Winnie the Pooh Went Into the Public Domain, and Someone Already Turned the Story Into a Slasher Film: Watch the Trailer for Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey

Deep in the Hundred Acre Wood

Where Christopher Robin plays

You’ll find the enchanted neighborhood

Of Christopher’s childhood days…

Those sweetly sentimental lyrics were penned not by A.A. Milne, creator of Winnie-The-Pooh but rather the Academy-Award winning songwriting team of brothers Robert and Richard Sherman, who also penned the scores of Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Jungle Book.

If you are under the age of 60, chances are your concept of Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga, Roo, Owl, Rabbit and Tigger is informed by Winnie the Pooh and Honey Tree, the 1966 Disney cartoon that launched a successful franchise, not E.H. Shepherd’s charming illustrations for the 1926 book, Winnie the Pooh, which entered the public domain this year.


This means that Milne’s work can be freely reproduced or reworked, though Disney retains the copyright to their animated character designs.

Jennifer Jenkins, director of the Center for the Study of the Public Domain at Duke University, told the Washington Post that the bulk of the inquiries she fielded in the lead up to 2022’s public domain titles becoming available had to do with Winnie the Pooh:

I can’t get over how people are freaking out about Winnie-the-Pooh in a good way. Everyone has a very specific story of the first time they read it or their parents gave them a doll or they [have] stories about their kids…It’s the Ted Lasso effect.We need a window into a world where people or animals behave with decency to one another.”

Ummm…

Judging by the trailer for their upcoming live action, low budget feature, Winnie the Pooh: Blood and Honey, Jagged Edge, a London-based horror production company, is not much interested in Ted Lasso good vibes, though they do manage to stay within the limits of the law, equipping a black clad Piglet with threatening tusks, and dressing the titular “silly old bear” in a red shirt that doesn’t exactly scream Tummy Song.

More like Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

Producer-Director Rhys Frake-Waterfield whose as-yet-unreleased credits include Peter Pan’s Neverland Nightmare and Spiders on a Plane told Variety that “we did as much as we could to make sure [the film] was only based on the 1926 version:”

When you see the cover for this and you see the trailers and the stills and all that, there’s no way anyone is going to think this is a child’s version of it.

Here’s hoping he’s right.

The trailer traffics freely in slasher flick tropes:

A bikini clad young woman relaxing, obliviously, in a hot tub.

A hand held camera tracking a desperate, and probably doomed, escape attempt through the woods.

Unnerving warnings written in blood (or possibly honey?)

The childish scrawl on the sign demarcating the 100 Acre Wood is both faithful to the original, and unmistakably sinister.

Equally disturbing is the lettering on Eeyore’s homemade grave marker. (SPOILER: as per Variety, a starving Pooh and Piglet ate him…and apparently discarded a human skull nearby.)

The “enchanted neighborhood of Christopher’s childhood days” has gone decidedly downhill.

Director Frake-Waterfield paints Pooh and Piglet as the primary villains, but surely the college-bound Christopher Robin deserves some of the blame for abandoning his old friends.

On the other hand, when a college-bound Andy tossed his beloved childhood playthings in a giveaway box at the beginning of Toy Story 3, Buzz and Woody did not go on a murderous rampage.

As Frake-Waterfield described Pooh and Piglet’s devolution to HuffPost:

Because they’ve had to fend for themselves so much, they’ve essentially become feral. So they’ve gone back to their animal roots. They’re no longer tame: they’re like a vicious bear and pig who want to go around and try and find prey.

An interview with Dread Central offers a graphic taste of the violent mayhem they inflict, even as Christopher Robin, as clueless as a bikini clad innocent in a hot tub, bleats, “We used to be friends, why are you doing this!?”

Unsurprisingly, the film’s tagline is “This Ain’t No Bedtime Story.”

View production photos, if you dare, here.

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto Her allegiance has long been with the 1926 version. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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Dolly Parton Reads Free Bedtime Stories to Kids: Watch Readings from Goodnight with Dolly

However old you may be, you’re never too old to have a children’s book read aloud to you by a pajama clad Dolly Parton.

So snuggle up!

Every episode of Goodnight with Dolly finds the country music icon in bed, glamorously made up as ever, reading glasses perched on her nose.

She introduces herself not as Dolly Parton, but the Book Lady, an honorific bestowed by the child beneficiaries of the Imagination Library, the non-profit she founded in 1995 to foster children’s love of books and reading.


