What To Listen To When You Cook

14 Jan


Some people believe that all you have is memory, that the present goes by so quickly that all you’re left with is a collection of sights, sounds, smells, touches, and tastes that live in your mind. Life is just a collection of multidimensional postcards.

The opposite of that is dreaming – you have no memory of a place, but you imagine what it would be like. You create a world where you want to go, in your mind, and try to mimic what it might be like to be there.

For someone who’s never traveled, dreams of what could be are all I have, for now. I wish I could say that this coffee tastes just like a cappuccino I had across the street from the Coliseum; I wish I could say this Pad Thai was better in Chiang Mai than in Bangkok; I wish I could say that the beef in Buenos Aires is unlike anything in the United States.

I remember when I was about 12 years old and my parents’ longtime friend had us to his home for dinner. He was one of their worldly friends, somewhat out of place in our little Midwestern community. The family friend, John, and his wife, Vanessa, lived in an old house they renovated. They decorated it with posters, trinkets, statues and paintings they had gathered on their many travels together.

When I walked into their home, I felt like we were traveling somewhere far away. Vanessa set up a long table in their dining room, lit only by several candles scattered around the room. She played some opera CDs while we dined. She and John made Italian food, and the air was thick with garlic and basil aromas. In my sheltered life, I hadn’t had an experience like that, and I recorded it deeply on my memory. The adults’ conversation was surprisingly interesting to my 12-year-old self, enhanced, I’m sure, by the lovely ambiance Vanessa and John had created. I remember leaving their home that night enchanted by their lifestyle and experiences.

Here I am today, many years later, perhaps no closer, physically, to that international experience. But I am learning to make the most of what I have at my disposal, and today, that is Spotify, iTunes, and a speaker.

The following is a playlist I created while I rediscovered cooking the other day. I made it in the hopes of creating a rich experience that would transport me somewhere far away. While I cooked, I tried to pause here and there, to savor the moment, imagining that instead of cooking in my kitchen in Denver, I was going to a fancy meal for a family in Brazil, or that I was dining with new friends at sunset in Mumbai, or that I was in a some romantic Italian village, cooking for some handsome man who would dine with me on our balcony overlooking a vineyard.

Whether or not the experience lives in my memory that way, only time will tell.

Enjoy the list and tell me what you think, if you feel so inclined. Better yet, tell me if the music helped you smell, taste or feel from a memory, or from a dream.

(Disclaimer: since many of these are in foreign languages that I don’t speak, please don’t hold me accountable if the lyrics are offensive or inappropriate. I have no idea what they’re about. I think they just sound nice.)

What to listen to when you cook:

“L’appuntamento” by Ornella Vanoni

“The Girl From Ipanima” by Stan Getz

“Greek Song” by Rufus Wainwright

“Scenic World (New Version)” by Beirut

“Mexico” by The Mexican Institute of Sound

“J’ai Deux Amours” by Madeleine Peyroux

“Cuando Yo la Conoci” by Los Zafiros

“Postcards from Italy” by Beirut

“Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra

“L’Amour Est un Oiseau Rebelle” by Georges Bizet

“Samba Vexillographica” by Devendra Banhart

“Raga Gaud Sarang: Gat in Fast Ade Chautaal” by Ravi Shankar

“Gyae Su” by Pat Thomas and Kwashibu Area Band

“Maintenant (Strings)” by Rupa & The April Fishes

“Laye” by Kiss Daniel

“Tuyo” by Rodrigo Amarante

“Rum’n’cocacola” by Tim Tim



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