Cooking With Classical Music

Tuesday, May 04, 2010 - 10:43 AM

I was rearranging some of my books recently and came across my copy of Kitchen Classics with the Philharmonic by my former WQXR colleague June Lebell (great book, btw). It made me think how important it is to have the right music playing when you are preparing meals.

Because I am not a terribly experienced chef, I tend to prefer something that keeps me relaxed but energized--like Bach or Mozart--when I cook.  When it’s time to eat, I like candles and a mellow musical atmosphere--maybe even something romantic.

But I would imagine that if you are a confident cook and more adventurous, you might choose something like Poulenc, Weill, Piazzolla...or how about Copland?  Am I right?   

I’d love to know about one of your most memorable cooking experiences that involved classical music. And, by all means share the recipe if you would like.


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Comments [19]

Phyllis Sharpe from Teaneck, NJ

For me different menus I'm preparing require different music. In late spring thru early fall when I'm cooking on the deck and in the kitchen. I need something invigorating like selections played by the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra. In the winter for paprika beef or chicken goulash I use Hungarian sweet paprika and need Hungarian rhapsodies. For Thanksgiving dinner at my house with all the kids and grandkids, how about Exultate Jubilate? which I am listening to now on WQXR.

Jul. 05 2010 06:15 PM
June LeBell from Sarasota, FL

FINALLY, Midge, I'm getting to respond to your wonderful mention of my cookbook. (Hey - I can now buy them on Amazon for 99 cents!!) I still lecture on this subject and my favorite music to go with a veal dish is..... Can you guess? Hint: It's a gorgeous aria from an operetta...
Love to all!

Jun. 05 2010 10:58 PM
Al Luna from Bronx

Special family and friends:Faure, Granados, Haydn, (some) Beethoven, Albeniz, Garcia-Abril, Piazzolla, Debussy's Piano works by Bavouzet, Bach's Violin Concertos by Szeryng and PR'can Ernesto Cordero.

All other pretentious friends: Amadeus soundtrack, Vivaldi 4 Seasons, Bach's Brandenbergs......beyond cliche, sorry.

May. 19 2010 11:46 AM
Nelson Figueras from New Brunswick, NJ

A little over a year ago, I had the honour and great pleasure to design, bake and dress a wedding cake for my daughter and her almost 200 friends and family. The baking and finishing took me approximately four days. All during this time as is my habit when baking, I listened to WQXR which keeps me company as I m alone, and some of my classical CDs. With each different step of the process I listened to different music. I recall listening to a collection of the Well Tempered Klavier when doing the delicate piping on the almost finished cake and to Vivaldi, as I mixed ingredients and baked. I find myself doing this now when doing any cooking or preparing anything special for my family and special friends. I find there is a piece of music just right for any of my baking, and creating in the kitchen.

May. 13 2010 10:02 AM

I agree with Midge that the music should be relaxed but energized while making a great meal. ( I like to play rousing classical pieces in anticipation for what might come AFTER a fine dinner...)

May. 12 2010 02:58 PM
Richard Riskin from Manhattan

Firstly, thanks to Midge Woolsey, one of my favorite WQXR hosts for reminding me of "Kitchen Classics From the Philharmonic", a cookbook I own, and have not taken off the shelf in many years. Looking through it now, I am definitely going to be cooking from it again.
That said, Aveline Kushi, the late macrobiotic cookbook writer, wrote that (and I paraphrase here) the only sound when one cooks should be the sound of the food and the cooking utensils; that in itself is a kind of music.
On one hand, I wholeheartedly agree, sometimes going about things in the kitchen exactly that way; no music, but the sounds of the food and the various tools I use creating tones and rhythms that are peaceful and soothing.
However, most of the time I prefer music accompanying what I do in the kitchen.
My classical favorites for the kitchen are Yo-Yo Ma playing the Bach Cello Suites (his first recording of them); Vladimir Horowitz's remarkable Scarlatti Sonatas; the Complete Debussy Piano Music (Peter Frankl in a VoxBox collection); lately, a wonderful recording of "La Rondine" with Anna Moffo; on Saturday afternoons, without question, the Met broadcast; and, for really full-on energy, some very select Broadway shows (usually, Rodgers and Hammerstein for high emotion, and Jule Styne for unashamed brassiness).
At dinnertime, vocals are off-limits. Chamber music, or more solo piano in a relaxing vein suits us - or, Aveline Kushi's revered silence, broken only by quiet conversation.

