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The Main Ingredients

Music and food make a special sauce in “The Recipe Project.”

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Collaboration is a risky venture that can have a big payoff. Like metaphor, collaboration relies on stringing a taut thread between signifier and signified so the relationship creates a new dimension for experiencing each. The greater the disparity between subjects, the more profound their interconnectivity -- if they coalesce. To be successful, the alliance needs to elicit a new type of thing altogether, one that is better than the sum of its parts, or it fails.

Along comes the CD and food-essay package, “The Recipe Project—A Delectable Extravaganza of Food and Music” (Black Balloon Publishing, $24.95) to articulate the bridge that we inherently know exists between the two mediums.

Former Richmonders Michael Hearst and Joshua Camp, founders of the band One Ring Zero, struck a chord with Black Balloon. The publishing company was “looking for the brilliant and odd, the edgy, dark and delightful—and most importantly, the ridiculously impossible to explain or sell.” The band enlisted recipes from famous chefs and authors -- think John Besh, Tom Colicchio, and Isa Chandra Moskowitz -- and composed songs whose lyrics used only the words from the recipes. On the CD you'll hear 10 songs in 10 musical styles as different and oddly magnetic as the dishes they celebrate.

The food-music essays and interviews with celebrated authors and chefs take center stage. At first, the book reads a bit like ice sounds in a blender, but it smoothes out. We are taken from a recipe delivered by Mario Batali (presumably with One Ring Zero’s corresponding song playing in the background) to a journaling essay by Christine Muhlke, executive editor of Bon Appétit magazine, that is as much about holding a sequence of dinner parties (her personal play lists provided for each night) as it is about falling in love and ultimately marrying the right person. Of particular interest are interviews that shed light on personalities obsessed with culinary artistry, tempered by real-world obligations to their industries and success.

In the musings there are explorations of parenthood, the need to comfort, the desire to be alone, and the decision to put away the past and just cook, all interlaced with references to the roles that music plays in kitchens and beyond. And there is chef David Chang admitting that he wants to throw star television chef Guy Fieri down the stairs to kill him, and then do it again, on principle.

This is the thing about good collaborations: There might be a messiness to them, a risk, a discordant noise, but ultimately they provide an otherwise unconsidered harmony. And that’s the payoff, the pleasure of this work.

For information, go to therecipeproject.com.

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