This Side Up

Energizing music and comfort food


Food can be like music. There are foods –take popcorn – that are not considered a meal yet are great when you need a little something to tide you over between lunch and dinner, or you have that compunction to chew while watching the game and anxiously waiting for that big play. There’s music for such occasions, too. Some might think of it as “fill dead time music,” mindless melodies that take you from one space to the next without having you humming the tune all day or really having to stop and listen. But that’s not bad.

And then there’s music that can energize your day and have you feel just about anything is possible. I put the music of composer Gioachino Rossini in that category. Seriously, if you want to turn a ho-hum morning around, try playing his overture to “The Thieving Magpie.” It’s the equivalent of sprinkling red pepper flakes on you Shredded Wheat. If you’re looking for something gentler but with some get-up-and-go, try Rossini’s “William Tell Overture.”

We happened to catch that over muffins Sunday.

Carol and I looked at one another and simultaneously said, “I know this.” The piece had not reached the point surely everyone of our age knows, but none of the current generation would have any idea what we’re talking about. The creators of “The Lone Ranger” unabashedly borrowed from Rossini for the TV show’s uplifting theme song of the white masked crusader and his horse Silver. Play that for breakfast and you’re ready to gallop into whatever the day holds.

There’s music to set the mood and moody music that is so syrupy that it can get you mad. Music has that power.

What about food?

What prompted the thought was Carol’s decision to make matzah ball soup for lunch. Carol hasn’t made matzah ball soup in well over a year. Why now?

The customary Sunday luncheon fare during the gray days of winter is a grilled cheese on rye with a cup of Campbell’s tomato soup doctored with basil. Hot tea goes along with it.

And then comes along matzah ball soup.

“Are you feeling all right?”

Carol said she had been up most of the night and thought matzah ball soup would hit the spot.

I had to agree there’s something comforting about the hot chicken broth and dough balls that look like floating mashed potatoes and are of the same consistency. It turns down the music. And what of other foods, what emotions might they feed?

Stew has that hearty feel of substance, whether it’s boeuf bourguignon from a French restaurant or Dinty Moore straight from the can. It’s a solid meal to be eaten with bread to sweep up the gravy. I’d put stew along with chili in the category of work food, the musical equivalent of a symphony, serious and heavy.

Pastas tend to be lighter fare – good food to gather around, in the category of pizza and tacos. There’s foods for occasions, whether turkey at Thanksgiving or, depending on the family tradition, fish or ham on Easter.

And then there all sorts of varieties of ethnic foods that just by their flavors and names can transport you to places you’ve never been. Are they the “real feel”? Perhaps it doesn’t matter, because you’ve experienced something different and that’s what it’s all about.

And, of course, there’s fast food – the quick fix to get you through the day without any expectation of fulfilling an inner need. Chocolate isn’t like that, although some candy bars are marketed as energy bars. Truth be, at least for me, chocolate is a reward, a little gift and a diversion. It’s not stew … well, thankfully.

The same can be said of music. The Beatles aren’t Beethoven, thankfully. Rap isn’t opera, although Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton” may have you thinking otherwise.

Indeed, music can be food that spurs you on or lulls you to sleep.

Matzah ball soup didn’t transport me. It didn’t set the mind whirling like “The Thieving Magpie.” But it did have that home touch that even though you may not feel up to par, everything is all right. And that’s a good tune.


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment