Friday, August 9, 2013

Macaroni

"Chinese tea, Spanish avocados, and now Italian pasta? Have we become macaronis?" asked Lyta.
"No, no," he replied. "I promise I have never worn a wig more than two feet high."

--A Midwinter Night's Revolution, chapter eighteen

What is a macaroni, and what relation has it to feathers in Yankee Doodle's cap?

Yankee Doodle went to town
A ridin' on a pony
Stuck a feather in his hat
And called it macaroni!

Is SeƱor Doodle having a senior moment?

In the 1700s, "macaroni" referred to an extravagant fashion style favored by wealthy British men. They were apparently mocked quite a bit for this, as in this cartoon:

The point of the song is that Yankee Doodle is such a country bumpkin that he thinks a single feather is high fashion.

But what has it to do with pasta? Sure, macaroni and cheese might be the only thing your three year old deigns to eat, but back in Lyta's day, macaroni was quite the imported delicacy. Macaroni--or pasta--was itself very new to Britain, having been brought back from Italy by rich, fashionable young men, who referred to themselves as the "macaroni club," after their new favorite dish. Soon, they began referring to anything fashionable as "very macaroni."

And thus, Lyta's dinner companion assures her that he has never been that much of a dandy.

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