Photo: The Everett Collection
While most top-ten lists of food songs are bombarded with predictable pop selections from the past 50 years (invariably including a Bubble Gum number and "Savoy Truffle" by the Beatles), we've managed to delve much deeper, and come up with a few songs so obscure, you may have never even heard of them. Luckily, some rendition of each lies on YouTube, and most will have you tapping your feet and guffawing before the tune ends.
10. "The Roast Beef of Old England," traditional marching song
This memorable rant against French food ("But since we have learned from all-vapouring France/To eat their ragouts as well as to dance") is the work of Henry Fielding, the 18th-century Englishman who wrote the risqué novel, Tom Jones. The patriotic nature of the lyrics and somber marching cadence may send the wrong kind of shivers down your spine, but who can complain about a tune whose refrain is the gleefully redundant, "Oh! The roast beef of old England/And old English roast beef!"
9. "Sing for Your Supper," The Mamas and the Papas
Though this ditty penned by the songwriting team of Rodgers and Hart first appeared in the musical The Boys from Syracuse (1938), the most memorable rendition is by the Mamas and the Papas. Check out the live performance on YouTube, and you'll see a swaying Mama Cass (who, at age 32, was erroneously reported to have choked to death on a ham sandwich) crooning this romantic and stoic paean to hungry street performers everywhere.
8. "Candy Man," Roy Orbison
There are a dozen well-known songs called "Candy Man" (including a bouncy number from Willy Wonka covered by Sammy Davis, Jr.), but Orbison's is the only one that manages to be tasty and scary at the same time. Referring to his love object as "Sugar," the sinister-sounding protagonist seems confused as to whether he's giving or getting the candy, over a minor-key "vamp" that should make the producers of today's adolescent vampire flicks sit up and take note.
7. "All You Can Eat," The Fat Boys
Despite all ideas about healthy eating, these Brooklyn Beatbox pioneers visit an all-you-can-eat restaurant in the accompanying video and pile their trays high with junk food, promising to "pass lettuce by" in their quest for divine grease and starch. Catchy tune, great lyrics, toe-tapping rhythm -- that's pop!
6. "The Lemon Tree," Trini Lopez
Here's a song that manages to weave a moral fable into a ditty about citrus: "Lemon tree, very pretty, and the lemon flower is sweet/But the fruit of the poor lemon, is impossible to eat." The lyrics represent a father's advice to his tween son, and, if we get the allegory right, it goes something like this: "An attractive girl is like a sour fruit. Though she's very pretty, you're better off avoiding her." Some dad.
5. "Be Our Guest," from Beauty and the Beast
This lavish cartoon production number features a bewildered Belle dazzled and nearly overwhelmed by line-dancing kitchen utensils. Flanked by towering rows of overflowing teapots, is she having a psychotic meltdown as they sing, "Try the gray stuff, it's delicious/If you don't believe me, ask the dishes"? In the end, it's only culinary cabaret, and the tune is supremely memorable -- so memorable that it's already appeared on a slew of TV commercials.
4. "All That Meat and No Potatoes," Fats Waller
This classic 1941 Fats Waller song, seemingly about wartime privations and shortages ("All that meat and no potatoes/Just ain't right, like green tomatoes"), also had a less noble meaning. Apparently, the phrase was then the equivalent of a wolf-whistle, uttered when a woman had a curvy figure but small breasts. Luckily, that meaning has faded into obscurity, and all we have left is a struttin' foodie classic by one of the 20th century's most beloved composers.
3. "Vegetables," The Beach Boys
The original rough recording of this song for the legendary unfinished Smile album featured Paul and Linda McCartney percussively munching on carrots and celery in the background, and the song was clearly intended as a valentine for vegetarianism. The song actually appears on Smiley Smile (1967), with some less enthusiastic crunchers, not including the McCartneys.
2. "Goober Peas," traditional Civil War song
Though the most famous version was done in the 1960s by the Kingston Trio, this very strange song originated during the Civil War. It's told from the perspective of a Georgia militiaman, who relaxes beneath shade trees with his buddies, munching peanuts. But when the commander tells them the Union Army is approaching, they refuse to stop eating peanuts, known colloquially as "goober peas." Is it a war protest song, or just a complaint that "peas, peas, peas, peas" were all they had to eat?
1. "Eat It," Weird Al Yankovic
For the foodie, this hilarious parody of Michael Jackson's Beat It is more memorable than the original, a song told from the perspective of a mother admonishing her recalcitrant child to eat it, or else: "Your table manners are a cryin' shame/You're playin' with your food like it's some kind of game." Amid random burps and slobberings, we get a fascinating catalog of food choices in 1984, and sushi wasn't one of them.