The Barenaked Ladies are eclectic, all-male singing group from Canada. Their most well-known song, “One Week,” topped the Billboard Hot 100 list in the fall of 1998. But you may be familiar with another of their songs, titled “If I Had One Million Dollars.” The song, which was an early staple of the band’s live shows, is a somewhat-silly discussion of the types of things bandmates would buy for their would-be loves if they were only rich enough to do so. You can read all the lyrics here and you’ll see what I mean — the group imagines purchasing a tree fort outfitted with a tiny fridge; a Picasso; a chesterfield (that’s a couch, for non-Canadians); a monkey; and, relevant to our purposes, Kraft Dinner, pictured above. You can listen to that section of the lyrics here, and to get a real feel for that part of the song, you really should. But here’s the relevant text, just in case.
If I had a million dollars
We wouldn’t have to eat Kraft dinner
But we would eat Kraft dinner.
Of course we would, we’d just eat more. And buy really expensive ketchups with it.
That’s right, all the fanciest ket–Dijon ketchup.
Kind of silly, yes, but it’s not as crazy as you’d think, especially if you’re a non-Canadian. Kraft Dinner — which is what Americans call Kraft Macaroni and Cheese — is a big, big deal in Canada. Wikipedia explains:
Kraft Dinner has been called the de facto national dish of Canada. Packaged in Quebec with Canadian wheat and milk, and other ingredients from Canada and the US, Canadians purchase 1.7 million of the 7 million boxes sold globally each week and eat an average of 3.2 boxes of Kraft Dinner each year, 55% more than Americans. The meal is the most popular grocery item in the country, where “Kraft Dinner” has iconic status and has become a generic trademark of sorts for macaroni and cheese. It is often simply referred to by the initials K.D.
So yeah, if the Barenaked Ladies had a million dollars, they’d still eat KD. They’d just eat more of it, as the lyrics state. (Let’s ignore the adding ketchup up stuff — that’s just gross.) After all, one can never have enough Kraft Dinner.
Well, actually, the Barenaked Ladies learned that one kind of can have too much KD.
In 1991, a fan had a not-so-great but funny idea. At a show in Toronto, when the band reached the line about Kraft Dinner, the fan decided to send a box flying toward the stage. The idea proved popular — but destructive. Wikipedia recounts the problems:
It became so bad that eventually hundreds of boxes were pelted at shows; the band and their instruments were often the target. Especially unpleasant were open cheese packages, which would create a putrid aroma when sitting on stage under hot spotlights. Some diehard fans would go one step further and throw cooked pasta. Eventually, BNL requested that fans cease the Kraft Dinner throwing ritual, and instead donate the food via bins set up in the lobbies of their shows for local food banks. Security occasionally checks incoming concert-goers for boxes, though the practice almost entirely subsided by the late 2000s. The campaign spawned the fan slogan, “those in the know don’t throw.”
Despite the band’s pleas for an end to the flying powdery cheese and pasta menace, some fans persist; here’s a video from a 2006 concert where some macaroni flew to the stage, hitting vocalist/guitar player Ed Robertson square in the torso (it’s at about the 1:39 mark).
Robertson and his bandmates take the flying macaroni in stride, though; that becomes clear in the video above, as they joke about it while continuing the song, and even compliment the pasta tosser on his nice throw. Further, Robertson will even sign boxes of KD. Here’s an example from a 2008 concert in Los Angeles. (Yes, that’s not “Kraft Dinner” but “Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.”) So the band is clearly in on the joke, and may even be able to turn it into a side business — as of this writing, there’s a box of Kraft Dinner (again, the U.S. version), signed by the entire group, for sale on eBay (screenshot here, just in case). The asking price is $149.99 — although it has no bids.
From the Archives: Cooked to Perfection: Why Kraft Mac and Cheese shapes can’t be copied.
Take the Quiz: How well do you know your Canadian slang? (Some of these may be very esoteric, sorry about that.)