Water Cooler 10/04/18 Open Thread; Historical Food From The Colonial Period You've Almost Certainly Eaten.

Some Things Change, Some Don’t

For a very young country, we have managed to pack on the change at a rate that no other adjectives than “Mind Boggling”. I can barely wrap my head around the level of change in my father’s life who when he was born, the major source of pollution was horse s**t, but he lived to fly in jet planes and see man land on the moon. There is very little left that is as it was in his youth, less from his fathers, and still less from the county’s beginnings.


Our modes of travel have changed, when was the last time you traveled anywhere by buckboard, or horse drawn boat on a canal ? Even ferries are pretty unusual these days. If you have ever been in, a colonial home or even federalist era, they layout will likely strike as perplexing. Communication ? Quill pen and actual postal letter ? Just how many of us have actually farmed to earn a living ?

While the essence of conservatism is the preservation of the ideals of liberty and freedom, that infused the colonial and revolutionary period, it’s really nice to be able to experience something and understand that it has changed very little since those days.

Yankee Doodle went to town,
A-riding on a pony
Stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni.

Yankee Doodle, keep it up,
Yankee Doodle dandy
Mind the music and the step,
And with the girls be handy!

–Library Of Congress

Yep this water cooler is about Macaroni and Cheese as eaten in the colonial period. Funny thing is the song isn’t actually referring to a pasta noodle but to British gentlemen that took fashion to extremes, but still were named after the noodle because they had picked up the habit in Italy.

The Macaroni Club” consisted of young, wealthy British gentlemen who traveled to France and Italy and adopted the ostentatious and flamboyant fashions popular in those countries during the eighteenth century. The Macaronis, not members of a true club but rather a new generation of continental society, were often ridiculed by the British establishment.

The Macaroni moniker was a tongue-in-cheek reference to their import of foreign cuisine as well as fashion. Macaronis wore form-fitting trousers and short waistcoats with ruffles and braiding, and sported superfluities such as tasseled walking sticks, spy glasses, and nosegays. They wore elaborate toupees and wigs topped by tiny tricorn hats that were definitely form over function. These trends may have been en vogue at the Court of Versailles, but they didn’t go over well back home with the more staid Brits, who perceived the Macaronis’ style as extreme, effeminate, and silly.

The Jane Austen Center


Elaborate hairdos topped with tiny hats ?  you don’t say ? (man bun + fedora ) some things really don’t go away no matter how much you might like them to.

Well not only are silly hairdos and hats still around but so is the food. If you haven’t guessed by now it turns out Macaroni And Cheese was actually pretty popular in the colonial period and was much the same as it is now. The dish was brought to our shores by none other than Thomas Jefferson, who we can also thank for convincing everyone tomatoes aren’t poisonous. (an early case of better dead than red). The early recipes bear a great deal of resemblance to current recipes. Just for example

Stew a quarter pound of pipe macaroni in milk and water until it is tender, then lay it on top of a sieve to drain.

Put it into a stewpan with two large spoonfuls of grated Parmesan cheese, a quarter pint of cream, a small piece of butter and some salt.

Stew it gently ’till the whole seems well done and then put it into a dish.

Strew grated Parmesan cheese over it, and brown it with a salamander or in a Dutch oven. It may be done with gravy instead of cream if preferred.

It actually sounds like a higher end Mac and Cheese than what you get in a box from that very large food company. Just something to think about the next time you have that comfort food, that Jefferson, Washington, Madison all enjoyed the same dish in the same way and there’s a good chance 243 years from now, our descendants will be doing the same.


Drink up and if you have mac and cheese clean up the break room. That’s it for the Watercooler today. As always it’s an open thread


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