If Music be the Food, Play On [Elbows on the Table]

Food and music are two of the few things in the world that are universal. Sure some people don’t like peanut butter and some people don’t like polka. There is no person in the world who does not like music or does not like food. Both can evoke more than what they are. When you hear a favorite song, you think of that road trip you took when you were twenty one. When you eat tomato soup and grilled cheese you remember the snowy days you spent sledding when you were eight.

Levon Helm, drummer for The Band, died last week. When I heard the news my thoughts inevitably turned to old family Thanksgivings. I think for most people, Thanksgiving is filled with WASPy simmering and unspoken frustrations, touch football and trying desperately to come up with something for which you are thankful before it is your turn to speak up before you can dig into your stuffing.

Like most festivities in my house, Thanksgiving was barely civilized. I am the middle daughter of six intense and active children of two very passionate hippie parents. The one constant we had in holiday was The Last Waltz played on loop. Martin Scorsese filmed the last concert The Band performed on Thanksgiving in San Francisco. The Band wished everyone a happy Thanksgiving before performing for the last time with some of the eras most brilliant musicians, everyone from Bob Dylan to The Staple Singers. Even last Thanksgiving, which I spent in Paris, did not pass without me playing “The Weight” half a dozen times in my Saint Germaine hotel room. I didn’t need the turkey, but I did need The Band and the happy memories it evoked.

Musicians and the culinary laborer have always shared a similar fringe existence. No weekends off, not eating until two AM and the dream of being so damn good that one day you are worshipped as a god by adoring groupies. That is why chefs like Anthony Bourdain are so quick to site their influences of greats like Thomas Keller and Julia Child with the same reverence and praise as The Ramones and The Clash. The chef and the rocker can both understand the long nights, no healthcare and the constant struggle of trying to touch people with something phenomenal and unique.

The first thing that I ever do when cooking is put on music. I’ve had many a friend tell me that they would never consider the torture of cooking in a kitchen without music. In order to create something beautiful or enjoy something beautiful, you will always need all of your senses. That is why you will always have a candle lit dinner to violin music and will always get greasy delicious food truck grub at Coachella. Sparking a conversation with someone about a great record or an amazing meal will most likely share a similar passionate intensity.

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featured image credit: Peter E. Lee