Arts & Life, Food & Drink, Music

Music and food

By: Gord Disley

I’ve been eating a very long time. You might say I’ve done it since birth so you  can imagine, I’ve become fairly adept. Indeed, many of my friends have commented on just how graceful my hand to mouth co-ordination has become and my chewing, ah, my chewing.  I respond with a smug chuckle and a long winded story about my false childhood in eastern Russia where I’d been born into a family of food swallowers. “It’s in the blood,” I would intone gravely as the last of my listeners finally dozed off into their calamari. I realize, of course, that many of you out there are also eaters of things and as such, I am continually surprised at how many have not made the connection between music and food.

Not only is it untrue that one eats with ones eyes first, it is dangerous and impossible. In no way are the stomach and eye sockets connected and to proceed along those lines may result in headaches and blindness.  Far better, then, to build on your pleasure through sweet accompanying music.  It would be analogous to cramming delicacies into your ears; another bad idea.

Although only distantly related, music and food often occupy the same space in our lives and for similar purposes. Both are nourishing literally and figuratively, both are often essential to the creation of a hospitable atmosphere, and both can contribute to you getting laid.  Or not.

Very often, a meal benefits hugely from the appropriate musical selection not only during dinner but in the preparation phase as well.  Try whipping up your favourite tomato sauce recipe to the swirling bandoneon of tango master Astor Piazzola, or a grilled cheese sandwich to the strains of the first Go-Gos album. Take heed however, as the added rush of music can lead to some muddled thinking. (A friend of mine nearly killed his family with hot sauce while making burritos to Motorhead.)

During your meal, it’s always a safe bet to select sounds to encourage and aid your digestive process. The relaxed lilt of reggae or perhaps the ornate flow of Glenn Gould at the piano may be just the ticket, particularly on date night when your lissome guest may not share your fascination with atonal German nutcases playing car doors with ball-peen hammers. (Seems like an obvious mistake, but I once faked illness to escape a dinnertime soundtrack of nothing but the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, and I’m a fan for Godsakes!)

It may also be advisable to pair your dish with a soundtrack from the same country of origin as the recipe you’re about to prepare.  It may not necessarily be a bad thing to prepare Spanish rice to “Pet Sounds” by the Beach Boys, but it may not be spicy enough. An Italian chef I worked under for many years would blare classic opera through the kitchen and sing at his lung tops while cooking and throwing pans. This was viewed by some as unprofessional but sceptics were only one meal away from understanding why he did this; to enhance the overall experience and hopefully, extend it further into another sensory array altogether. Thus, the recipe shines!

I know there are professional cooks reading this and shaking their heads, perhaps making low breathy sounds and tsk-tsks.  I realize that at a certain culinary level, your concentration is paramount so no, there is no music playing in the kitchen during prep. I can relate to this because, if it’s five to noon and the soup’s ablaze, the lettuce is leapin’ with leprosy, the other cooks no-showed and the dining room is full, maybe I don’t want to hear Otis Redding. (One of the rare times, mind you…)

On the home front, however, I always crank music while cooking and would advise anyone to rock accordingly spatula in hand! Just don’t burn yourself or the house down, cut yourself, or poison anyone, and save the wine for the sauce. (Or not.) And if the neighbours complain, feed the bastards!


Gord Disley ia a comedian, writer and garde manger based in Montreal.