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May 2, 2013

Book Notes - Lucy Knisley "Relish"


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, Aimee Bender, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Lucy Knisely's memoir Relish is a grand exhibit of graphic storytelling, one that clearly shares her relationship with food, as well as how food has shaped her relationships with others.

Alison Bechdel wrote of the book:

"Lucy Knisley's delightful drawings don't just tell great stories, they're a crystal-clear how-to guide to everything worth doing in the kitchen. Step aside, Joy of Cooking."

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

In her own words, here is Lucy Knisley's Book Notes music playlist for her memoir, Relish:

All my picks are the songs that I heard as a kid, growing up with my dad and his vinyl collection. He was a MASTER of mix tapes, and like so many parts of my childhood, the music speaks to my family's preoccupation with food.

"Everybody Eats When They Come to My House," by Cab Calloway

The simple rhyming scheme of this song was absolutely irresistible to me as a kid. To this day, my dad will sometimes say "Try a tomato…" and I'll go "PLATO!" This song was one of the many old jazz songs that my father conditioned me to parrot at various opportunities. Every time I hear a Louis Armstrong song, I still wanna go "BLOW, SATCHMO!" which used to amuse my dad to no end. Anyway, this is a perfect song to represent my childhood, growing up with a pro chef mom and a foodie father.

"Homegrown Tomatoes," by Guy Clark

My mom's tomato garden is legendary. I didn't initially dig the country when my parents split and Mom and I moved upstate, but I was won over by her veggie garden. See chapter two, "City Kid, Country House."

"That Summer Feeling," by Jonathan Richman

Jonathan Richman was another favorite of mine as a kid. My parents were part of the New York late-70s/80s art and food scene, and used to play Jonathan all the time. I liked this song in particular, because it perfectly captures the exuberance of summer vacation as a kid. A thoughtful kid, I was already anticipating being haunted by the memory of that feeling as an adult. This is a perfect song to describe how I eventually fell in love with living with my mom in the country. Later, mom would tell me that she'd go see Jonathan in concert in the 70s, and nobody could believe that such an innocent, sweet guy could coexist in the seedy, druggy world of the music scene in New York. I modern love Jonathan AND vintage love him.

"Vegetables," by The Beach Boys

My dad played a lot of Beach Boys when I was a kid, and I tended to like the older weirder stuff. This song is so great. This (and a few of the others on this list) were on a mix tape that my dad made called "Hamazing Music."

"Summer Cannibals," by Patti Smith

This is a later song, but I like the chants of "EAT, EAT EAT!" and I remember listening to Patti Smith on the kitchen radio of my uncle's old food shop. Most of the employees were punk rock bohemians in New York in the 80s, so I heard a lot of great music on that radio. (See chapter one, "A Kid in the Kitchen")

"Potato Chips," by Sam Gaillard

Because I was the child of a chef and a gourmand, I didn't really eat junk food until I was 12 or 13 and would taste the food at my friends' houses. It was something of a revelation for me, but my parents were pretty horrified. Fortunately, I ate so much crap during my rebellious teen years that I've mostly lost my taste for the junkier of my teen vices. I still like a good potato chip, though.

"Sugarhigh," by Coyote Sisters

I came of age in the nineties, so Empire Records was a big deal for me. This song is on the soundtrack, which was among the first CDs I ever bought. I have a serious sweet tooth, and it was even worse as a kid. On a trip to Mexico (see chapter five, "Getting Ours"), my friend Drew and I went crazy on Mexican candy after our moms loosed us on the small town where we were vacationing. We both experienced transitional moments during that trip, catapulting us into adulthood and awareness of sex and naughtiness. This is a good soundtrack to that experience, and the song was big right around that time.

Constant Craving, by KD Lang

(See chapter 6, "The Cravers") My mom and I are big impulse cookers. We get hankerings for stuff, and indulge our cravings by cooking and eating weird foods. This song has always been such a good lady song, and a good soundtrack to the whims of our bodies.

"Dump The Dog," By Loudon Wainwright

Loudon's daughter was born only a couple years before me, and we share the same name (Lucy!). Loudon wrote a lot of songs for her that came out just in time for my dad to play them as my lullabies. I always assumed they were about ME, of course, so Loudon has always been like a musical dad to me-- his music a frequent backdrop to my childhood. I like this song in particular, especially the "Apple butter for my breakfast, peanut-butter for my lunch" because even as a kid, the power of butter compelled me.

"Hold Tight (Seafood Mama)," by The Andrews Sisters

Another fave of my dad's. He had a few versions of this song, and would argue that the Fats Waller version is better (possibly true), but I like the Andrews Sisters version as well… Actually, Fats does, like, crazy voices. Okay, his version is totally better. Anyway, this song is amazing and I love it, and it's a great song for Relish, about my mom's talent as a professional chef.

"Cherry Bomb," by The Runaways

This is a good song for chapter four, "Junk." It's also my ringtone for when either of my parents call me. It's a song about rebellion and defiance, which I did a lot of through junk food. I loved this song as a kid, soaking up culture from the kitchen punks that filled my life. It's the best BRING IT WORLD song I know. Plus its got CHERRY in the title (I know, it's an explosive, but COME ON! Cherries! yum).

Lucy Knisley and Relish links:

the author's website
the author's blog

ComicsAlliance review
GeekMom review
Publishers Weekly review

Comic Book Resources interview with the author
Graphic Novel Reporter interview with the author
USA Today profile of the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

Book Notes (2012 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
52 Books, 52 Weeks (weekly book reviews)
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musician/author interviews
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Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
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weekly music & DVD release lists

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