September 11, 2007
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that is in some way relevant to their recently published books.
I have been reading the Amateur Gourmet food blog for over three years. Adam Roberts never fails to share his love for food, his inquisitive nature, and his sheer charm, even with his failed food experiments.
The Amateur Gourmet: How to Shop, Chop, and Table Hop Like a Pro (Almost), is every bit as wonderful as the food blog. Roberts is charming as he is funny as he encourages others to enjoy food (and life) as much as he does, getting expert advice along the way about shopping, cooking, and trying new food experiences (and abolishing food prejudices).
My boyfriend Craig is making me neurotic about this essay. He’s in Seattle directing his first movie—an independent feature called “True Adolescents” which is about, appropriately enough, a down-and-out musician. Craig has strong opinions about music and when I read him the first draft of this essay, which was divided in three parts to reflect how I approach a recipe—prep work, execution, and results—he called the first section “too Emo,” the mid-section “too gay” (there were show tunes) and the third section, “pretty good.”
“But,” he concluded, “it’s very you.”
My relationship with music is very personal. Maybe that’s because my musical tastes have always kept me apart from my peers. When my classmates in middle school or high school were out partying to Poison or 2 Live Crew or The Beastie Boys, I’d be falling asleep listening to ”Les Miserables” on my Walkman, getting a little choked up when the dying Eponine told Marius “that the rain will make the flowers grow.”
Now my tastes are divided. I still like show tunes—the “Pippin” Original Cast Recording will always put me in a good mood—but my taste has expanded significantly, ranging from The Roots on one end to Burt Bacharach on the other. What follows is random assortment of albums I like to listen to while I cook and my attempt to pair each album with an appropriate dish. Sommeliers do it with wine, why can’t I do it with music?
The New Pornographers, “Electric Version”
Shrimp sautéed with garlic and red chile flakes; salad, bread, white wine. Easy dinner, and the sizzle of the shrimp hitting the pan matches the sizzle of the guitar.
Various Artists, “Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man (Motion Picture Soundtrack)”
The contemplative nature of this CD and the emotional performances suggest something delicate, like a fish gently poached and a simple salad of raw fennel, mushrooms and Parmesan.
Arcade Fire, “Funeral” & “Neon Bible”
Buy some pita (or make some fresh) and then make hummus from scratch (a cinch with a food processor); set it out along with tzatziki (yogurt cucumber dip) and taramosalata (carp roe dip) and serve with a Greek salad (cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, feta, olive oil, red wine vinegar and oregano). The music is epic, the dinner is Greek. See the connection?
Neko Case, “Fox Confessor Brings The Flood”
Wild mushroom risotto. Woodsy, sexy, and featured in Chapter Six of my book, “Cook For A Date.” This is a good romantic CD.
Ryan Adams, “Easy Tiger”
My favorite track on this CD is “Halloweenhead” so let’s do something with squash. Shall we try butternut squash ravioli? It’s ambitious, but so is this album.
Original Cast Recording, “Spring Awakening”
My favorite new musical, I cook to this a lot (it’s my most listened to CD on iTunes). Since it’s so popular on my playlist, let’s go to two of my most popular recipes at home: roast chicken (from The Chez Panisse cookbook) and cavatappi with sun-dried tomatoes and white beans. Both win constant raves from Craig and Diana, my roommate. The chicken you sprinkle with fennel seeds, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for an hour. That’s it—just make sure to be generous with the seasonings. The second comes from Lydia Bastianich and you can read the recipe here:
Regina Spektor, “Begin To Hope” and “Soviet Kitsch”
These albums achieve maximum effect with minimal components—piano, percussion, voice. Do the same and make a Caesar: it’s just anchovies, garlic, lemon juice, egg yolk (or cheat with mayo), olive oil, salt, pepper, and Parmesan all pulverized and drizzled over crisp Romaine lettuce. Punchy and potent, just like Regina.
The Band, “The Last Waltz”
I love “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” so let’s go Southern. Biscuits (from The Lee Bros. new cookbook) and, if you can do it, fried chicken. I can’t do it, so how about a tomato salad instead? Not enough? Let’s try catfish.
Astrud Gilberto, “Windy”
This is the best CD to cook to in the afternoon. She’s Brazilian, so let’s make Brazilian chicken with olives. Here’s the link to my attempt:
And a link to the recipe:
I don’t have pairings for all the rest, but here are some other CDs I listen to when I cook these days:
Wilco, “Sky Blue Sky”
Bob Dylan, “Modern Times”
Joanna Newsom, “The Milk-Eyed Mender” and “Ys”
Sufjan Stevens, “Songs for Christmas” [Perfect for winter cooking.]
Mika, “Life in Cartoon Motion” [I know I said no more pairings, but for some reason I think this would go well with a coconut cake.]
Traveling Wilburys, “Traveling Wilburys Vol. 1”
Cat Stevens, “Tea for the Tillerman”
The Decemberists, “The Crane Wife”
Kate Bush, “Hounds of Love” and “The Kick Inside”
k.d. Lang, “Hymns of the 49th Parallel”
Paul Simon, “Surprise”
The Rolling Stones, “Exile on Main Street”
Original Cast Recording, “Pippin”
Rufus Wainwright, “Release The Stars”
Belle & Sebastian, “If You’re Feeling Sinister”
Original Cast Recording, “A Chorus Line”
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, “Clap Your Hands Say Yeah”
Various Artists, “Topicalia Essentials”
David Byrne, “Rei Momo”
Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins, “Rabbit Fur Coat” [a gift from Craig]
Liza Minelli, “Liza with a Z” (listen to “Ring Them Bells” and tell me you don’t smile)
Harry Nilsson, “Nilsson Greatest Hits”
Lucinda Williams, “West”
Beck, “The Information”
Adam D. Roberts and The Amateur Gourmet links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Previous Book Notes submissions (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
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)