The selections are all titles that Imagination Library participants have received free in the mail, with the Book Lady’s compliments.

Once things get rolling, the camera shifts to the illustrations, with Dolly’s zesty narration as voice over.

She lowers her voice to play Grandpa in the late Floyd Cooper’s Max and the Tag-Along Moon and the freight train in the 90th anniversary edition of Watty Piper’s The Little Engine That Could.

If her dramatic recitations occasionally include a bungled preposition, we can’t imagine authors taking umbrage.

In addition to the millions of children who benefit from Imagination Library membership, authors and illustrators whose titles selected for inclusion reap incredible rewards in the form of increased visibility, sales, status, and of course, the good feeling that comes from being part of such a worthy project.

And we sincerely hope even the prickliest grammar sticklers won’t blow a gasket over the odd “ain’t” and regionalisms born of Dolly’s East Tennessee mountain roots. In addition to coming from an authentic place, they’re delivered with a lot of heart and zero affect.

Though a word of caution to parents planning to let Dolly take over tonight: the series may be billed as bedtime stories, but Parton’s mischievous sense of humor is liable to have a non-soporific effect.

“Are you still awake?” she crows directly into the camera after There’s a Hole in the Log on the Bottom of the Lake, author-illustrator Loren Long’s crowd pleasing comic spin on the cumulative camp song staple. “I want to throw you in a lake if you don’t get in bed!”

The Book Lady is also fond of sharing a high energy snippet of whatever song the evening’s tale has put her in mind of.

Matt de la Peña’s Last Stop on Market Street, with award winning illustrations by Christian Robinson, inspires a few lines from Poor Folks Town, from 1972.

Come on down

Have a look around

Rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

We got no money but we’re rich in love

That’s one thing that we’ve got a-plenty of

So come on down have a look around

At rich folks livin’ in a poor folks town

(“If that won’t put you to sleep, I don’t know what will,” she teases, after.)

After Dolly bids her listeners goodnight, the book’s author or illustrator is usually given a chance to have a word with the parents or caregivers, to stress how reading aloud deepens familial bonds and share childhood memories of being read to.

De la Peña, whose book features a grandmother pointing out the sort of non-monetary riches Dolly’s mother also valued, takes the opportunity to thank the self-effacing star’s efforts to “reach working class communities” – presumably through representation, as well as books intended to cultivate a lifelong love of reading.

Enjoy a playlist of Goodnight with Dolly episodes here.

Learn more about the Imagination Library here.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

 

Hear the World’s Oldest Known Song, “Hurrian Hymn No. 6” Written 3,400 Years Ago

Do you like old timey music?

Splendid.

You can’t get more old timey than Hurrian Hymn No. 6, which was discovered on a clay tablet in the ancient Syrian port city of Ugarit in the 1950s, and is over 3400 year old.

Actually, you can – a similar tablet making reference to Lipit-Ishtar, a hymn glorifying the 5th king of the First Dynasty of Isin, in what is now Iraq, is older by some 600 years, but as CMUSE reports, it “contains little more than tuning instructions for the lyre.”


Hurrian Hymn No. 6 offers meatier content, and unlike five other tablets discovered in the same location, is sufficiently well preserved to allow archeologists, and others, to take a crack at reconstructing its song, though it was by no means easy.

University of California emeritus professor of Assyriology Anne Kilmer spent 15 years researching the tablet, before transcribing it into modern musical notation in 1972.

Hers is one of several interpretations YouTuber hochelaga samples in the above video.

While the original tablet gives specific details on how the musician should place their fingers on the lyre, other elements, like tuning or how long notes should be held, are absent, giving modern arrangers some room for creativity.

Below archaeomusicologist Richard Dumbrill explains his interpretation from 1998, in which vocalist Lara Jokhader assumes the part of a young woman privately appealing to the goddess Nikkal to make her fertile:

Here’s a particularly lovely classical guitar spin, courtesy of Syrian musicologist Raoul Vitale and composer Feras Rada

And a haunting piano version, by Syrian-American composer Malek Jandali, founder of Pianos for Peace:

And who can resist a chance to hear Hurrian Hymn No. 6 on a replica of an ancient lyre by “new ancestral” composer Michael Levy, who considers it his musical mission to “open a portal to a time that has been all but forgotten:”

 I dream to rekindle the very spirit of our ancient ancestors. To capture, for just a few moments, a time when people imagined the fabric of the universe was woven from harmonies and notes. To luxuriate in a gentler time when the fragility of life was truly appreciated and its every action was performed in the almighty sense of awe felt for the ancient gods.

