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May 17, 2013

Book Notes - Various Authors "The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage"

Odd Duck

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.

The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat is an impressive essay collection that explores how food helps forge some of our closest relationships, with our families.

Serious Eats wrote of the book:

"The stories are touching and at times brutally honest. Anyone who's ever argued and celebrated with family over a kitchen table can relate to these stories."

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

In their own words, here is the authors' collaborative Book Notes music playlist for their essay collection, The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage: True Tales of Food, Family, and How We Learn to Eat:

"Still Life on the Half Shell," by K.G. Schneider

Lucinda Williams’ song from her album of the same name, "West." True confessions: I played this song almost every day for my first couple of years in Tallahassee....sometimes several times back to back. My computer desktop image was a photo I took of California at sunset, taken just after we crossed the border into Arizona the day we began our move to Florida. While Williams sang about love and longing, I would dream of driving back toward that sunset, Sandy by my side. As life got easier in Florida, I played it less, but when we were miraculously able to return to our beloved California in 2009, it returned to my playlist, this time with gratitude.

"An American Omelette in Brooklyn," by Sarah Shey

In December, my niece from Iowa cooked supper for me one night.  I put on Brandi Carlile for her.  When I came back from an errand, I returned to a striking picture: the fragrance of caramelized onion; the buoyant country song "100"; my niece commandeering the stove; and my son oblivious to everything but his book, which he gripped on the sofa. I was given the rare chance to see something I don’t often get to: I have managed to create a home. Bonus track: Carlile’s "Hard Way Home."

"A Case for Soul Food," by Deesha Philyaw

"September," by Earth, Wind, & Fire, is a great song to dance and cook to. It takes me back to my childhood, to house parties with family and friends that went on way past my bedtime. Incidentally, the song also appears on soundtrack for the movie, "Soul Food."

"Red Sauce Days," by Chris Malcomb
Enrico Caruso singing "O Sole Mio"

My mother says that she and her dad used to play opera records together when she was young, and that this is the song that always makes her think of the sauce. "You have to love the sauce while you are stirring it," she says, so "O Sole Mio," the traditional Neapolitan song, is the first tune that she thinks of when she thinks of singing and cooking in the kitchen. So here is Italian tenor Enrico Caruso's version from 1916; we both love how the crackling of the phonograph recalls antiquity, transporting us back to the "old world" and evoking the history of the sauce. I can picture myself in the kitchen, with this playing, the lights dim, a glass of red wine, making the sauce!

"Recipe," by Phyllis Grant
"Kandi" by One EskimO

Be careful. This is an escapist song. It also happens to play a part in my essay. It makes me pause, takes me to the floor, causes me to dream of flying off on a motorcycle, arms wrapped around a body, ear glued to the back of a heart. Dangerous stuff.

"Rachael Ray Saved My Life," by Melissa Clark

For my song, I'm choosing "My Doorbell" by the White Stripes.

Tonally, I feel it captures the essence of Rachael Ray--fun, frantic, silly, and yet it all comes together as a perfect pop song.

I feel like it's the perfect song to crank right before your guests arrive for the fabulous dinner party you're hosting. The food is cooked, the table is set and you've got a rush of nervous pre-party energy which you can dance off to this song. "I've been thinking about my doorbell when ya gonna ring it, when ya gonna ring it?" And at this point, your doorbell will probably ring.

"Pie-Eyed," by Lisa McNamara

I would recommend "Home Cookin" by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross to go with my essay. The line "I just found a woman/She ain’t nuthin’ for looks/But out in the kitchen, she tends to business and cooks" pretty much captures the essence of my essay; I turned pies into my "weapons of mass seduction" in the absence of the gift of classical physical beauty. But even if you’ve been blessed with natural looks, this jazzy little number by Lambert, Hendricks & Ross is perfect music to bake (or cook) by!

