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November 21, 2011 / beatricebunny

Music to My Mouth

I’m sick, which means that this has not been a weekend with much cooking in it.  I made chic,ken and veggie soup tonight, but it wasn’t anything worth writing about.  Instead, I thought I’d ponder a little about cooking as a creative process, and as an extension, creative processes in general.

My husband and I have just completed a CD music appreciation/music theory course called Understanding the Fundamentals of Music.  He checked it out of the library.  I enjoyed the class a lot, and since cooking is my primary creative outlet, I found myself drawing parallels between creating music and preparing food and between listening to music and enjoying a meal.

The instructor, who is very engaging, spoke a lot about the layers that go into great music.  The class starts with rhythm and moves into meter, sound, notes, chords, scales, octaves, harmonies…  By the end, as I listened to samples of amazing music, I found myself moved by the excellent complexities.  I loved finding the beat, hearing the differences between instruments that blend and those that stand out, notes that signify closure and those that make our minds yearn for the next note.

And I found myself thinking of the same things as I worked on my cooking.  Really good food has lots of complexity, like good music, it engages your whole body.  With music, you feel the beat in your feet and throughout your body, you hear sounds layered on top of each other, and even simple one instrument or one voice music changes tempo and moves through out the scale.  Good food layers taste onto sight and smell.  There is the base food, the spices, the seasoning, the additions.  There is texture, from the crunch of a raw green bean to the creaminess of perfect mashed potatoes.  There is comfort, like chicken and vegetable soup when my head is trying to explode and there is he – jalapenos layered in the broth that bring a measure of clarity and reduce my headache.

At my best (which I am certainly not this weekend), I love to prepare food that brings the taster around to its origins.  Not only the reality that a human being prepared the dish, but also the knowledge that the vegetables come from the ground and from a season and a place, spices that provide individual journeys into both exotic places and our mothers’ kitchens, and meat that is associated with a specific farmyard and is not just a generic package on a shelf.  I think in terms of flavor palates, color palettes, the juxtaposition of texture and taste.  These things matter because food preparation, for me, is about creating something new and also about connecting to where I am right now.  I love it, and I am sad that my palate is stymied this weekend.

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