Blues Ate My Bread

Written by: Paul Thompson

Primary Source: Thornapple CSA

So picking up right where we left off last week, and switching directions 180° there are reasons why I decided to do another month of food songs this year. I often sit in front of my computer on Sunday mornings listening to songs from my music collection on i-Tunes. I’ve had to struggle with the i-Tunes robot in order to get i-Tunes to cycle through my entire library, but I have figured out a way to get through pretty much everything on there once in a year. This means that I’m periodically reminded of some song that could putatively put forward as a food song, and then I say to myself “Oh, make a note of that. We’ll do a blog on that one when it’s “food songs” month.”

Of course then I don’t make a note of it, and then when food songs month rolls around, I can’t remember any of these songs. I do remember the Robert Johnson classic “Come on into my kitchen because it is going to be raining outside,” but as we’ve said in a number of cases, it’s not entirely clear that this really is a food song, even if I think you could creditably sing it at a “food songs fest”, should you ever decide to have one. And why shouldn’t you. In the same vein but a bit closer to incorporating some legitimate references to food, we could note another blues classic, “That’s Alright, Mama,” by Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup. The version that Paul McCartney recorded for a Sun Records tribute a few years back has this verse:

You snuck up in my kitchen;
Ate up all my bread.
Baby when my back is turned,
You’re diddlin’ in my bed.

It’s possible that Sir Paul improvised this verse with a little inspiration from Lightnin’ Hopkins, because you won’t find it in the classic Elvis Presley version of “That’s Alright, Mama.” I can also attest that you won’t find in 15 or 20 minutes of excruciatingly thorough and painstaking Internet research, so it’s possible that you are finding out that this blues classic is actually a food song for the first time here on the Thornapple Blog. In fact, you won’t even find it in the U-Tube video of McCartney doing “That’s Alright” with Scotty Moore on guitar. Maybe when Sir Paul reads the blog he will add a comment to settle this matter once and for all. Now I can accept the contrary point of view, to wit: this ain’t no food song even with the bread reference. At best it’s a passing reference. But I can tell you that if I were playing in a blues band and it was “food songs” night down at The Green Door, we would certainly include “That’s Alright, ama” in our set, and we would damn sure be singing about bread.

There are, however, more straight out food songs in the world. The Earthworks music collaborative did a whole album of them a few years back called “Something Fresh.” I couldn’t find it on the Earthworks website, so I assume it’s gone out of print, but here’s a link to an Oregon blogger who discovered the album and wrote about when it was something fresh. Unfortunately, while some of the songs on this album do justice to the foods they celebrate, some of them suck. I’m not here to hurt anybody’s feelings so you’ll just have to figure that one out for yourself.

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Paul Thompson
Paul B. Thompson holds the W. K. Kellogg Chair in Agricultural, Food and Community Ethics at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. He formerly held positions in philosophy at Texas A&M University and Purdue University. His research has centered on ethical and philosophical questions associated with agriculture and food, and especially concerning the guidance and development of agricultural technoscience.
Paul Thompson

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