Tag Archives: July 4

The Foods of Yankee Doodle

You might want to listen to this in the background as you read.

Why is Yankee Doodle on the food page? Keep reading. According to information from the Blanchard’s Tavern site, Yankee Doodle, which has become a patriotic theme of America’s Revolutionary War fighters,  was originally an English song that the Redcoats used to make fun of the Americans that they fought beside against the French. The Yankees turned the ridicule on the British as they played it while they marched to defend Lexington–a British defeat.

The Blanchard Tavern

An historic tavern built in 1784 in Avon, Massachusetts, the Blanchard Tavern building still stands, but is no longer open to the public on a daily basis. Check the website if you are interested in seeing the tavern and the neighboring 1820 house.

I love the Library of Congress’ explanation of this musical battle:

Singing a song in Revolutionary America was not necessarily an innocent act. At the time, almost everyone sang in public on occasion, either for entertainment, for worship, or as part of their work. However, songs were also important instruments of satire and mockery. People used them to make fun of public figures, to pass ugly rumors, or to playfully insult their enemies—and sometimes their friends.

Yankee Doodle found its way onto the food pages of Ancestors in Aprons because so many mostly unfamiliar foods are mentioned in the song–not only the mysterious ” stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni” in the American version, but just look at the food references in the British song.

Drum and Fife Corps

Ancient Fyfe and Drum Companie, Sudbury, MA, photo by Joyce Isen

The American Version of Yankee Doodle

Presumably, my ancestor, Samuel Bassett, played this tune on his fife when he marched at Bunker Hill. (I consider him the MOST patriotic of my many patriotic ancestors. See why here.)

We all know the American version of Yankee Doodle (a “doodle” was a fool, or a person very bad at music). Perhaps it is a symbol of American in-your-face optimism and revolutionary spirit that made them steal this song from the British and turn it from an insult into an inspirational song in praise of the Yankee spirit.

Musical NotesYankee Doodle went to town, A-riding on a pony,
Stuck a feather in his cap, And called it macaroni.
Yankee Doodle keep it up, Yankee Doodle dandy,
Mind the music and the step, And with the girls be handy.
Fath’r and I went down to camp, Along with Captain Gooding,
And there we saw the men and boys, As thick as hasty pudding.
[The original goes on with verses like this about fighting.]
And there we saw a thousand men, As rich as Squire David,
And what they wasted every day, I wish it could be saved.
The ‘lasses they eat it every day, Would keep a house a winter;
They have so much, that I’ll be bound, They eat it when they’ve mind ter.

 *Note: You can see many more verses at Wikipedia, including the kids’ version we are more familiar with.

Macaroni:  Not a food reference. Men who wore foppish wigs in the 18th century, wore hats adorned with feathers. Dumb Yankees, the British suggested, didn’t know the difference between a piece of pasta (they were probably thinking more of spaghetti than what we picture as macaroni) and a feather.

Hasty Pudding: Grain (in Britain wheat, in the U.S. corn) cooked into a porridge.

HUNGER: The final stanza here refers to the Yankees deprivation compared to the well-fed British.

The Original British Version, with Explanations.

Musical NotesBrother Ephraim sold his cow, And bought him a commission
And then he went to Canada. To fight for the nation
But when Ephraim he came home, He proved an errant coward
He wouldn’t fight the Frenchmen there. For fear of being devoured.

Sheep’s head and vinegar, Buttermilk and tansy,
Boston is a Yankee town, Sing Hey doodle dandy;
First we’ll take a pinch of snuff, And then a drink of water
And then we’ll say how do you do, And that’s a Yankee supper.

Christmas is a coming boys,We’ll go to Mother Chases
And there we’ll get a sugar dram, Sweetened with molasses.
Heigh ho for our Cape Cod, Heigh ho Nantasket
Donor let the Boston wags, Feel your oyster basket.

Ephraim: A Massachusetts millitiaman colonel killed fighting the British at Lake George was named Ephraim Williams.

 Sheep’s head and vinegar: A cold cut made of meat cut from the head of an animal and pickled in vinegar was called “souse” in Britain. Obviously, people who are eating every part of the animal, are not wealthy enough to throw away the less desirable parts.

Buttermilk and tansy: Soaking the leaves of the tansy herb in buttermilk makes a lotion to whiten the skin or remove freckles.

These references are probably pointing out the poverty of the people in the colonies, since they are followed with the “Yankee supper” of a pinch of snuff and a drink of water.

Sugar Dram, Sweetened with molasses: A dram of rum or whiskey sweetened with molasses would be a popular Colonial cocktail.  Molasses was looked down upon as a poor man’s substitute for refined white sugar, which was rare in early America.

oyster basketThe early settlers had learned from the natives how to harvest oysters. In the late 19th century, oysters were considered a gourmet item–particularly after they could be shipped by rail, preserved on ice. But in the early days of the country, they were eaten simply because they were available. But this verse has a more scatalogical twist to it as well. (Hint: on ranches they still have “oyster fries” after neutering calves.) You can see the literal oyster basket here, but I won’t picture the other one.

Here’s an original song sheet of the American version, from the collection of the Library of Congress.  You will notice that the emphasis has changed from the mockery of the low-class Yankees to a positive focus on the strength of their resistance.

