Music and food have been intertwined for centuries. In fact, one of the gretest operatic composers, Gioachino Rossini, was such a gourmand that not only did he compose some of his most famous arias while dining, but several dishes are named in his honor.
The term ‘Alla Rossini’ usually refers to a dish incorporating truffles, foie gras, and a demi-glace sauce, so thankfully I now know what to call all those truffle and fois gras dishes I cook.
Rossini even wrote several piano pieces about food, including his ‘Four Hors D’oeuvres.’ If you get a chance to hear it, listen to the touching second movement, ‘Les Anchois,’ undoubtedly the finest piece of music ever composed about anchovies.
Not sure why, but in the twentieth century, it was popular to name foods after opera singers. The next time you dig into a Swanson’s® Turkey Tetrazzini, you can thank Luisa Tetrazzini, the Italian soprano. And a rival of Tetrazzini, Australian diva Nellie Melba, inspired the great Escoffier to create Peach Melba AND Melba Toast.
It’s sad that when people hear my name, they think of inedible dry toast.
In today’s music scene, I suppose great chefs are naming dishes after hip-hop stars, but I’m not sure the food world is ready for Eggs Kanye, Wu-Tang Chicken, or Lake Trout a la Snoop
Place butter and chronic in a medium sizzlepizzle…
Since I like to listen to music while I’m cooking, I went searching for some songs about food. I was strict about my criteria. The song had to be actually about the food.
For instance, ‘Mayonnaise’ by Smashing Pumpkins isn’t included, because it has nothing whatsoever to do with mayonnaise. And because Billy Corgan has always annoyed me.
Also, I had to leave out Warrant’s ‘Cherry Pie,’ as it apparently is not about an actual cherry pie. I thought I’d struck gold with the Talking Heads album ‘More Songs About Buildings and Food,’ but it turns out the album includes NO songs about buildings OR food.
Lastly, I tried not to use any songs that suck. For example, the 1947 Mel Torme abomination “Tacos, Enchiladas, and Beans,” which features lyrical gems like
You’re the only one my heart adores
You’ve only got three competitors
Tacos, enchiladas, and beans
Love ‘em, dozens of ‘em
I consume them by the score
The hit version (by Doris Day!) ends with her saying, in an embarrassingly bad accent, “They make me seek, but I love them.”
The farthest back I went for my playlist was the 1940s; the most recent track is from 1983. This list may not work for everyone – there may well be people who julienne to the Jayhawks, or who need a little Morrissey in their mise en place.
But I’ve put together a pretty tasty mix. It’s best to start safe, with songs explicitly about food, if you’re not used to mixing music with cooking. The fact that you like Sarah McLachlan doesn’t mean her music is the right background for your dinner ‘pre-show.’ You might just become too depressed to finish, and end up slumped over the counter thinking of sad puppies.
So grab these tunes off the interwebs, or from the clouds, or however the hell kids get their music these days. Then take whatever iGadget you have, play the songs in this order, and start cooking.
‘Salt Peanuts’ Dizzy Gillespie All Stars (1942)
The be-bop rhythms should make tedious prep work a snap.
‘Frim Fram Sauce’ Nat ‘King’ Cole (1945)
There is no such thing as ‘frim fram sauce,’ but there should be. So invent it!
‘All That Meat and No Potatoes’ Fats Waller (1936)
A cautionary tale of poor meal planning…
“Beans and Cornbread” Louis Jordan (1949)
Just your basic jump-blues chat between a pot of beans…and some cornbread. They work it out in the end.
“Matzoh Balls” Slim Gaillard (1939)
Historic, as it was the first recorded use of the word ‘matzoh’ by anyone named ‘Slim.’
“Jambalaya” Hank Williams (1952)
With crawfish pie, and file gumbo…
“Green Onions” Booker T. and the MGs (1962)
I don’t think this song would be nearly as cool if it were called ‘Scallions.’ I don’t know why.
“TV Dinners” ZZ Top (1983)
In case you decided, “Screw it, I don’t feel like cooking.” From the band that brought you “Tush” and “Legs.” Not especially deep, but redeemed by the line “twenty-year old turkey in a thirty-year old tin.”
“Eggs and Sausage” Tom Waits (1976)
Sometimes, you just need to go to the local greasy spoon with the other nighthawks if you want a decent meal.
“Whipped Cream” Herb Alpert (1965)
At least treat yourself to some dessert. Just try to forget that this was also the theme to the ‘The Dating Game.’