"The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage," by Deborah Copaken Kogan and Paul Kogan

Paul and I choose this Serge Gainsbourg song:

When we host our cassoulet day, we always have Gainsbourg on the iPod, as it is one of the first CD's we bought when we moved in together back in 1990. His voice transports us back to that era, back to that place we fell in love, and this song in particular ("The Recipe for Crazy Love") speaks specifically of the importance of setting and wine for love, with the relationship itself portrayed as a recipe.

"May It Never Be the Last Brisket," by Stacie Stukin
"Que Sera, Sera" by Sly and the Family Stone

"Talk with Your Mouth Full," by Catherine Newman
Talking Heads, "This Must Be the Place."

Because of the line: "Home is where I want to be / but I guess I'm already there." Also because of the word talking!

"A White Food Disorder," by Dani Klein Modisett

I chose "With a Little Bit of Luck" from the musical My Fair Lady. Moss Hart directed the original Broadway production of this Lerner and Loewe American Musical classic in 1956. With a little bit of luck and the right amount of cheese butter, perhaps my children will some day eat a green vegetable.

"One Bite At a Time," by Elrena Evans

I had a surprisingly difficult time selecting a song for this essay. Unlike other pieces that I've written, where a song connection is easily apparent, I went round and round and round on this one and couldn't seem to think of anything. Finally I decided to ask my daughter (now eight) what her current favorite song is -- turns out it's "Strut" by People Train. For an essay about bodies and body issues, I can't think of a better pairing than this jubilant, body-positive, celebration of self that is this song. And what a way to celebrate how far we've both come -- good job, kid.

"Vegging Out," by Gregory Dicum

"It's a Zoo," a song that

1) i often listen to while cooking
2) is great
3) could certainly use the exposure
4) sort of captures the feel of my piece, I think

"Lunch Lady," by Caroline Grant

Adam Sandler’s goofy "Lunch Lady" is the song I think of when I tug on my latex gloves to volunteer in my sons’ school lunch room. Happily, I’m not scooping up gluey chop suey and sloppy joes like the hair-netted, orthopedic-shoe-wearing woman in his song; for a growing number of kids -- mine included -- that strict old school lunch lady is becoming as much of a relic as the mystery meat she is dishing out.

"Why Won’t My Kid Eat Foie Gras?" by Jeff Gordinier
"Le Temps de L'Amour," by Françoise Hardy

I can't say for certain whether I heard this reverie on a car radio while heading toward Monte Carlo with my parents on a summer afternoon in the early '80s, but I feel as though I should have. And even if I didn't, it's a song that captures the way I felt back then, in those early adolescent years when I was waking up to the beauty of Mediterranean food and Françoise Hardy herself. So you think an adolescent kid with a jones for grilled octopus and a crush on Françoise Hardy sounds like a character out of a Wes Anderson movie? Then maybe it makes sense that this ode to a time of "friends and adventure" appeared in a pivotal moment in "Moonrise Kingdom" — the scene where the two young runaways take out their plastic turntable and shimmy on the beach.

"Out of the Box," by Lisa Catherine Harper
"California Dreamin’" by the Mamas and the Papas

My essay is about the disorientation I have about two facts: 1) I live in California and 2) My kids are Californian.  We eat like Californians. My kids are old enough now that, even if we were to leave the Golden State, California—with its sun, its food, its intangible sense of opportunity--will always be in their blood. Even as a kid in New Jersey, this song embodied the sunny mystery of an impossibly faraway place. It’s groovy, and my kids are groovy, in a way I never ever was, and never will be. Still, a girl can dream.

"Bad and Plenty: Parental Anxiety in the Age of Food Abundance," by Edward Lewine
"Little Martha" by the Allman Brothers

Perfect for cooking a hippy banana bread!

The Cassoulet Saved Our Marriage links:

the editors' blog
the editor's website

Examiner review
San Jose Mercury News review
Serious Eats review
Tablehopper review

Jungle Red guest post by the editor
SFoodie profile of the editors

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)
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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