by Ernest Barteldes
Music has always been a part of my life as far as I can remember. While in elementary school, I learned to play the clarinet, and later I picked up other instruments, such as the guitar, the recorder and finally the bass, which is my main instrument today. I love listening to music at all times of day (even though sometimes I can’t – for instance, while teaching a class), and I always have music blasting when I’m doing my favorite hobby, which – as you have guessed by now – is cooking.
This brings to mind the marriage of food and music. Though most songs speak of love unrequited, won or lost, many do speak about food – and I don’t mean the Archies’ “Sugar Sugar,” which is really about a girl (“You are my candy girl/and you got me wanting you”). What I am talking about are tunes that actually describe food or the pleasure involved in eating or preparing it.
There are many that come to mind as I write this, but I’d like to share some of my personal favorites. Not all of them were hits (though they did receive airplay), but these are – in no specific order, the ones I listen to the most:
- Jambalaya, by Hank Williams
This song is a celebration of New Orleans cuisine and became a major hit in the voice of Crescent City’s own Fats Domino. The lyrics speak of a man going to meet his girl and getting her what she needs to cook “jambalaya, crawfish pie and filet gumbo.”
2. Savoy Truffle, by George Harrison
This obscure song from the Beatles’ White Album has a humorous history – according to what I read, Harrison wrote this to poke fun on his friend Eric Clapton’s addiction to chocolate. The lyrics themselves come from a box of candy. In his autobiography, Harrison wrote that Clapton‘s “got this real sweet tooth and he’d just had his mouth worked on. His dentist said he was through with candy. So as a tribute I wrote, ‘You’ll have to have them all pulled out after the Savoy Truffle.”
3. Green Onions, by Booker T, and the MG’s
This song actually has no lyrics, but the title says it all. It is a lovely instrumental song that became an unlikely nr. 1 hit in 1962. It shot the band into stardom and also arguably generated countless hits as they were Stax Records’ House Band during the label’s golden age.
4. Chitins con Carne by Kenny Burrell
Another instrumental, this song came to my consciousness via Stevie Ray Vaughan. The song was included on The Sky Is Crying, a posthumously released album released in 1991 that contained unreleased studio material from the Texan guitarist. It was not until recently that I heard the original 1963 recording, but I still prefer Vaughan’s raw energy to Burrell’s more technical approach.
5. The Cook of The House by Linda McCartney
Originally released on Wings at The Speed of Sound, this not so great song is one of the few that I know that actually talk about cooking, and basically describe the different ingredients that she has in her kitchen. The lyrics end with “No, matter where I serve my guests, they seem to like the kitchen best/ Cause I’m the cook of the house.” That does resemble when we have guests in while I’m cooking, they’d rather hang out in the kitchen (to Renata’s chagrin, she’d rather they’d wait in the living room), because after all, I am the cook of the house.
6. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole
Sure, there is no food in the title, but the lyrics begin with “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and also mentions that “some turkey and some mistletoe” are the hallmarks of the Holiday season. Just hearing that song puts you in the right mood for the festivities, and it’s an evergreen that was so popular that Cole himself was reportedly requested to perform it even during the summer months.
There are many other songs that contain food in their titles, but they are not necessarily about that. For instance, The Beatles’ “Glass Onion,” is likely a reference to John Lennon’s thick glasses, while “Strawberry Fields Forever” is a park in Liverpool. Another example would be Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” which actually refers to the lynching of African Americans in the South during the dark days of Jim Crow.
Keeping the blog on topic, I’d like to share Keith Richards’ recipe for Bangers and Mash (sausages and mashed potatoes) published on his autobiography “Life.” It is a real English breakfast that might just keep you full for an entire day. The recipe is copied verbatim, so please excuse the language…
Keith Richards’ Bangers and Mash
1. First off, find a butcher who makes the sausages fresh.
2. Fry up a mixture of onions and bacon and seasoning.
3. Get the spuds on the boil with a dash of vinegar, some chopped onions and salt (seasoning to taste). Chuck in some peas with the spuds. (Throw in some chopped carrots too, if you like). Now we’re talking.
4. Now you have the choice of grilling or broiling your bangers or frying. Throw them on a low heat with the simmering bacon and onions (or in a cold pan, as the TV lady said, and add the onion and bacon in a bit) and let the fuckers rock gently, turning every few minutes.
5. Mash yer spuds and whatever.
6. Bangers are now fat free (as possible).
7. Gravy if desired.
8. HP sauce.