May. 10 2010 11:34 AM
Matt from Upper West Side

I found it comforting when I heard a few hours ago that blogs should be fun from the DJ Midge. I went to the blog and had to smile. Being this is a Classical Station I thought I had to mention composers or movements and the list goes on. I am a closet musician and an awful cook. I did volunteer a few weeks ago to be the one in the kitchen our friends assembled. I was listened to AIDA. I believe it was live from the met. Unless this station played the entire CD. I was listening to the soldiers march back into Egypt in triumph and my kitchen spoon was swinging in the breeze. I was conducting. Much sauce got on the walls, floor and countrer top. I have to laugh now. I do play classical music during the dinner itself. I personally like symphonies during dinner when we are all eating as we have no words to focus on. During cooking I like the opera as I can go to another world. My feeling is that when eating with friends listen to the comforting music and no words in the music.

May. 06 2010 05:29 PM
Elizabeth from Wall Street

Thank you so much for the posting about Adagio and Shrimp Chowder. I am having the worst day here at work, watching the clock and listening quietly to WQXR on my computer. I went to the Blog and just read this. I laughed out loud. A co-worker who knew I was having a bad day came over to see what I was laughing at. Thanks so much for lifting me up. I am going to share this story.

May. 06 2010 01:46 PM
John from Midtown

I wish I could give some inspiring tips about classical music and what to play at dinner. But alas, I am suggesting what not to do. I think it was 1980.

I had just moved to Manhattan from the Deep South, I invited 3 co workers from the office here in NY to dinner. They were Jewish. I wanted to show them Southern Coooking.

Do not serve Jewish guest Shrimp Chowder as a first courser or Stuffed Pork Chops as a main course unles you research Kosher first!

So we were stuck with my Baby Watson Chjeese cake from Second Avenue for Appetizer, Main Course and Dessert.

I played the one classical album I had, it was a gift. Called The Greatest Hits of 1920, I thought that a better choice than keep playing Debbie Boones "You light uo my life over and over. So I played adagio, the same one that is the theme to the Movie Galliploi. Well it was so depressing, nobody was touching their Baby Watson! One women started tearing up, it reminded her of her mother who just passede. Another got depressed as she was moving out of state. Never play Adagio, or at least that version when you are trying to liven up the party!


May. 06 2010 01:15 PM
Poeta from Rumson, NJ

I love cooking complicated dishes with Beethoven, Wine and cheese with Bach, Italian receipes with Vivaldi.
For the fireplace dinners, Chopin and Liszt..
Cavier and Vodka with Stravinsky and Latin American foods with Joaquín Rodrigo and his famous guitar Aranquez.
Delicious food should be made with love along with composers lthat ive in your heart.

May. 05 2010 04:28 PM
Pete Drexler from Croton on Hudson

When I ventured into corporate accounting away from auditing, I finally had an office and the entre to have a radio playing in the background. Classical music was always the best backdrop with which to work-I found myself more productive listening to good classical music. It applies to cooking as well. Somehow, my spaghetti sauce always turns out better with an Italian opera in the background. Go figure.

May. 05 2010 12:33 PM
Larry LaFata from Wherever the spirit takes me

Hi Midge love your show, and especially the Garrison Kielor segment at 12 each day.

I cooked my way through college, and didn't have the luxury of hearing classical music - it was more the clanging of pots and pans and shouting from the waitresses of "where's the side of veggies, Lar!" - until I started working full time on Wall Street

But at home or at fine dining establishments, the soulful uplifting that classical music provides - once you aquire a taste for it - is excelent for romantic elegant meals, making that special seafood dish you only have every few weeks, with that special someone, ever more special.

