Last week I came across this article in the New York Times, talking about the complexities of picking music to play in restaurants. It's very interesting if you think about it. The wrong music can ruin a meal. I can't think of an example except the couple times I've been to places where the music was really loud. That was probably my fault, though, because they were bar/restaurant combo kind of places, and when you go for a late dinner at a place like that, you have to expect the music is gonna be more at a bar atmosphere volume.
I've made food-themed CD's before, but selected the songs because they had a food-related item in the title, rather than a "music to dine" by kind of idea. Here is the playlist of my most recent food CD:
Hey! Mashed Potato, Hey!, 22.214.171.124's
Peaches & Cream, Beck
Apple Candy, Ben Lee
Birthday Cake, Cibo Mato
Lost in the Supermarket, The Clash
I Ain't Been Licked, Diana Ross
Banana Pancakes, Jack Johnson
Vegetable Friend, Robyn Hitchcock
Cinnamon, The Long Winters
Chocolate, Snow Patrol
Fat Meat, Willie Hudson
Crumb by Crumb, Rufus Wainwright
Soup, Blind Melon
Honey Molasses, Jill Scott
I Eat Dinner (When The Hunger's Gone), Kate & Anna McGarrigle
Know Your Onion! , The Shins
Hot Burrito #1, Belly
Sugar Daddy, The Jackson 5
Spam Song, Monty Python
Since reading that NYTimes article, however, I'm thinking about what kind of music I'd actually pair with meals. Pretty much what this Stylus Magazine article does. I like the thought that music can enhance your dining experience and vice versa. Ear and mouth teamwork! As the author of the Stylus article says:
" Paired together properly, however, they can act as powerful reinforcements and co-dependents. Food can taste better, music can be improved, moods can be set, characteristics can be heightened, and moments can become indelible."
Last month there was a piece, again in the NYTimes, which had the top 5 songs on the playlists of 3 top restaurants. Here's the link, and here's the content (so I can refer back to it once it becomes a paid article):
"The Remix; Ear Candy
Everyone has heard a great (if obscure) song while dining and asked, ''What is that?'' At last, these restaurants' current Top 5 playlists provide some answers. PAUL L. UNDERWOOD
Momofuku, New York
Waylon Jennings, ''Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way?''
Early Man, ''Thrill of the Kill''
The Hold Steady, ''Multitude of Casualties''
Luna, ''Moon Palace''
Desmond Dekker and the Aces, ''Israelites''
The Specials, ''A Message to You Rudy''
Kraftwerk, ''Trans-Europe Express''
The J.B.'s, ''(It's Not the Express) It's the J.B.'s Monaurail''
Buzzcocks, ''Why Can't I Touch It?''
Tableau, Las Vegas
Rod Stewart, ''Manhattan''
Nat King Cole, ''Walkin' My Baby Back Home''
Queen Latifah, ''Baby Get Lost''
Norman Brown, ''What's Going On''
Julia Messenger, ''Look Up Look Down""
Speaking of Music-Food pairings, here's a fun list of Best Music to listen to While Eating Spam on Amazon's Listmania. Ha!
The relationship between food and music is definitely one I'll be exploring more. Both are fantastic ways to learn about other cultures. Both stir up strong emotions in people. Both can make your day or put you in a bad mood. In the introduction to the Philharmonic cookbook by June Lebell, Rose Levy Barenbaum explores her connection to each and how they intertwine:
" The connection between food and music is found even in the words used to describe them. In the food industry, the most common word used to analyze flavor is note. Texture is another word food and music have in common. One of my favorite musical memories is of the time I met Isaac Stern at a party celebrating the birth of Jenifer Lang's book Tastings. I had provided the Chocolate Oblivion Cake that was featured in the book. When George Lang introduced me to Isaac Stern, he rose up, took my hand, and bowed deeply from the waist saying: "Your cake was like velvet." My response: "That is the very word I used to describe your playing the first time I heard you play the Tchaikovsky violin concerto when I was sixteen!""
And finally, there is a discussion over on Chowhound about food and music. Does a person's taste in each correlate with each other? Is someone who is adventurous in what they cook/eat also adventurous about his or her music choices? The consensus seems to be that it really depends on the person.