Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice: Top 5 Songs About Sugar, Spices & Herbs
While pondering the "Top 5 Songs about Food"...I figured, why not be a little more specific? I mean, I'm sure there are 5 different songs about ice cream, or cheeseburgers, or chicken or candy (all in good time, my pretties...). Wanting to highlight some of the building blocks of cooking, today I give you the "Top 5 Songs about Sugar, Spices and Herbs". Maybe they're not about sugar, spices and herbs, but they're mentioned, and that's okay by me. Round up your favorites from the spice rack, don your best silk scarf and get ready to do your best Jagger.
Don't you love the smell of fresh rosemary? Most commonly used in Mediterranean cuisine, rosemary is a versatile herb, great with chicken, pork, breads and sauces. Rosemary-infused vodka? Yes, please! Edison Lighthouse happens to be singing about a girl...a seemingly rather disheveled girl, according to the lyrics. In this pop-tastic tune they sing, "Her clothes are kinda funny, her hair is kinda wild and free... She talks kinda lazy and people say she she's crazy..." Crazy...but somehow, she still gets the dudes. Good for you, Rosemary.
Strawberry Alarm Clock
photo: Bradley Loos
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, "Peppermint (Mentha piperita), a popular flavoring for gum, toothpaste, and tea, is also used to soothe an upset stomach or to aid in digestion." Strawberry Alarm Clock probably isn't singing about peppermint. It may just be nonsensical psychedelic rock and we have to accept it as such. You know what I think of when I hear this song? Drugs. This band also has a song called "Rainy Day Mushroom Pillow." How else could you explain that?
Neil Young, Devendra Banhart's muse.
3) "Cinnamon Girl" - Neil Young (1969)
Cinnamon is one of the most popular spices in the world. We sprinkle it on toast and in lattes, it's a common ingredient in baking, and I use it in stove-top potpourri during the holidays. Some research has found that it can even lower blood sugar and cholesterol. Neil Young, however, is not singing about this beloved spice. Again, as with most songs, the true meaning is only known to the songwriter. Neil has never really said who the Cinnamon Girl is, but then he has also admitted he "...wrote this for a city girl on peeling pavement coming at me thru Phil Ochs eyes playing finger cymbals. It was hard to explain to my wife." Whatever that may mean, I don't question the man who wrote "Heart of Gold."
The Rolling Stones
2) "Brown Sugar" - The Rolling Stones (1971) (Here's where you do your best Jagger.)
Fact: Brown sugar gets its distinctive color and flavor from the presence of molasses, and this song has absolutely nothing to do with brown sugar aside from the title. It doesn't so much make me want to bake as dance my ass off, so I couldn't leave this one off the list. 1960s singer, model and actress Marsha Hunt (mother of Mick Jagger's eldest daughter, Karis Jagger) has admitted several times that "Brown Sugar" was written about her. "Brown Sugar how come you taste so good, Brown Sugar just like a young girl should..." We get it Mick, we get it.
Simon & Garfunkel (I'm sorry, but is that Paul Simon or Gallagher?)
1) "Scarborough Fair" - Simon & Garfunkel (1966)
This was the first that came to mind when I thought of songs mentioning herbs and spices. After doing a little web-digging, I learned the meaning of this Simon and Garfunkel song has long been a topic of debate. The song is similar to a Scottish ballad that can be traced back as far as 1670. Some say the herbs, each with their own significance, were to medieval folks what roses are to us; a display of affection. Some say the song refers to the black plague, with parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme being four herbs used to ward off the smell of the dead or dying. It doesn't make me think of the plague as much as The Graduate.
Since my top 5 were all released between 1966 and 1971, I'm going to guess that singing about herbs and spices was a way of expressing free love while rejecting the establishment. Can you think of any other or more recent songs that mention sugars, spices or herbs? If so, leave them in the comments section.
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