I do think seafood goes best with classical music, as well as any kind of savory wine.

May. 05 2010 12:16 PM
Ellen from Montclair, NJ

My daughter took piano lessons for many years - through high school. She became quite accomplished and, during the high school years regularly practiced while I was preparing dinner. For years I cooked to Schubert, Chopin, Debussy, Grieg, Bach... the works!

My daughter is now in college. Recently I was preparing dinner and QXR played one of the pieces she had worked on at length, and it brought back a lovely flood of memories as well as the knowledge that no matter how good your sound system is there is nothing like hearing music live (especially from a grand piano)!

May. 04 2010 06:44 PM
George from Upstate

Some of the most pleasant memories of my life are from my youth spent at home while my parents would cook something with garlic while either singing or listening to the Met broadcasts with Milton Cross.
The tradition continues to this day with my wife and I. Her voice is better than mine but then again, I use more garlic. My eight year old enjoys it all.

May. 04 2010 01:24 PM
Joan from New York

Whether I make a routine meal or something special, listening to WQXR helps make the meal preparation much more enjoyable. I've noticed I tend to chop in time to the music, so I prefer a quicker tempo. My husband, Richard, and I love to eat to classical music. Like you, we prefer "a mellow musical atmosphere--maybe even something romantic." Unfortunately, WQXR has started to play more modern, atonal or dissonant music at dinner time, which we find neither enhances our dining experience nor our digestion. I often wind up jumping up and searching through our CDs for something more soothing to our ears and stomachs.

May. 04 2010 01:21 PM
dalia carmel goldstein

when I was growing up in Israel, our one radio station provided an opera program for 1 hr a week. I used to sit and just listen whereupon my mother came and scolded me for just sitting without doing anything. Listening was not considered an activity.
On coming to NYC and nesting in a small apartment I found the Saturday live broadcast from the Met. Well I would sit and listen for 3-4 hours but kept hearing my mother's voice chiding me for doing nothing.
So, cooking was born to the tune of operas on Saturdays p.m. Only the 3-4 hours provided for a lot of cooking for one mouth only, resulting in inviting my neigbors for opera feasts at my house.
The marriage of food and music.

May. 04 2010 01:14 PM
Peggy from New York

I always play classical music at low volume when entertaining. However, at one of my first dinner parties 30+ years ago I put on Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture. As it reached its climatic volley during dinner, I observed my guests eating in time to the music. It still remains a favorite, but not during dinner.

May. 04 2010 12:37 PM
Alan Oser from Staten Island N.Y.

I am a retiree who cooks fairly regularly at dinnertime for myself and my wife, with WQXR regularly turned on (or a CD if I want different music). I cooks fairly standard meals that require neither cookbook or thought. I would rather put my mind on the music -- so complicated and unfamiliar music is what I prefer. For me there is no better time for esoteric contemporary music. However, I don't expect this eccentric taste to be widely shared.

May. 04 2010 12:36 PM
Kenneth Bennett Lane from Lake Hiawatha, NJ

We all know how important food is to our health and our psyche. Rossini even gave up composing, devoting many of his last years to the art of the gastronome. In my own case, being an ovo-lacto-vegetarian, and my brother, Dr. Ben C. Lane, being a noted nutritional optometrist, who has actually reversed many of his patients' eye diseases through non-invasive nutrition, I KNOW, for a fact, that one's performance in life and as well in business or on the stage, depends on their lifestyle and eating habits. Pavarotti was done in by his ravenous eating. I knew him from the beginning of his career. Food was his nerves' antidote. But, as well we know, it affected his mobility, etc. There was a book out many years ago on "Eating Menus of the Stars" with actual recipes by Hollywood, Broadway, "pop" singers, and actors on radio and TV. It also had the pictures of the people whose recipes were printed.

May. 04 2010 11:46 AM

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