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June 13, 2007

Book Notes - Kara Zuaro ("I Like Food, Food Tastes Good")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.

If you are an indie rock fan who likes to cook, Kara Zuaro's cookbook, I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands, should make you very happy. The range of recipes is as far reaching as the participating musicians, from Death Cab for Cutie's peanut butter and veggie sausage sandwich to Slowdive's chicken filo pesto parcel with puy puy. Kara Zuaro steps back and lets the musicians describe their recipes. This is my favorite new cookbook of the year, I have already given copies to several friends.

Preview or download this playlist at iTunesicon

In her own words, here is Kara Zuaro's Book Notes essay for her indie rock cookbook, I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands:

Writing a book can be lonely work, but I've never been more social than I was while collecting recipes from 100 bands for my cookbook, I Like Food, Food Tastes Good. I spent a few years chasing bands around after shows, hanging out at bars where band members worked, bribing publicists with baked goods, and stopping my favorite singers in crowds to say, "Hello, do you like to cook?" In retrospect, this seems like it would be a lot of fun, but it was a little nerve-wracking at the time. Really, I just like to hang out with my notebook and listen to music. These are some of the songs I listened to most as I was testing all the recipes in the book and writing introductions to each of them.

The Descendents – "I Like Food"

I have to give credit where credit is due – it was my friend Brian Bedsworth's idea to use the chorus from this song as the title for the cookbook. When I cleared it with the band, their drummer, Bill Stevenson, shared his recipe for pico de gallo – which involves his ingenious method of chopping cilantro with scissors.

Catfish Haven – "Madeline"

A couple of years ago, I read Gerri Hirshey's Nowhere to Run: The Story of Soul Music, which is a great book that every music fan should check out. The chapter about Otis Redding really got to me because he only lived to 26 – my age when I was reading the book – and I couldn't imagine how somebody in their 20s could sound like him. Then, I heard this song, "Madelin," by Catfish Haven. Their singer, George Hunter, was also 26 the first time I saw them play, and when he started belting out love songs in his hot-and-heavy voice, I finally understood why all the best soul singers' live recordings are eclipsed by women's screams. I'm not a screamer, but I did quietly ask them for a recipe, and George told me about his mom's Strawberry Pop Cake, a super-sweet, rosy-pink dessert that involves strawberry soda, Jell-O, and Cool Whip. Man, I love Catfish Haven.

Okkervil River – "Listening To Otis Redding At Home During Christmas"

Here's another song that feeds into my Otis Redding obsession. It's a poetic and nostalgic number from one of my all-time favorite records, Don't Fall In Love With Everyone You See. I love this song from its first line, "Home is where beds are made and butter is added to toast." For me, so many memories are tied up in food and music, so it's really interesting to hear food stories from my favorite bands. Okkervil's recipe is from their original bass player, Zach Thomas – it's his grandma's buttermilk pie. It's a simple Southern recipe, and even if you've never had it before, it's the sort of comfort food that always tastes like a slice of home.

Adam Thorn and the Top Buttons – "People Get Ready"

Adam and Tim LaFollette, who is one of the Top Buttons, used to be in a band of tour food experts called Kudzu Wish. They traveled from city to city with a giant bag of basmati rice and a pantry's worth of canned beans and curry paste. Along the way, they'd raid their friends' kitchens or pick up vegetables, tofu, or chicken (when they could afford it), and they'd live on a variety of Indian-style curries. Tim's "Curry Variations" were among the first recipes in my book, and I'm looking forward to making him a big dinner next time the Top Buttons come through town. Their version of "People Get Ready" isn't nearly as smooth and effortless as Curtis Mayfield's, but there's something about their fist-clenched white-boy soul that gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.

Lucero – "She's Just That Kinda Girl"

If Ben Nichol's voice weren't so rough and raw, and if his band weren't so tough and tattoo-stained, there is no way he'd be able to get away with lite-FM lyrics like, "I know better than to be falling in love so easily." But you've got to admit, this juxtaposition can be awfully cute. I imagine there are a lot of ladies out there who'd like to make this boy some dinner – which is fortunate for him because he claims that he cannot cook for himself. Personally, I'd rather dine with Lucero's guitarist Brian Venable, whose recipe for spinach lasagna is one of my favorites in the whole book.

Devendra Banhart – "At The Hop"

It's one thing to be so into a person that you have to sing about how can't get them out of your head or your heart. In this song, though, it's about trying to force yourself into their world – into their suitcase, their skylines, their dreams – before they slip away. The most desperate part is when Devendra sings, "Put me in your marrow, stuff me in your bones" – a creepy-yet-romantic line that always makes me think of the Battles recipe in my book for roasted bone marrow. Devendra's recipe, complete with crazy keyboard pounding, is for fried bananas. Lakghaljdkghkuahegoieav. (Yum.)

Drive-By Truckers – "Outfit"

I specifically asked the Truckers for their banana pudding recipe because in the song "Sink Hole," that's what the family feeds the Banker Man who is trying to repossess their farm. (It's his last supper – they bury his body after dessert.) Their recipe is so good, but "Outfit" is still my favorite DBT song. I grew up on Long Island, in a close-knit family of hard-working people – correction officers, nurses, cops, and teachers. My dad has always worried that a career in the arts wouldn't be good for me, so I really appreciate this song about a father wants his son to go out and make a better life for himself – without forgetting where he came from. The chorus puts his fatherly advice in a nutshell: "Don't call what you're wearing an outfit."

Laura Minor – "The Beast"

If Laura Minor's favorite cocktail, the Dark 'n' Stormy, were put to music, it might sound something like this – haunting and dangerous and delicious. "The Beast" in question here is a girl who is crawling around on all fours because she's too heartbroken and drunk to climb into bed, and just when Laura's voice can't get any steamier, Eric Bachmann comes in, sounding all deep and husky, like the ghost of the one who got away. Hey, how about I get the next round?

Kara Zuaro and I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands links:

the book's MySpace page
the book's website at the publisher

Daily Camera profile of the author
the author discusses the book with Gourmet's Daily Dish blog

Cheese Grits recipe from the book

reviews of I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands:

Boston Herald
Feminist Review

also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)

Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
guest book reviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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