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Music And Cooking
by [?]

“Give me some music,–music, moody food

Of us that trade in love.”

Shakespeare’s Cleopatra.

It is my firm belief that there is an intimate relationship between the stomach and the ear, the saucepan and the crotchet, the mysteries of Mrs. Rorer and the mysteries of Mme. Marchesi. It has even occurred to me that one of the reasons our American composers are so barren in ideas is because as a race we are not interested in cooking and eating. Those countries in which music plays the greater part in the national life are precisely those which are the most interested in the culinary art. The food of Italy, the cooking, is celebrated; every peasant in that sunny land sings, and the voices of some Italians have reverberated around the world. The very melodies of Verdi and Rossini are inextricably twined in our minds around memories of ravioli and zabaglione. Vesti la Giubba is spaghetti. The composers of these melodies and their interpreters alike cooked, ate, and drank with joy, and so they composed and sang with joy too. Men with indigestion may be able to write novels, but they cannot compose great music…. The Germans spend more time eating than the people of any other country (at least they did once). It is small occasion for wonder, therefore, that they produce so many musicians. They are always eating, mammoth plates heaped high with Bavarian cabbage, Koenigsberger Klopps, Hasenpfeffer, noodles, sauerkraut, Wiener Schnitzel… drinking seidels of beer. They escort sausages with them to the opera. All the women have their skirts honeycombed with capacious pockets, in which they carry substantial lunches to eat while Isolde is deceiving King Mark. Why, the very principle of German music is based on a theory of well-fed auditors. The voluptuous scores of Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Max Schillings and Co. were not written for skinny, ill-nourished wights. Even Beethoven demands flesh and bone of his hearers. The music of Bach is directly aimed against the doctrine of asceticism. “The German capacity for feeling emotion in music has developed to the same extent as the capacity of the German stomach for containing food,” writes Ernest Newman, “but in neither the one case nor the other has there been a corresponding development in refinement of perceptions. German sentimental music is not quite as gross as German food and German feeding, but it comes very near to it sometimes…. ‘The Germans do not taste,’ said Montaigne, ‘they gulp.’ As with their food, so with the emotions of their music. So long as they get them in sufficient mass, of the traditional quality, and with the traditional pungent seasoning, they are content to leave piquancy and variety of effect to others.”… Once in Munich in a second storey window of the Bayerischebank I saw a small boy, about ten years old, sitting outside on the sill, washing the panes of glass. Opposite him on the same sill a dachshund reposed on her paws, regarding her master affectionately. Between the two stood a half-filled toby of foaming Lowenbrau, which, from time to time, the lad raised to his lips, quaffing deep draughts. And when he set the pot down he whistled the first subject of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. On Sunday afternoons, in the gardens which invariably surround the Munich breweries, the happy mothers, who gather to listen to the band play while they drink beer, frequently replenish the empty nursing bottles of their offspring at the taps from which flows the deep brown beverage…. The food of the French is highly artificial, delicately prepared and served, and flavoured with infinite art: vol au vent a la reine and Massenet, petits pois a l’etuvee and Gounod, oeuf Ste. Clotilde and Cesar Franck, all strike the tongue and the ear quite pleasantly. Des Esseintes and his liqueur symphony were the inventions of a Frenchman…. Hungarian goulash and Hungarian rhapsodies are certainly designed to be taken in conjunction…. Russian music tastes of kascha and bortsch and vodka. The happy, hearty eaters of Russia, the drunken, sodden drinkers of Russia are reflected in the scores of Boris Godunow and Petrouchka…. In England we find that the great English meat pasties and puddings appeared in the same century with the immortal Purcell…. But in America we import our cooks … and our music. As a race we do not like to cook. We scarcely like to eat. We certainly do not enjoy eating. We will never have a national music until we have national dishes and national drinks and until we like good food. It is significant that our national drinks at present are mixed drinks, the ingredients of which are foreign. It is doubly significant that that section of the country which produces chicken a la Maryland, corn bread, beaten biscuit, mint juleps, and New Orleans fizzes has furnished us with the best of such music as we can boast. Maine has offered us no Suwanee River; we owe no Swing Low, Sweet Chariot to Nebraska. The best of our ragtime composers are Jews, a race which regards eating and cooking of sufficient importance to include rules for the preparation and disposition of food in its religious tenets.