Gumbo

September 25, 2016

Way back in the Jurassic Era we started these blogs about food songs because Doug Anderson had complained about not being able to think up enough of them. Here in the Anthropocene Doug has lots of help because I think if he just types ‘food’ and ‘song lyrics’ into the Google, he will turn up a couple of dozen pages listing food songs. A lot of them are focused on kids songs, to be sure, but if the point is to sit around with your guitar and sing about food, what’s the trouble with kids songs, anyway.

At any rate, I know this because as you have guessed I can type ‘food’ and ‘song lyrics’ into the Google just as well as the next fellow, and as a result I’ve discovered that there are pretty fancy web pages dedicated to food references in rap songs, as well as to food references in country and western songs. Amazingly, none of the latter turn up any of the songs that we were talking about last week. Instead, they get all nostalgic in praise of fried chicken, biscuits and gravy and occasionally sweet tea. It does seem that the food-identity connection runs pretty strong in redneck country.

But this web search did remind me about Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya” which I think we may have actually mentioned once before, because it is in actual fact a no-foolin’ food song, of which there are, I have to say, comparatively few. For the first verse anyway, it’s just a list of Cajun dishes: jambalaya, crawfish pie, file gumbo. And what could be more foodish than that? So I although I could go out in 2016 on jambalaya, it would not really be fair, having actually mentioned this Hank Williams tune sometime back in, like, 2012 or something. So I need to come up with something else, and I think the only way is go full circle back to Doug’s food songs concert, which, I think consisted of “Jambalaya,” “Cheeseburger in Paradise,” and then a mumbling explanation that although he knew a number of beer songs, that was basically everything he could come up with.

“Cheeseburger in Paradise,” is not the only Jimmy Buffet food song, by the way. Buffet has a number of songs that contain passing references to grapefruit or to shrimp that are starting to boil. And he has one about eating the last mango in Paris, too. So we probably could crown the Pirate King as the prince of food songs, too. (Which we reminds me that we missed “talk like a pirate day” this year by only a week.) but once we get into this territory, we get picky and these puns and passing references just won’t cut it for the bona fides.

But there is one other Buffet food song that does cut the mustard and that would be “I Will Play for Gumbo.”

It started in my grandma’s in her kitchen by the sea
She warned me when where she told me “son the first one’s free”
It hit me like a rock or some TaeKwonDo
Cause I will play for gumbo
Oh Yeah I will play for gumbo
Paul Thompson is the W.K. Kellogg Professor of Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University
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