Institute all the ways people cooked badly. For example: don't boil your dumplings too fast, or you will have a big mess on your hands.

I guess that happened during some of the cooking classes.

There are some foreign recipes included as well, in a separate chapter, because the New York Herald Tribune thought you ought to be the sort of bon vivant housewife who was in the know about things like Norwegian Fish Pudding and Alsatian Pork Chops. And recipes with foreign places in the titles are sprinkled throughout the book like - like potato chips on a tuna noodle casserole, that's what.

Macaroni Montparnasse

1 package (8 oz.) macaroni
i medium-sized onion, sliced
6 tomatoes
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 clove garlic
1/2 lb. Swiss cheese, sliced

Cook macaroni (p. 408). Cook onions and tomatoes 10 minutes; add salt, pepper, garlic and macaroni; mix well and turn into 6 greased cups or a large casserole. Bake in hot oven (425 F) for 10 minutes; cover top with a layer if Swiss cheese, and bake 10 minutes longer, or until cheese has melted and browned. Yield: six portions.

Montparnasse is a neighborhood on the Left Bank of Paris, noted for its nightclubs and as a hangout for artists and various creative types. I am not aware that it has ever been (or ever will be) famous for its macaroni. Or its Swiss cheese. I believe Switzerland has a prior claim on that. What it is doing on the Left Bank I cannot say. In fact I am speechless. So will resort to song lyrics:

Yankee Doodle seldom dined
With Mrs. Brown Meloney,
For always on his plate he'd find
Montparnasse Macaroni.

Actually the macaroni reference in "Yankee Doodle" has nothing whatsoever to do with pasta. It was late eighteenth-century English slang for something fashionable, or to describe a young over-the-top Beau Brummel dandy. It was derived from the Italian word "maccherone," meaning foolishly vulgar. In the song the British were making fun of the Yankees, who thought that sticking a feather in one's cap was a major fashion statement. According to Wikipedia, the Americans thought this was quite funny and took to the song, thus disappointing the satirical British.

Macaroni pasta was brought to America by Thomas Jefferson, whose charming plan for a macaroni machine is shown above. I am grateful to the Library of Congress American Memory site for the image [Thomas Jefferson's drawing of a macaroni machine and instructions for making pasta, ca. 1787, (Thomas Jefferson Papers); Reproduction Number:A30 (color slide); LC-MSS-27748-180 (B&W negative)]

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