Hit List

September 29, 2013

The last two Septembers have been “food songs” month in the Thornapple blog. Truth to tell, it gives me a bit of relief from thinking up a new blog every week. Contrary to a sentiment I attributed to Doug Anderson in an entry last year, there are hundreds of food songs. I haven’t even had time to get around to the one food song (other than “Cheeseburger in Paradise”) that Anderson was able to come up with on his own. That would be Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya.” Those of you fully ensconced in the Michigan way of being may not know that jambalaya actually is a food. It’s a variation on pilaf that relies on the Louisiana spice trio of onions, peppers and celery cooked with rice in a tomato sauce. From there, almost anything goes. But jambalaya isn’t the only food in Hank Williams’ bayou classic. There’s also crawfish pie and filé gumbo. Filé is made from sassafras, once widely used in root beers but now banned by the Federal government.

But that’s a thought better served in a month when I’m actually writing blogs on food ethics, rather than trying to keep myself diverted by musings on food songs. I started out this morning thinking about Mark Knopfler’s “Ole Pigweed,” which begins with a recipe for mulligan stew. But then I remembered that we already did that, so it was back to “Jambalaya.” For those of you who, like Erin McKenna, are food song junkies, I’ll report that Bon Appétite has its own list of food songs, of which only Roy Byrd’s “Red Beans,” has been celebrated in the Thornapple Blog, though I have given some thought to the Beach Boys’ “Vegetables,” which comes in at number 16 on Bon Appétite’s top 25. Some of theirs are instrumentals, so I’m not sure I’d credit them as food songs, though they do refer to food in the title. Jazz musicians are notorious for coming up with ditties and not knowing what to call them. Then anything sitting around is fair game: “Rib Tips”, “Peanuts”, “Java”.

But then again, readers are probably still scratching their heads about Jimi Hendrix’ “Stone Free”, which in a rather stone free association we attributed to peaches earlier this month. Here’s the Thornapple short list:

  1. Pico de Gallo
  2. Homegrown Tomatoes
  3. Everybody Eats When They Come to My House
  4. The Frim Fram Sauce
  5. Watermelon Time
  6. Ole Pigweed
  7. House of Blue Light
  8. Give ‘em Cornbread
  9. Baker Shop Boogie
  10. Jambalaya

Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University

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3 thoughts on “Hit List

  1. I don’t think sassafras is banned by the Federal government; I just bought a bottle of gumbo file from Penzey’s that claims to contain powdered sassafras leaves. But it could be ground lawn clippings, for as much as I know about Cajun cooking. Wikipedia says that the compound safrole is found in the root of the sassafras plant, which is “banned for mass production by the FDA”. Not sure how they mass produce the leaves without some fairly substantial production of the roots, but apparently that has been figured out. Genetic engineering, maybe. Anyway, the roots are what were/are used to flavor root beer; allegedly a person can legally buy safrole-free sassafras root extract for use in flavoring one’s own craft root beer. Wikipedia also claims safrole to be an ingredient in the drug ecstasy (this must be where they put all the safrole that is removed from the safrole-free flavoring extract), although they don’t provide a recipe so I can’t myself test the truth of this claim.

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