Samurai Guitarist Steve Onotera channels the mystery of antiquity too, by combining Dr. Dumbrill’s melody with Dr. Kilmer’s, trying and discarding a number of approaches – synthwave, lo-fi hip hop, reggae dub (“an absolute disaster”) – before deciding it was best rendered as a solo for his Fender electric.

Amaranth Publishing has several MIDI files of Hurrian Hymn No 6, including Dr. Kilmer’s, that you can download for free here.

Open them in the music notation software program of your choice, and should it please the goddess, perhaps yours will be the next interpretation of Hurrian Hymn No. 6 to be featured here on Open Culture

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library Has Given Away 186 Million Free Books to Kids, Boosting Literacy Worldwide

Dolly Parton created her Imagination Library, a non-profit which gives books to millions of children every month, with her father, Robert Lee Parton, in mind.

“I always thought that if Daddy had an education, there’s no telling what he could have been,” she mused in her 2020 book, Songteller: My Life in Lyrics:

Because he knew how to barter, he knew how to bargain. He knew how to make everything work, and he knew how to count money. He knew exactly what everything was worth, how much he was going to make from that tobacco crop, what he could trade, and how he could make it all work

Despite his business acumen, Parton’s father never learned to read or write, a source of shame.


Parton explains how there was a time when schooling was never considered a given for children in the mountains of East Tennessee, particularly for those like her father, who came from a family of 15:

Kids had to go to work in the fields to help feed the family. Because of the weather and because of conditions, a lot of kids couldn’t go to school.

I told him, “Daddy, there are probably millions of people in this world who don’t know how to read and write, who didn’t get the opportunity. Don’t be ashamed of that. Let’s do something special.”

Parton is convinced that her father, whose pride in her musical accomplishments was so great he drove over with a bucket of soapy water to clean the bronze statue her hometown erected in her honor, was prouder still of a nickname bestowed on her by the Imagination Library’s child beneficiaries – the Book Lady.

Together with the community partners who secure funding for postage and non-administrative costs, the Book Lady has given away some 186,680,000 books since the project launched in 1995.

Originally limited to children residing in Sevier County, Tennessee, the program has expanded to serve over 2,000,000 kids in the US, UK, Australia, Canada and the Republic of Ireland.

Participation can start well before a child is old enough to attempt their ABCs. Parents and guardians are encouraged to enroll them at birth.

The Imagination Library’s littlest participants’ love of books is fostered with colorful illustrations and simple texts, often rhymes having to do with animals or bedtime.

By the time a reader hits their final year of the program at age 5, the focus will have shifted to school readiness, with subjects including science, folktales, and poetry.

The books – all Penguin Random House titles – are chosen by a panel of early childhood literacy experts. 

This year’s selection includes such old favorites as The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Good Night, Gorilla, and The Snowy Day, as well as Parton’s own Coat of Many Colors, based on the song in which she famously paid tribute to her mother’s tender resourcefulness:

Back through the years

I go wonderin’ once again

Back to the seasons of my youth

I recall a box of rags that someone gave us

And how my momma put the rags to use

There were rags of many colors

Every piece was small

And I didn’t have a coat

And it was way down in the fall

Momma sewed the rags together

Sewin’ every piece with love

She made my coat of many colors

That I was so proud of

The Imagination Library is clearly a boon to children living, as Parton once did, in poverty, but participation is open to anyone under age 5 living in an area served by an Imagination Library affiliate.

Promoting early engagement with books in such a significant way has also helped Parton to reduce some of the stigma surrounding illiteracy:

You don’t really realize how many people can’t read and write. Me telling the story about my daddy instilled some pride in people who felt like they had to keep it hidden like a secret. I get so many letters from people saying, “I would never had admitted it’ or “I was always ashamed.”

Learn more about Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, which welcomes donations and inquiries from those who would like to start an affiliate program in their area, here.

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Behold a Secret Gallery of Art Created Using Discarded Gum on London’s Millennium Bridge

Throughout history, determined artists have worked on available surfaces – scrap wood, cardboard, walls…

Ben Wilson has created thousands of works using chewing gum as his canvas.

Specifically, chewing gum spat out by careless strangers.


His work has become a defining featuring of London’s Millennium Bridge, a modern structure spanning the Thames, and connecting such South Bank attractions as Tate Modern and the Shakespeare’s Globe with St. Paul’s Cathedral to the north.

