Friday, March 7, 2008

Kitchen Songs

Today I’m debuting The Greasy Five, a new monthly feature on my blog. It’s my homage to one of my favorite books, Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. In that book the protagonist and his friends pass time by compiling and sharing Top-Five lists. This is my spin on this form of creative loafing.

The Greasy Five
Songs for the Kitchen
  • “Ho Cake” by Mofro – When the swamp-groove funk of Mofro swaggers from my speakers, I always feel compelled to dance, cook, or eat. Sometimes I simultaneously do all three. This song, an ode to Southern food, rocks my shorts and skillets. Each time I hear the following verse, I chuckle:

    I love this food Lord I can't get enough
    Stick ya hands near my plate, you'll draw back a nub
    I 'member it happened back in 1978
    Daddy caught me tryin' to steal a pork chop off his plate
    He snatched it back and I gave him a little sass
    He quick whupped off the belt 'n started whuppin' on my ass
    I learned a lesson 'bout what this food can do
    It can talk yo ass in to turning black-and-blue
    So all you kids keep yo hands to yo on supper
    Cuz if you let that food do the talkin' yo tail might suffer

  • “Love Never Means Having to Say You’re Hungry” by Charlie Robison – Music, especially the blues, has a long tradition of songs about food that contain sexual innuendos. Songs like Bo Carter’s “Banana in Your Fruitbasket”, Memphis Minnie’s “My Butcher Man”, and Van Halen’s “Ice Cream Man.” This song is ripe with sexual innuendo, and I often wonder what Charlie’s wife, Emily of The Dixie Chicks, thinks when she hears this song. However, the innuendo is in the ears and mind of the listener, so maybe this song is about a guy who just really likes his wife’s cooking.

    NOTE: Charlie’s a guy who likes food. After catching his show in Kansas City a couple of years ago, I visited with him a little bit, and he gave me a Texas BBQ recommendation, Opie’s BBQ near Spicewood, Texas. When he started talking BBQ, he lit up and delivered a passionate ode to Opie’s beef ribs, something you don’t find on most BBQ restaurant menus. I told him that he should try the beef ribs at Jackstack BBQ in Kansas City.

  • “Jambalaya” by Hank Williams - As a kid I thought Hank Williams was singing in another language on this song. Even though I couldn’t decipher the lyrics, I knew that I loved the raw, earthy sound of the fiddle and the buoyancy in Hank’s normally lonesome voice. After a few years of listening to this song as a kid, I figured out that he was singing about a party, and even though I didn’t know any of the foods – jambalaya, crawfish pie, and file gumbo – served at that party, I knew that I wanted to eat with those good people on the bayou.

  • “Homegrown Tomatoes” by Guy Clark – I know that Southerners honor and praise their tomatoes, but as a child of the Great Plains, I can attest to our ardent love and passion for homegrown tomatoes. I love this song because it celebrates one of life’s simple pleasures – tomatoes.
Only two things that money can't buy
That's true love & homegrown tomatoes

  • “Sunday Morning Coming Down” by Johnny Cash – I could argue that this is the greatest song ever written, but I’ll save that for a time when I’m in a state of drunken exuberance. Let’s just talk about why it earns top honors on this edition of The Greasy Five. The song isn’t strictly about food, but the second verse uses food to deliver an emotional wallop:
I'd smoked my brain the night before On cigarettes and songs I'd been pickin'.
But I lit my first and watched a small kid,Cussin' at a can that he was kicking.
Then I crossed the empty street,'n caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin' chicken.
And it took me back to somethin',That I'd lost somehow, somewhere along the way
This verse conveys an essential truth about food. Food is more than food. It’s more than sustenance. In the song, food transports the narrator to a particular time and place. The smell of frying chicken reminds him of values he’s abandoned in his life. Food is more than food. When I cook and eat, I want it to be about more than simply stuffing my face. When I share a bowl of popcorn with my daughter, it’s not simply about eating the popcorn; it’s about sharing an experience.

I know that I’m not articulating myself very well, so let me just suggest that you listen to the song – it speaks for itself.

Take care,

P.S. I can't believe I didn't include any songs by Tom T. Hall or Louis Jordan. Also, I'm currently in love with the B-52's song "Rock Lobster".

1 comment:

Julie said...

Great song lists!!!!