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September 19, 2008

Book Notes - Lynn Owens ("Lost in the Supermarket: The Indie Rock Cookbook")

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

Last year's I Like Food, Food Tastes Good, Kara Zuaro's collection of recipes by indie rockers, was one of my favorite cookbooks of the year.

This year another compilation of indie rocker recipes, Lost in the Supermarket: The Indie Rock Cookbook, is just as impressive. Lynn and Kay Bozich Owens have collected recipes from the A Frames to Yip-Yip, from Antony and the Johnson to the Willowz. Even Martha Stewart has taken notice...

The recipes (of course) are the highlights, ranging from the simple (Xiu Xiu's plain tofu, eaten straight from the fridge) to the elaborate (Lee Ranaldo's Italian wedding soup).

The authors' conversational style pulls the book together smoothly, and their introductions to the recipes and musicians are often as interesting as the recipes. True fans of both food and music, Lynn and Kay Bozich Owens will not only introduce you to new food, but possibly a new band or two.

How good are the recipes? I actually tried Guy's Rhubarb Crumble, submitted by Spacemen 3 member Guy Picciotto and everyone wanted seconds...

In his own words, here is Lynn Owens' Book Notes essay for her book, Lost in the Supermarket: The Indie Rock Cookbook:

Enjoying the fruits of one's labor is a great source of pleasure, but there is something to be said for the simple thrill of the hunt. When we started this project, we never envisioned a book. Instead, we just thought it would be an interesting excuse to contact some of our favorite bands and learn something new about them. It was fun to track down contact information, cast a request out into the endless series of anonymous tubes, and anxiously await a response. We were surprised by the enormous generosity displayed by nearly all the bands contacted and remain thrilled with the amazing recipes and stories we compiled. Still, we can't help but feel some pangs of regret about the bands that got away.

The Melvins "Night Goat"

When I first met Kay, I knew only two things about her: she collected pink porcelain poodles and she loved the Melvins. While we prowled around town in her old Dodge Dart (with the push-button transmission), she displayed an expert ability to steer her car through the wild streets of Tallahassee, Fl using only one hand, while keeping the other perched on the rewind button of the cassette deck. She had developed a sixth sense for knowing exactly how long to rewind the song, making it possible for us to listen to Night Goat over and over and over, no matter how long the night lasted. And when she finally got home, she would drag out the 45, spin it on her Kiss record player, and repeat as many times as necessary. She never tired of it. Never. The Melvins, after repeated efforts to contact them, politely declined to participate, stating that it wasn’t really their thing.

EInstürzende Neubauten “Zeichnungen des Patienten OT”

What the Melvins do for Kay, Einstürzende Neubauten are for me. One of our best days ever together came 15 years ago in San Francisco, when we saw the Melvins at an afternoon show, then headed across town to take on Neubauten. Their Teutonic shrieks and tectonic shifts proved great company during the misery of my extended and unending adolescent (and adult) angst. After discovering a website run by fans compiling the favorite foods of the band and their supporters (Einstürzende Neueküchen), we suspected they would be susceptible to the charms of our little book. We received a wonderful recipe from lead singer Blixa Bargeld, Lemony Lentil Soup. We ate it; we enjoyed it; we wanted it in the book. Then came the second thoughts. Blixa already promised the recipe to the other project, and worried about using it twice. It would have been okay -- you can't copyright a recipe -- but by the time we established that, the decision was already made. Scheisse!

Negativland “Time Zones”

Sometimes you don’t have any doubts it’s going to work out fine. You just know. While other bands were content to send an email response days or weeks later, Mark Hosler of Negativland wrote back asking for our home phone number so he could discuss the project. When he called and talked with Kay, they discussed food, among other random topics, even inviting us down to New York for their art show. He promised a special recipe, to be rendered in the distinctive cut-up style they are known for. Perfect. But the recipe never came. As the sun started to set on the project, we prodded them again, this time talking with Don Joyce, who planned to share his recipes for a big and not necessarily healthy breakfast. But again, the recipe never came. Strangely, they had obligations that were larger priorities than our book. This is a song I have always loved. I believe it beautifully captures the dialectic of excitement and frustration produced by the back and forth of trying to get that ever elusive recipe. Do you know how many time zones there are in the Soviet Union? Eleven.

Dead Kennedys, “California Über Alles”

I should tread lightly here. I don't want to reignite the controversy over who now controls the name the Dead Kennedys. To be more precise, this is actually a story about the failure to get a recipe for Jello from Jello Biafra. Kay talked with his assistant, filling her in on what we were doing and that we wanted a recipe for the book. She was excited by the idea, curious herself what favorite dish he would offer up. Alas, we all ended up disappointed. Jello doesn’t cook. Not even a hemp-based recipe to help support the cause. Still, as the fears of the Dead Kennedys of yore become manifest in our tortured political present, maybe he has bigger fish to fry.

Lightning Bolt “Diet of Grapes and Nuts”

Don’t let the name of the song fool you. Ditto for their 2003 tour DVD The Power of Salad & Milkshakes. Lightning Bolt might eat, but their response to our request made it clear that they didn’t cook and had no recipes to share. A pity, really, given their skill in jumbling competing and dissonant sounds into a mind throttling joy ride. It would have been nice to see how that creativity translated into the kitchen. Sometimes, though, that move doesn’t work the way we would like to imagine. I just had the great fortune to catch Lightning Bolt during a trip to Brooklyn at an outdoor show under the train tracks. The show was immensely entertaining, but when a baby-faced hipster next to me started to throw up all over himself, I think I lost my appetite.

Deerhoof “The Perfect Me”

Rob Fisk and I made pizza together in San Francisco’s Castro district during my college drop out daze. While I eventually gave up this glamour of pizza to go back to school, Rob traded it all in for rock stardom, as one of the founding members of Deerhoof. He later split off to form another brilliant band, 7 Year Rabbit Cycle. During their tour together, the two bands teamed up to visit Chapel Hill, NC, where I lived out my days in the last throes of graduate school. That night we crawled back to our apartment, caught up with Rob and hung out with the Deerhooves late into the night, before everyone called it a night and fought over the scarce floor space to grab some sleep. Thus, when we started this project, they were an obvious choice to include. After all, we had a relationship with them. How could they say no? And yet no Deerhoof recipe appears in the book. What went wrong? I can’t be sure, but I think the explanation might be that I was put in charge of contacting them and I simply forgot to do my duty. Sorry about that, Kay.

Lynn Owens and Lost in the Supermarket: The Indie Rock Cookbook links:

the book's page at the publisher
excerpt from the book

Big Tea Party feature indie rock cookbooks
Martha Stewart Blueprint mention

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
directors and actors discuss their film's soundtracks
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2008 Edition)
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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