A 2021 profile in The Guardian documents the creation process:

The technique is very precise. He first softens the oval of flattened gum a little with a blowtorch, sprays it with lacquer and then applies three coats of acrylic enamel, usually to a design from his latest book of requests that come from people who stop and crouch and talk. He uses tiny modelers’ brushes, quick-drying his work with a lighter flame as he goes along, and then seals it with more lacquer. Each painting takes a few hours and can last for many years.

Unsurprisingly, Wilson works very, very small.

For every Millennium Bridge pedestrian who’s hip to the ever-evolving solo exhibition underfoot, there are several hundred who remain completely oblivious.

Stoop to admire a miniature portrait, abstract, or commemorative work, and the bulk of your fellow pedestrians will give you a wide berth, though every now and then a concerned or curious party will stop to see what the deal is.

Wilson, who works sprawled on the bridge’s metal treads, his nose close to touching his tiny, untraditional canvas, receives a similar response, as described in Zachary Denman’s short documentary, above:

They make think I’ve fallen over and they may think I’ve had a cardiac arrest or something, so I’ve had lots of ambulances turning up…I’ve had loads of police.

His subjects are suggested by the shape of the spat out gum, by friends, by strangers who stop to watch him work:

I’ve had to deal with people memorializing people who have been murdered. People who have been so lonely, or remembering favorite pets; people who are destitute in all sorts of ways. It goes from proposal pictures, ‘Will you marry me?’, to people who I drew when they were kids and they now have their own kids.

Like any street artist, Wilson’s had his share of run ins with the law, including a wrongful 2010 arrest for criminal damage, when a crowd of schoolchildren who’d been enthusiastically watching an itty bitty St. Pauls taking shape on a blob of gum witnessed him being dragged off by his feet. (He asked if he could finish the picture first…)

He may not get permission to create the public works he goes out daily to create, but he contributes by clearing the area of litter, and as he points out, painting on discarded gum doesn’t constitute defacing anyone’s actual property:

Technically in one sense, I’m working within the law …if I paint on chewing gum, it’s like finding No Man’s Land or common ground. It’s a space which is not under the jurisdiction of a local or national government.











See more of Ben Wilson’s work in his online Gum Gallery.

Photos in this article taken by Ayun Halliday, 2022. All rights reserved.

Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Behold! A Medieval Graphic Novel Carved on an 14th Century Ivory Box

The Châtelaine de Vergy, a courtly romance that was wildly popular in the mid-13th century, would’ve made a crowd pleasing graphic novel adaptation. It’s got sex, treachery, a trio of violent deaths, and a cute pup in a supporting role.

Seeing as how the form had yet to be invented, medieval audiences got the next best thing – a Gothic ivory casket on which the story is rendered as a series of carved pictures that start on the lid and wrap around the sides.


In an earlier video for the British Museum’s Curator’s Corner series, Late Medieval Collections Curator Naomi Speakman admitted that the purpose of such deluxe caskets is difficult to pin down. Were they tokens from one lover to another? Wedding gifts? Jewelry boxes? Document cases?

Unclear, but the intricate carvings’ narrative has definitely been identified as that of The Châtelaine de Vergy, a steamy secular alternative to the religious scenes whose depiction consumed a fair number of medieval elephant tusks.

In addition to the early-14th century example in the British Museum’s collection, the Courtauld Institute of Art’s Gothic Ivories database catalogues a number of other medieval caskets and casket fragments depicting The Châtelaine de Vergi, currently housed in museums in Milan, Florence, Paris, Vienna, New York City and Kansas.

A very graphic novelesque conceit Speakman points to in the British Museum’s casket finds the Duke of Burgundy breaking the frame (to use comics terminology), reaching behind the gutter to help himself to the sword the Châtelaine’s knightly lover has just plunged into his own breast.

Peer around to the far side of the casket to find out what the Duke intends to do with that sword. It’s a shocker that silences the trumpets, quiets the dancing ladies, and might even have laid ground for a sequel: Chatelaine: The Duke’s Wrath.

Read Eugene Mason’s early 20th century translation of The Chatelaine of Vergi here.

Watch more episodes of the British Museum’s Curator’s Corner here.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

The Oldest House in New York City: Meet the Wyckoff House (1652)

Most 21st-century Brooklyn public elementary schoolers have taken or will take a field trip to the Wyckoff House, a modest wooden cabin surrounded by tire shops and fast food outlets.

The oldest building in NYC by a longshot, it was also the first structure in the five boroughs to achieve historic landmark status.

