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October 13, 2011

Book Notes - Michael Hearst ("The Recipe Project")

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book. Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, and many others.

The Recipe Project is one of the year's most ambitious books, combining interviews, essays, and recipes with a music CD to wondrous results. Chefs (including personal favorites Isa Chandra Moskowitz, David Chang, and Mario Batali) contribute essays, interviews, and occasionally music playlists, writers like Michelle Wildgen and Kara Zuaro share entertaining essays on food, and the band One Ring Zero (a duo consisting of Michael Hearst and Joshua Camp) sets the featured recipes to music, word-for-word, on the included CD. The project's combination of food, writing, and music works on every level.

The Recipe Project is the first book published by Black Balloon Publishing.

The Denver Post wrote of the book:

"Take one edgy indie-rock band. Add a handful of celebrated chefs. Add music, and a handful of the country's best food writers. The result? "The Recipe Project," a collaboration recipe book, essay collection and CD combo from the band One Ring Zero and chefs including Mario Batali and David Chang. Each song is a musical adaptation of a recipe. Silly and smart all at once, a good gift for your musical foodie friends."

Stream a Spotify playlist of these tunes. If you don't have Spotify yet, sign up for the free service.


In his own words, here is Michael Hearst's Book Notes music playlist for the book, The Recipe Project: A Delectable Extravaganza of Food and Music :


We started working on The Recipe Project nearly five years ago. The idea was simple enough—ask our favorite chefs for recipes, set them to music, and sing them word for word. Totally absurd, and fun. As it turned out, however, this project was one of the more difficult challenges we'd ever faced. There is nothing simple about setting a recipe to music. To boot, we asked the chefs what style of music they liked, and then attempted to come up with a song to fit. For Michael Symon, we wrote a heavy metal song, for Chris Cosentino, a rap song, for Mario Batali, a tarantella, for Isa Chandra Moskowitz, an indie rock tune. The project reached its pinnacle of complexity when chef Aarón Sanchez requested a banda song for his two-page recipe for Duck Breast with Duche de Leche Ancho Chili Glaze. Nonetheless, we put our best gringo feet forward. You'll have to buy the book/cd to hear the result.

Here are some songs I listened to along the way; sometimes for inspiration, and sometime because I was test-cooking one of the recipes, and I simply needed dinner music.


1. Esquivel & His Orchestra – "Music Makers"

Juan Garcia Esquivel is the king of 1950s and 60s space-age-pop. Perfect dinner music! -- that is if you like lounge, and girls constantly singing zzzzz sounds. I do.


2. Tanya Donelly – "New England"

3. Breeders – "Fortunately Gone"

Post Punk Kitchen vegan chef Isa Chandra Moskowitz told me she liked "90's girl rock," in particular bands like The Throwing Muses and The Breeders. My dear friend Claudia Gonson (of the Magnetic Fields) was kind enough to put me in touch with Tanya, who was in both of those bands (as well as Belly). To my surprise, Tanya was willing to sing a song with lyrics including "Spinkle on the peanuts…" I actually listened to a lot of Throwing Muses and Breeders back in the 90s. And now I'm hooked on it once again. In fact, Tanya has asked me to play with her in her band. We have two shows coming up. Sprinkle on the peanuts!


4. David Byrne – "Everyone's In Love With You"

This is one of those songs that I listened to for several years before I suddenly paid attention to the lyrics. It might be one of David Byrne's most masterful masterpieces. So great that he's still putting out listenable music. Thank you, Mr. Byrne.


5. Duke Ellington – "All Too Soon"

When I was at VCU in the 90s, I took a jazz arranging course with Doug Richards. Doug had a number of sayings, which will forever stick with me. One of them was (in a cool jazz cat voice),"…now don't get me wrong, I like your Frank Zappa and your David Byrne…" He always prefaced non-jazz with the word "your." Another Doug Richards quote is, "If you ain't listenin' to Duke Ellington at least once a day, you're jiving yourself." I guess I jive myself on a regular basis, but I do like to listen to a lot of the Duke.


6. The Magnetic Fields – "I Was Born"

David Chang said he loved Pavement and The Magnetic Fields. It was a no-brainer to ask Claudia to sing his song. We did our best to make it sound like a mash-up of TMF and Pavement, which essentially meant having Claudia sing a simple, pretty song with way too many electric guitars.


7. Enrico Caruso – "I Lombardi, Act III: Qual Volutta Trascorrere"

Mark Kurlansky told us he wanted a sonata for his "Recipe For A Raw Peach." (Yes, his recipe is simply how to properly eat a peach.) I am the proud owner of a 1920's phonograph. One of the 78s I keep on the phonograph is song sung by Caruso. I imagined Kurlansky's recipe sung in a Caruso-ish voice over sonata-ish music. We even sampled the sound of the needle resting on the 78 and used it in the recording.


8. Beastie Boys – "Putting Shame In Your Game"

It's true: Chef Chris Cosentino is my brother-in-law. He was instrumental (pun intended) in getting the ball rolling for The Reicpe Project. Chris loves white-boy hip hop. In 1998, Chris was a chef at The Coach House on Martha's Vineyard. I visited him and my sister, Tatiana, several times that summer. I specifically remember driving to the record store with Chris and waiting in line so he could buy Hello Nasty on its release day.


9. Banda Maguey – "Mataste Mi Confianza"

A couple years ago my girlfriend and I were in Tulum, Mexico on vacation. One day we walked around the "down town" section of the city, away from the tourist stretch. A man was selling cassette tapes on the sidewalk. We had a rental car with a cassette deck. Perfect! I purchased a Banda Maguey cassette, and we listened to it over and over again for the next week while driving around the Yukitan. The tape proved to be a good reference for Aarón Sanchez' song.


10. France Gall – "Bébé Requin"

The digital version of The Recipe Project has four bonus tracks. One of them is a recipe for a cookie called "Speculoos" (yes, I know what you are thinking) by the amazing Pastry Chef, Hubert Colson. The recipe is in French, therefore we had our friend Allyssa Lamb sing it in French. I knew right away the song should sound something like France Gall. I'm not sure we succeeded … other than the French part. I adore this particular France Gall song (written by Serge Gainsbourg). It's so ridiculously catchy and fun. And it's about a baby shark!


Michael Hearst and The Recipe Project: A Delectable Extravaganza of Food and Music links:

Michael Hearst's website
Michael Hearst's Wikipedia page
the book's website
One Ring Zero website
One Ring Zero Facebook Page
One Ring Zero MySpace page
One Ring Zero Wikipedia entry
video trailer for the book

Bon Appetit review
The Epi-log review
Noise review
The Record review
The Zen Kitchen profile of participating chef Andrea Reusing

Largehearted Boy interview by Michael Hearst with Mary Roach


also at Largehearted Boy:

other Book Notes playlists (authors create music playlists for their book)

52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
Daily Downloads (free and legal daily mp3 downloads)
guest book reviews
Largehearted Word (weekly new book highlights)
musician/author interviews
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
Try It Before You Buy It (mp3s and full album streams from the week's CD releases)
weekly music & DVD release lists


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