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December 17, 2013

Book Notes - John Gorham and Liz Crain "Toro Bravo"

Lake of Earth

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.

Toro Bravo is as much memoir as cookbook, even though it contains 95 recipes from the famed Portland restaurant. This is the story of chef John Gorham, and how his passion for food shaped his life. Gorgeously produced, well-written, and filled with stunning photographs, this is one of the year's finest food books.

Cheryl Strayed wrote of the book:

"Toro Bravo is so much more than a cookbook (though it does a damn fine job of being just that). It’s a passionate story of how one great chef found his way by following his heart and trusting his gut. It’s a practical guide and a culinary cri de coeur. This is the real deal. It's the book I'm going to press into everyone's hands. I love it like mad."

Stream a playlist of these songs at Spotify.

In their own words, here is John Gorham and Liz Crain's Book Notes music playlist for their book, Toro Bravo:

One thing to know about Toro Bravo is that there is ALWAYS loud music playing in the restaurant. Whether you're delivering produce in the morning, stopping by to get a moment with John during afternoon prep, dining at the restaurant in the evening or there after hours it's always a party and it's always loud with music and merrymaking. John has included a bunch of songs here on regular rotation at the restaurant and a few from our book tour and road trips and travels for it and I've included some songs from the making of the book.

Early on, as we were putting the book together, our McSweeney's designer extraordinaire Walter Green put together an online playlist for us all to listen to while writing, editing and designing the book in all of our far-flung locations of Portland, San Francisco and New York. When I listen to it now I think of funny things like when our editor Rachel Khong, managing editor of Lucky Peach, wrote me this email in a long line of no subject emails during the final stretch of editing when we were a little loopy and bleary-eyed and going through the charcuterie chapter, particularly the Merguez Sausage recipe:

squeeze them sausage a little

just made me giggle because I'm delirious.

All of my songs are from that playlist that Walter started and I added to. Funny enough, each song encourages squeezing them sausage a little. John's do too.

Liz's Picks

"Whip It" by Devo

I'm not going to lie -- sometimes I daydreamed about whipping the clothes off women just like in the video for this 1980 Devo single ( while working on the Toro Bravo cookbook. There are so many beautiful folks in the Toro family and the restaurant is all about throwing a party every night and enjoying the many pleasures of life to the fullest. Let's just say we had A LOT of fun while doing this book. Whip it!

"Lose Yourself to Dance" by Daft Punk

When you’re overworked, dealing-with-too-many-fine-details-of-a-cookbook brain feels like you followed the first step of this made up recipe -- "Fry egg in a medium sauté pan over high heat until it seizes, shakes and releases" -- you should probably seize, shake and release too. And lose yourself to dance.

"Under Pressure" by David Bowie

The lyrics pretty much sum this one up...

This is ourselves under pressure
Under pressure

"Buttered Popcorn" by Diana Ross & The Supremes

John loves, loves, loves popcorn and we write about the foundation of that love in the book. It has to do with him being in Ghana in the early 90s and while there doing things like running a roulette and blackjack table at a casino that he helped open, eating pineapple fried lobster and tying a huge weed plant to the top of his car in the country and driving it back to the city. It's all in the book. Anyway, John loves popcorn.

"Portland Oregon" by Loretta Lynn and Jack White

When Jack White ate at Toro he asked that his corn be cut off the cob for him. That aside, we love this song and Sloe Gin Fizz. And a pitcher to go...

John's Picks

"Baltimore" by Nina Simone

An awesome song that reminds me that not everywhere is as awesome as Portland.

"Washington, D.C." by The Magnetic Fields

My hometown song. Makes me smile every time.

"Use Me" by Bill Withers

The song that runs through me head after a ruff and tuff night on the Toro line.

"Hot Topic" by Le Tigre

Who doesn't love punk rock cheerleaders!

"Where Eagles Dare" by The Misfits

In one of the first kitchens I worked in, the sous chef always talked about how Danzig was Elvis in hiding.

"Gut Feeling" by Devo

This song can make me move a little faster and smile at the same time. And it was in Life Aquatic. Bill Murray rules!

"Me, Myself and I" by De la Soul

Hippie hip hop.

"Filet of Sole" by The Dead Milkmen

Pass the tarter sauce! Seriously, I get hungry every time I hear this song.

John Gorham and Liz Crain and Toro Bravo links:

The Toro Bravo website
Liz Crain's website

Culinate review
Oregonian review

Late Night Library interview with the authors

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

Online "Best of 2013" Book Lists
2013 Year-End Online Music Lists

100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
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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