Even if a band like, say, Pelican doesn't sound like my cup of tea, I'm happy to try their recipe for oatmeal cake.
I Like Food, Food Tastes GoodPublisher: Hyperion
Subtitle: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands
Author: Kara Zuaro
US publication date: 2007-04
Kara Zuaro's I Like Food, Food Tastes Good: In the Kitchen with Your Favorite Bands continues the domestication of rock and roll. This may be a source of consternation for outlets like Spin magazine, who can be seen whining about the death of larger-than-life rock icons, something that seems to happen more or less annually.
Spin's June issue offered up an absinthe-sipping Marilyn Manson as "the last rock star" with such left-field desperation that you couldn't help but picture a numbered "last rock star cover" list full of rejection-inspired cross-outs, with Manson somewhere in the double digits. But the point, however reluctantly, is taken: some of the country's biggest-selling rock acts (at least for the moment) are indie (or indie-identified) bands like Arcade Fire and Modest Mouse who don't wow the public with their constant excesses. That's just not how they were raised.
This makes Zuaro's cookbook -- a collection of recipes from members of about a hundred mostly-indie mostly-rockers -- all the more successful, as it marries an independent, DIY ethos with the sometimes exotic, sometimes wearying rock-and-roll touring lifestyle. In her introduction, Zuaro explains that she started collecting rocker recipes after realizing just how much the sometimes-literally starving artists she interviewed as a journalist appreciated food.
The book's formula is simple: Zuaro takes us through many types and portions of food, from morning through late at night (though, as she points out, those two opposing ends can sometimes overlap), and writes a short preface for each recipe about both the band and the food in question.
Most entries also include quick words from band members, but the most entertaining include lengthier quotes or, even better, recipes fully written in a band member's distinctive voice. Electroclash performer Edie Sedgwick -- no, not quite that one -- calls hers a "gustatory manifesto" with such authority that it took a few entries for me to realize this was her term, not Zuaro's; it would not be recurring throughout the book as I initially thought. John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats walks you through his "Tato Mato" (an economical potato/tomato/rice dish) with a sweet humor fans will recognize from his between-song in-concert patter ("ghee is the best thing ever, but will make you fat. You should be so blessed as to never have anything worse to worry about than whether you're getting fat, eh?").
I should mention that I'd never heard of Edie Sedgwick (at least not this one), and the Mountain Goats are one of my favorite bands. The whole book is like that: several of my most treasured musical acts (They Might Be Giants, the Hold Steady, Belle and Sebastian) trade recipes with bands I now want to check out based on Zuaro's description (the Rosebuds, Laura Minor, Swearing at Motorists). Even if a band like, say, Pelican doesn't sound like my cup of tea, I'm happy to try their recipe for oatmeal cake (it may not translate into a lifelong dedication or even a T-shirt sale, but it might make me happier to see them on a double bill someday).
In that way, I Like Food is like a homier, more personal spin on a music blog; it may not come with any free downloads, but the bands you love, the bands you may not know, recipes from both, and the music writer who's enthusiastic about all of it create what feels like an indie-rock community.
A few touches could've made it even friendlier. The book is neatly designed, but it's a little disappointing to find no pictures of either the bands or their creations; press photos that accompanied its release featured adorable shots of the "forest folk" band Grizzly Bear deep into making their -- or rather, their lead singer's mom's -- famous Pecan Pie, but nothing like that turns up on the page.
Still, Zuaro's work is a warm and inviting, casually rebuking mainstream rock-star posturing (while tour stories, even low-budget ones, offer subtle reminders that rockers, even indie ones, are not necessarily "just like us"). Marilyn Manson can keep his meaningless "last rock star" title -- unless, of course, he wants to share his recipe for absinthe.