Primary sources place the original occupants, Pieter Claesen Wyckoff and his wife, Grietje Van Ness-Wyckoff, in the original part of the house around 1652. A single room with a packed earth floor, unglazed windows, a large open hearth, and doors at either end, it would have been pretty tight quarters for a family of 13, as host Thijs Roes of the history series New Netherland Now notes, during his above tour of the premises.


Two parlors were added in the 18th-century, and three bedrooms in the early 19th. Typical Dutch Colonial features include an H frame structure, shingled walls, split Dutch doors, and deep, flared “spring” eaves.

Its survival is a miracle in a metropolis known for its constant flux.

In the early 20th-century, descendants of Pieter and Grietje partnered with community activists to save the home from demolition, eventually donating it to the New York City Parks Department.

A late 70s fire (possibly not the first) necessitated major renovations. (And last year, flooding from Hurricane Ida clobbered its HVAC and electrical system, putting a temporary kibosh on public visits to the interior.)

Back in 2015, Roes’ companion, architectural historian Heleen Westerhuijs, was invited to inspect the attic, where she discovered impressive original beams alongside 20th-century reinforcements.

While the directors of the homestead actively recognize the community that now surrounds it with events like an upcoming celebration of Haitian culture and Vodou, and hands on activities include urban farming and composting, the original settlers of New Netherland (aka New Amsterdam, aka New York City) remain a major focus.

Any American or Canadian with the surname Wyckoff (or one of its more than 50 variants) can and should consider it their ancestral home, as they are almost certainly descended from Pieter and Grietje. While many thousands now bear the name, Pieter was the first. Volunteer genealogist Lynn Wyckoff explains:

After the English assumed control of New Netherland, residents practicing patronymics (a naming system that utilized one’s father’s name in place of a surname) were required to adopt, or freeze, surnames that could be passed down each generation. Pieter Claesen chose the name Wykhof, which most of his descendants have spelled Wyckoff. Despite many unfounded claims over the years regarding both Pieter’s ancestry and choice of surname, there is no record of Pieter’s parentage; but there is substantial evidence that he chose the name Wykhof in recognition of a farm by the same name outside of Marienhafe, Germany where his family were likely tenants.

A handful of Wyckoff family members left comments on the New Netherland Now video, including Donald, who wrote of his visit:

It was an odd  feeling to touch the hand-hewn surface of a supporting beam cut and installed by my ancestor, hundreds of years ago.  Since I am a Wyckoff, I was allowed to see some of the “off tour” bits of the house.  I live over 3k miles away, so my feet will probably never touch the ground there again.  But I’m glad NY and a lot of wonderful people have maintained my ancestral home so well and for so many years.  Hopefully it has many hundreds of years of life remaining so that people can recall a time when Flatbush was more of a farm than a city.

If you are a Wyckoff (or one of its variants), you’re invited to keep the Wyckoff Association’s family tree up to date by sending word of births, deaths, marriages, and any pertinent genealogical details such as education, military service, profession, places of residence and the like.

Explore a collection of educational activities, lessons, and color pages related to the Wyckoff House here.

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Ayun Halliday is the author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Her family’s trips to the Wyckoff House were included in the latest, NYC museum-themed issue of her zine, the East Village Inky. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Julia Child Shows Fred Rogers How to Make a Quick & Delicious Pasta Dish (1974)

Julia Child and Fred Rogers were titans of public television, celebrated for their natural warmth, the ease with which they delivered important lessons to home viewers, and, for a certain sector of the viewing public, how readily their personalities lent themself to parody.

Child’s cooking program, The French Chef, debuted in 1963, and Roger’s much beloved children’s show, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, followed five years later.

Rogers occasionally invited accomplished celebrities to join him for segments wherein they demonstrated their particular talents:

With our guest’s help, I have been able to show a wide diversity of self-expression, the extraordinary range of human potential. I want children and their families to know that there are many constructive ways to express who they are and how they feel. 

In 1974, Child paid a call to the neighborhood bakery presided over by “Chef” Don Brockett  (whose later credits included a cameo as a “Friendly Psychopath” in Silence of the Lambs…)

The easy-to-prepare pasta dish she teaches Rogers – and, by extension, his “television friend” – to make takes a surprisingly optimistic view of the average pre-school palate.


Red sauce gets a hard pass, in favor of a more sophisticated blend of flavors stemming from tuna, black olives, and pimentos.

Brockett provides an assist with both the cooking and, more importantly, the child safety rules that aren’t always front and center with this celebrity guest.

Child, who had no offspring, comes off as a high-spirited, loosey-goosey, fun aunt, encouraging child viewers to toss the cooked spaghetti “fairly high” after adding butter and oil “because it’s dramatic” and talking as if they’ll be hitting the supermarket solo, a flattering notion to any tot whose refrain is “I do it mySELF!”

She wisely reframes tasks assigned to bigger, more experienced hand – boiling water, knife work – as less exciting than “the fancy business at the end”, and makes it stick by suggesting that the kids “order the grown ups to do what you want done,” a verb choice the ever-respectful Rogers likely would have avoided.

As with The French Chef, her off-the-cuff remarks are a major source of delight.

Watching his guest wipe a wooden cutting board with olive oil, Rogers observes that some of his friends “could do this very well,” to which she replies:

It’s also good for your hands ‘coz it keeps ‘em nice and soft, so rub any excess into your hands.

She shares a bit of stage set scuttlebutt regarding a letter from “some woman” who complained that the off-camera wastebasket made it appear that Child was discarding peels and stems onto the floor.

She said, “Do you think this is a nice way to show young people how to cook, to throw things on the floor!?” And I said, “Well, I have a self cleaning floor! …The self cleaning is me.”

(Rogers appears both amused and relieved when the ultimate punchline steers things back to the realm of good manners and personal responsibility.)

Transferring the slippery pre-cooked noodles from pot to serving bowl, Child reminisces about a wonderful old movie in which someone – “Charlie Chaplin or was it, I guess it was, uh, it wasn’t Mickey Rooney, maybe it was…” – eats spaghetti through a funnel.

If only the Internet had existed in 1974 so intrigued parents could have Googled their way to the Noodle Break at the Bull Pup Cafe sequence from 1918’s The Cook, starring Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle and Buster Keaton!

The funnel is but one of many inspired silent spaghetti gags in this surefire don’t-try-this-at-home kid-pleaser.

We learn that Child named her dish Spaghetti Marco Polo in a nod to a widely circulated theory that pasta originated in China and was introduced to Italy by the explorer, a bit of lore food writer Tori Avey of The History Kitchen finds difficult to swallow:

A common belief about pasta is that it was brought to Italy from China by Marco Polo during the 13th century. In his book, The Travels of Marco Polo, there is a passage that briefly mentions his introduction to a plant that produced flour (possibly a breadfruit tree). The Chinese used this plant to create a meal similar to barley flour. The barley-like meal Polo mentioned was used to make several pasta-like dishes, including one described as lagana (lasagna). Since Polo’s original text no longer exists, the book relies heavily on retellings by various authors and experts. This, combined with the fact that pasta was already gaining popularity in other areas of Italy during the 13th-century, makes it very unlikely that Marco Polo was the first to introduce pasta to Italy.

Ah well.

We’re glad Child went with the China theory as it provides an excuse to eat spaghetti with chopsticks.

Nothing is more day-making than seeing Julia Child pop a small bundle of spaghetti directly into Fred Rogers’ mouth from the tips of her chopsticks…though after using the same implements to feed some to Chef Brockett too, she realizes that this wasn’t the best lesson in food hygiene.

In 2021, this sort of boo-boo would result in an automatic reshoot.

In the wilder, woolier 70s, a more pressing concern, at least as far as public television was concerned, was expanding little Americans’ worldview, in part by showing them how to get a commanding grip on their chopsticks. It’s never too late to learn.

Bon appétit!

JULIA CHILD’S SPAGHETTI MARCO POLO

There are a number of variations online, but this recipe, from Food.com, hews closely to Child’s original, while providing measurements for her eyeballed amounts.

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS 

1 lb spaghetti 

2 tablespoons butter 

2 tablespoons olive oil 

1 teaspoon salt black pepper 

1 6-ounce can tuna packed in oil, flaked, undrained 

2 tablespoons pimiento, diced or 2 tablespoons roasted red peppers, sliced into strips 

2 tablespoons green onions with tops, sliced 

2 tablespoons black olives, sliced 

2 tablespoons walnuts, chopped

1 cup Swiss cheese, shredded 

2 tablespoons fresh parsley or 2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

Cook pasta according to package directions. 

Drain pasta and return to pot, stirring in butter, olive oil, and salt and pepper. 

Toss with remaining ingredients and serve, garnished with parsley or cilantro.

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Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto.  Follow her @AyunHalliday.

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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.