May 4, 2014 By Basith

Singing Their Dishes, No Eating Their Rhythms

fOOd and musicNowadays, chefs are learning the art of getting the right music notes. They need to know as much about playlists as they know about the list of items they have to cook. Chefs are now seen planning play lists from upcoming musical stars to pair with their signature dishes. There is a little bit of science and philosophy which spice up the enthusiasm.

Food tastes great when it appears good and exudes an aroma. It is because taste buds work in coordination with brain, photoreceptors of the eyes, olfactory neurons to make you believe that ‘you are having a great dish!’ Even though we make use of the possibilities of music in a dinner party or a restaurant lounge, we are yet to ascertain how all the sweet, savoury or bitter feel of music could add to the tastes of our favourite cuisine. A recent study by scientists at Oxford University has found that just as the appearance and smell of food can influence how we taste, so does sound [BBC, Sonic-Enhanced Food, 29th July 2012]. The study says that low brass sounds make things taste bitterer and high-pitched tunes played on pianos or bells make the dish taste sweeter.

The focus so has been on removing unhealthy ingredients out of the food by making the guest feel that the ‘taste factor’ is not compromised, by cutting short the level of sugar or salt and instead making it up with the sought of music play list chosen for the particular dish served. What if the music played could make you feel that your cup of tea is having an extra ounce of sugar – you could well escape from being diabetic, cut short your waist line and still feel like not under any restrictions?

A seashore atmosphere created through music could bring in a fresh feel into the sea food you are having, the sound of a soothing breeze caressing the palm leaves or a mountain brook babbling through its way, when reproduced through music in a dining lounge could bring in a feel that you are having a dish which is very much organic and healthy. The crunchy sound that would come out of a snack pack or a paprika fried chicken package could give a feel that, you are about to have something which is very crispy. These techniques are now widely used to market eateries or to attract customers to catering outlets. No wonder there is something synonymous in between food and music with regard to life time pleasures [Paraphrased, BBC – Sonic Enhanced Food]

It is not just the elite starred restaurants which prefer background music to their customers. Even the small breakfast, snack outlets, cafeterias, juice and ice-cream corners since ages have been adopting this technique and yet needs to be proved whether it increases ones appetite or not, for sure something quite exciting is expected to be happening in their brain while they dine along with music.

Playing music at places where people eat has thus been a tradition worldwide rather than a recent innovation. Organisers of food festivals across the world prefer to hire the best musical band in business, as they are well aware of the fact that music and food can’t anyway be considered two separate pleasures. As for food festivals the music selection is made first and the menu card matches with the tempo. The music played is expected to match different flavours sweet, bitter, hot, sour or savoury distinguished in accordance with the theme conveyed through lyrics and tone of the music played.

Attending a dining party where food and music is served, you are nourishing your body through the food and soul through the music. The one composing music or preparing a dish – both should have extreme devotion, energy and passion to make their product mind-boggling. While planning a party the music playlist is as important as the menu card prepared and the music played is expected to match the tempo of the menu card.

Food and Music both having the ability to set our moods, to device our outlook towards life – when intertwined is found to be encouraging relationships and social life. Both when linked together is powerful enough to heal your wounds and provide you a positive energy, because at times wounds are to be erased from mind apart from being cured physically, auditory receptors could make your taste buds believe that the dish they offered me is just amazing. A dish that tastes good and a music that is soothing to your heart together can thus build an entire new positive outlook towards life.

While at Kitchen, music is believed to enhance your creativity in cooking and the tones, lyrics and rhythms are expected to flourish in kitchen as cooking utensils gets transformed to musical instruments as one gets in to the mood of singing. No wonder many musical instruments are identical in shape to kitchen utensils and there is even an art form called ‘Kitchen Orchestra’ performed using kitchen utensils each resembling specific musical instruments. The success of a band like Sputter tells a lot about the possibility of sonorous rhythms made with kitchen utensils getting popular. Sputter was constructed out of an old satellite dish, a spoon, and some paper towels.

Read the profile of the band in the website ( ‘The Sputter was born in a basement Autumn of 03. With a keen interest in aural emotives, rythmic elation, pulsating bio-electric sensory deposits…and jazz, really good jazz, the members pushed forth on an exploration of the sound psyche venturing to the far reaches of the solarmetric plane. Alas, they realize that their journey has only just begun and they need the assistance of your ears to continue exploring new worlds and testing the boundaries of those that already exist. Please don’t be shy. Lend them your ears. You will not regret it.’

It is not just that restaurants and dining launches are dependent on musical bands, the existence is mutually symbiotic. Food is now never an after-thought for concerts or musical fests. Inviting top chefs to the musical festivals or bringing their varieties of taste to the playlist has been a trend nowadays.  On the first page of brochure prepared for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music held in Townsville, North Queensland, Chefs in the North have been mentioned as a speciality.

‘At the Great GoogaMooga, a convergence of food and music that will devour part of Prospect Park in Brooklyn star chefs like April Bloomfield, Tom Colicchio and Marcus Samuelsson, serving a feast of elevated street food. Such is the prominence of food in the festival’s marketing push that its organizers announced the line-up of participating,’ says Jeff Gordiner in Nww York Times article.

Avial and Kallummekkaya – the two South Indian alternative Malayalam Rock bands named after two well renowned Kerala Dishes; Avial – a dish made of various types of vegetables, is an important part of the Kerala style vegetarian Sadya and Kallummekkaya has been the name used for  Green Mussel meat in Kerala especially in the Malabar region. The Kallummekkaya is fried and served spicy after extracting meat out of the shell, or otherwise they are fried after filling the shell cavity with a spicy rice flour mix along with turmeric powder, grinded pearl onions and cumin seeds. Both the Musical bands exhibit the traits of the particular dishes they are named after. Avial’s works are a mix of folk music from Kerala and alternative rock.  The Avial Band members knew that they were replenishing an inherent art form sung by the locals in paddy fields, in the fishing boats – by bringing in some western elements, and so there is no better name to define their attempt than the delicious ‘Avial’, which indeed like their music is a mix of contrasting vegetables.

Kallummekaya won hearts by innovations like bringing in Rock elements into the popular Malabar Muslim folk songs. Here too, the lyrics and themes handled are very much native but they present it in a rather more interesting and widely acclaimed rock style. Thanks to the innovations by Malabar Muslim house wives, who instead of just frying it spicy and crispy made it an ambrosial evening snack, by stuffing the shell with a ground paste like spicy rice flour filling and then frying it. Same way the Kallummekkaya musical band too would love to put up a few delectable music shows by stuffing the traditional Mappila songs with some rock ingredients. Both these alternative rock bands seems to have gained a formidable space in the minds of music loving audience in South India as they even had the fortune to perform in the recent big hits of new generation wave –  Mollywood films and got recognised widely for their appealing performances in those films.

Music Bands are now busy innovating musical-food fusions like setting music to recipes by well renowned chefs and are quite often seen writing food blogs. No wonder lot among the musical bands preferred to be known by ‘food names’. Vanilla Fudge, Hot Chocolate, Meat Loaf, Pearl Jam, Martha and the Muffins, The Dixie Chicks, Cream, Bread, Black Eyed Peas, Peaches, The Sea and Cake, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Smashing Pumpkins, Strawberry Alarm Clock, Cranberries, Wild Cherry and Blind Melon are a few among the list. From these very band names there was a hint on how their music would taste like and there can’t be a better way of symbolising the tempo of their music other than saying ‘how sour, sweet or bitter our music would be’ and ‘what we are altogether made of, referring to the particular ingredients a dish is made of in comparison to the content and components of a particular music composed’.

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