Yankee Doodle song sheet

Original Yankee Doodle song sheet from the Library of Congress.


A True Patriot: Samuel Bassett, a Fifer

Revolutionary Ancestors

Samuel Bassett,  (1754-1834) showed that even a fifer can be a hero. When I read his story I am so proud to be descended from a man of his strength of character and modesty.

…as I entered the army from patriotic motives, I felt unwilling to apply to my country for relief.
Drum and Fife Corps like Samuel Bassett.

Ancient Fyfe and Drum Companie, Sudbury, MA, photo by Joyce Isen

Born in Norton, Massachusetts in 1754, already the sixth generation of Bassetts in the new world, Samuel Bassett was one of many of my New England ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War.  But his story touched me more than most.

I have given the background of Samuel Bassett’s town, Keene, New Hampshire, and his involvement in the Revolution, already, but I think his story is more effective told by Samuel himself. The historian’s account that you can read here, minimized the damage of his wound–calling it a superficial flesh wound.  Samuel’s own words tell a different story. There are two pension applications in his file, and this one, filed in 1826– when he would have been seventy-two years old– tells his story fifty years after his service to the country.

I Samuel Bassett of Keene in the county of Cheshire, state of New Hampshire, on oath depose that on April 1775 on hearing of the battle of Lexington I with about thirty others started from this place for the vicinity of Boston.  Soon after my arrival at Cambridge, I entered into the Company commanded by Capt. Samuel Stiles in Stark’s regiment to serve for eight months.

On the 17th of June, the day of the battle of Bunker Hill, I was ordered on to the hill as part of a reinforcements.  I arrived in season to take part in the battle but after a short time the vitriol began.  While nitrating, I was wounded by a musket ball which as I raised my right foot, entered my thigh midway above the knee and lodged in the knee.  The ball remained there four months and four days and was then extracted.  The wound was very painful, and for several months I could not walk without assistance and it has always been very painful.

At the time others obtained pensions, I was often told that I might obtain one, and advised to make application and the reason I did not then apply, and have not before applied is that at that time a prejudice existed against such as applied for pensions who could possibly live without it and as I entered the army from patriotic motives, I felt unwilling to apply to my country for relief. As I grow older, the disability increases–the wound is frequently very painful, depriving me of sleep and prevents me in a great degree from performing my daily labor. And I now feel under the necessity of applying to my country for assistance.

Since 1776, I have lived either in Keene or Packersfield near Roxbury and my occupation has been that of house joiner. I am not on the pension list of any state and recieve no pension whatever.

Another application, that looks like it was an interview, specifies companies he served in through his dismissal on the last day of December in 1776, and adds, “was a Fifer in all this process.”

In 1777 he was back under a different command and “marched to Mount Independence near Ticonderoga in April.” He testifies that he recollects “General Washington, General Putnam, Major Moore who was killed in the Battle of Bunker Hill and Col. John Thomas Dixon.”

Samuel Bassett was awarded $6 a month 3/4 disability pension, with arrears of $37.17. Twelve years later, after he died, his widow was awarded $18.39 a month widow’s pension with an arrears of $83.87.

Thank you, grandfather Samuel Bassett, for your part in building our country.

July 4 : A Slice of My Life

U.S. Flag in front of our house

Happy July 4

The picture above is of the flag in front of our house against a stormy sky. July 4 is the traditional start of the summer storms in southern Arizona, and hanging the flag is sometimes a dicey affair, if you want to bring it in before the rain starts. Likewise, the public fireworks displays routinely get canceled because of high fire danger.

I can’t say for sure how all my ancestors celebrated the 4th of July, but it was probably the traditional Parade, Political speeches and Picnic. I do know that I had ancestors who served in the Revolutionary Army, and signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution .  We’ll get around to their stories later, but imagine they were feeling like John Adams when he wrote to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776:

Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony “that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States,  and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.”  You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impell’d  Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days.

Later the same day, Adams wrote:

But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

Although the new country took his advice in celebrating with pomp and parade, shows, bells, bonfires, guns (now fireworks representing guns) and illuminations–the date that became enshrined in history was not July 2, the date of the vote to declare independence, but July 4, the date of the acceptance of the written Declaration of Independence. John Adams didn’t mention speeches specifically, but they became a tradition of July 4 gatherings. You can find much information about the early celebration of Independence Day in the book written by James R. Heintze. American University, Washington, D.C .

For Independence Day, 2013, here’s a look back to a parade of celebration only about 50 years ago, when our country was 180 years old.

When we lived in Scottsdale, I  belonged to the Scottsdale Junior Women’s Club (a Federated Woman’s Club) and we sponsored a children’s parade each July 4. Kids came with wagons and strollers and bicycles all decorated with red white and blue and some of us dressed in colonial costume, or as Statue of Liberty.  Here’s me with Brent one year and Brent the following year.

July 4 parade, 1965

Vera Marie and Brent Badertscher, Scottsdale July 4 parade, 1965

July 4, 1966 Brent Badertscher

Brent Badertscher, Scottsdale Parade, July 4 1966, Az Republic

Enjoy your July 4 ice cream!

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