Top Five Cookbooks For Classical Music Fans

Thursday, August 15, 2013

singing chef (Shutterstock)

Appetites among certain composers and musicians are legendary, and dishes bearing their names—Tournedos Rossini, Chicken Tetrazzini, and Peach Melba, for example—are proof.

The association between music and food, hearing and eating, is a strong one, and a cookbooks have appealed to classical music and opera buffs who know their way around the kitchen, or are just curious what renowned musicians cook when not touring. Here are our five favorite cookbooks:

1. Encore: The Favorite Dishes of the World’s Most Famous Musicians

Encore The Favorite Dishes of the World’s Most Famous Musicians was compiled by the Women’s Association of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra and published by Random House in 1958. With contributions from Licia Albanese (risotto and veal scaloppini) to George Szell (Filet of Sole as I Like It) as well as more than a dozen recipes by Antal Dorati, this collection provides a bit of insight into the diets and personalities of mid-century musical luminaries. The details about the latter are often more interesting than the dated recipes. For example, did you know that Robert Merrill farmed both strawberries and fruit trees on his New Rochelle property?

2. Opera Lover's Cookbook

Francine Segan's Opera Lover’s Cookbook takes inspiration from suites of operas and builds menus around a theme. A Mozartean dessert party includes Viennese pastries, a collection of tapas dishes is supposed to invoke works set within Spain (Carmen, Don Giovanni, and The Barber of Seville). Since Segan is a food historian with an impeccable culinary resume, her recipes require skills in the kitchen, but are more exciting than in Encore. A forward by Renée Fleming and wine recommendations from the baritone Gerald Finley give the book an insider feel.

3. Dining and the Opera in Manhattan

The restaurant and music scene in around Lincoln Center has changed enormously since Sharon O'Connor published her cookbook plus CD package, Dining and the Opera in Manhattan, just one collection in her menus and music series. Nostalgic New Yorkers can reminisce over dishes inspired by meals at Lutèce, San Domenico, La Côte Basque, or La Caravelle while listening to arias sung by Beverly Sills and Leontyne Price on the accompanying disk.

4. Cooking with Music: Celebrating the Tastes and Traditions of the Boston Symphony Orchestra

Not surprisingly, Cooking With Music: Celebrating the Tastes and Traditions of the Boston Symphony Orchestra emphasizes New England cuisine, with some more global dishes provided by figures such as then-director Seiji Ozawa (fish stew) and Isaac Stern (borsht). Perhaps the most alluring recipes are those intended for picnics, particularly summer evenings spent at Tanglewood, the BSO's summer home. And anecdotes of eating with the musicians are peppered throughout the pages.

5. The Ethnomusicologist's Cookbook

Noting that music and food are inseparable at celebrations and gatherings around the world, The Ethnomusicologist’s Cookbook, edited by Evergreen State College professor Sean Williams, provides insight into the connections between these fields, as well as other cultural traditions. Norwegian laks go along with the native hardanger fiddle, and authors recommend CDs and websites for additional listening. Though the emphasis here is on folk music, the texts provide interesting evaluations of how our senses are inextricably linked in our experience.

Below:  Jacques Pepin told us in 2011 about his five favorite pieces for the kitchen. Do you have a favorite cookbook that involves classical music? Tell us about it below in the comments box.


More in:

Comments [4]

Constance, Routledge/Taylor and Franc

I am the editor for The Ethnomusicologists' Cookbook by Sean Williams. Thank you for listing it! We published a Volume II in 2015, ISBN 9780415838672, so successful was the first volume listed above. That book is Volume I from 2006, ISBN 9780415978194. These volumes are a real treat for world music lovers. Thank you WQXR, my favorite New York station, for this terrific review of cookbooks for those who cook to music and dine with music!

Oct. 24 2016 11:14 AM
Andy B from Lower Merion, PA

As for the lead photo above--with the girl danging to her iPhone--I can't imagine what piece of classical music is inspiring such dancing debauchery. Perhaps "The Waltz of the Flowers," "Invitation to the Dance," the Radetzky March, or one of the Dvorak Slavonic Dances (perhaps op. 46 #1 or #8, or op. 72 #1?). Wait, it must be one of The Planets, perhaps Jupiter. Take a stab my fellow listeners, what on earth is that girl listening to?!?! Probably not classical, but hazard a guess anyway.

I can't figure out why a classical music blog has to look like the cover of People Magazine or the National Enquirer. Maybe I am off-base by fancying myself an "enlightened" classical music devotee and need to get with the times...

Aug. 19 2013 01:52 PM
Cathryn Darcy from Minot, ND

What about the cookbooks by Fred Plotkin? He is an expert on all things Italian -- opera and food!

Aug. 17 2013 06:29 PM
Catherine Arcure from NYC, NY

I have one to add to the list. It's "Bravo" put together by the University Musical Society of the University of Michigan. It has glorious recipes from musicians who have appeared on the UMS stages in Ann Arbor...everyone from Itzhak Perlman to Cecilia Bartoli to Jessye Norman and many, many others. Won't fail to please. Available by emailing Development office, UMS, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109.

Aug. 16 2013 08:08 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.


About Top 5 @ 105

WQXR helps you make the most of the New York City’s classical music scene.

Our "Top 5 at 105 " features can't-miss experiences: the best concerts, books and films about music, places to eat before and after shows, and more.