Writings about Music

Foods of the World

One absorbing pathway for augmenting ourselves with foreign culture is through culinary experience. Along those lines, I have been utterly razzle-dazzled by the Foods of the World Seriesof twenty-seven books originally published in the late sixties by Time Life, now available on Amazon. Together with sublime colour photographs depicting myriad dishes, raw ingredients, and distant regions, the elegant, engaging writing brims with stories and facts that provide clues into the essence of what makes each culture distinct and inspiring. 

Here are just a few specifics that were all revelations for me: It is the deep and powerful Japan Current that prevents ocean minerals from settling to the bottom in the seas around Japan, helping to explain why seafood there has traditionally been the finest tasting in the world, including their genius for uncooked preparations. Germans traditionally ate five meals a day, as opposed to the three a day common here in America. Recent studies seem to suggest this concept is healthier. The most exquisite German white wines came about after it was discovered that overripe grapes covered with mold were beneficial because the mold eats away the skin, causing the water to evaporate, and yielding a richly sugared juice that eventually becomes those coveted wines. I was also struck by a number of subtly complex descriptive passages in these fine volumes presenting ideas and explanations about food and drink that are conceptually relatable to music in surprising and delightful ways. 

Another rare balm is the phenomenally rich reservoir of American comedy from the mid-twentieth century and on, now found on YouTube, Pandora, and other platforms. Many of the names are very famous, but now we are able to actually explore the contributions of these individuals in some depth, including how their improvisatory flights of imagination and lightning reflexes parallel jazz musicians.

- Michael Robinson, December 2016, Los Angeles


© 2016 Michael Robinson All rights reserved

Michael Robinson is a Los Angeles-based composer and writer (musicologist).


This writing originally appeared in textura, a Canadian music publication.