September 14, 2014
Back when my kids were really kids we used to play this dinky little cassette tape with a bunch of songs geared to Thanksgiving. You might think that this would be a good source for some food songs. Except when I think about it, most of those songs didn’t really say much about food. “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing,”: Well, you may imagine yourself sitting there, head bowed over a table spread with steaming sumptuous, but in fact, there are no direct references to food. “Over the river and through the woods,” ends with a “Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!” but it’s mostly about horses, snow and cold noses. There was “When I first came to this land, I was not a wealthy man,” which goes on to talk about farming and a cow called “No milk now,” always to come around to a refrain, “But the land was pure and good, and I did what I could.” Close, but not really a food song.
Let’s consider a new possibility: It’s not so much that there are very few food songs, it’s just that the food songs out there are not very memorable. If we stick with the Thanksgiving theme we come immediately to Adam Sandler’s “I like turkey,” from a random little thing he cooked up for a Thanksgiving weekend Saturday Night Live way back in ancient times. More recently we get Nicole Westbrook singing about turkey and mashed potatoes in the Patrice Wilson song “It’s Thanksgiving.” I’m not providing any links because I took the trouble to listen to these for you. There’s no reason why everyone should suffer.
More generally (but still following a thread) there’s “Apples, Peaches, Pumpkin Pie” from Jay and the Techniques. It’s one of the amazing aspects of cyber culture that there is actually a Wikipedia entry on this group, where I learned that they also released another song called “Strawberry Shortcake”. Nope. Don’t remember that. And that’s my point.
There is a song that’s called “Pumpkin Pie” by Evan Taubenfeld, but following yet another thread we’ve chased down in the Thronapple blog before, it’s really about sex, rather than food. If you scroll back through the food songs blogs from 2012 and 2013 you will discover that lots of songs that are putatively about food are actually about sex. And some of the songs that are actually about food are also about sex. No harm there, I say, but we are chasing down the actual food songs this month, so “Pumpkin Pie” doesn’t count on that criterion, memorable or not. There must be 137 songs called “Cherry Pie,” and 1037 songs that reference cherry pie, but none of them are actually about cherry pie.
What set me off some three years back was a quest for food songs you might actually want to hear at a food party. And so far aside from the “Hit List” we ended with last year, I’d say we’re still looking.
Paul B. Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University