SONIC REDUCER Remember the bad ole days when giving a damn about food was uncool? When it was all about toughing out the gurgles in the gut or snatching sheer, pleasure-free sustenance by grabbing a cheapie, microwaveable green burrito from 7-Eleven and shoveling it down the gullet before racing to the hardcore show at the Vet's Hall.
Well, M.F.K. Fisher be praised and pass the white truffle oil and broccolini. Times have changed, and the signs of the shift in this chow-fixated city of biodynamo-organo-locavores have even seeped into its musical crannies, from shakuhachi player Philip Gelb's organic, vegan cooking class-feast-performances and curator Brianna Toth's dinner shows in her Mission District kitchen to Hawnay Troof/Vice Cooler's mini-vegan cook-zine and Godwaffle Noise Pancakes brunches that gird gingerbread griddle cakes with quality noise. We won't even mention all the musicians who also cook or wait for a living. Jesus Christ in a chicken basket, even big pop shots like Alex Kapranos have license to poop out tomes like Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand (Penguin, 2006).
So when I smelt Lost in the Supermarket: An Indie Rock Cookbook comin', I had to try some recipes and find out how this collection of treats from this oddball yet provocative assortment of music-makers came about. Authors Kay Bozich Owens and Lynn Owens were clearly indie fans of the most eclectic variety. Belle and Sebastian's and Fugazi's chosen eats are paired with Japanther's and USAISAMONSTER's. Some recipes tickle the taste buds like Icelandic experimentalist Mugison's say wha? Plokkfishkur, a.k.a., fish stew. Others resonate like a zen koan (see Xiu Xiu's take on tofu "3. Eat it with a fork. 4. Stare out the window"); test one's, erm, taste like 16 Bitch Pile Up's "Birthday Cundt Cake," an anatomically correct, iced red-cake interpretation of a dismembered torso; or tease the imagination as with Carla Bozulich's "Recipe for a Melodramatic End."
Lynn Owens attributes the hearty response that he and wife Kay received to the pervasiveness and renewed cool of foodie culture, the mindfulness with which people are paying attention to food and its origins, and the low-cost and creative side of cooking-it-yourself. "The kitchen is a place for creativity," says Owens, who teaches sociology, concentrating on radical politics and social protest, at Middlebury College in Vermont.
"And it is cool again: dinner party culture is big now." Additionally, he says, many musicians saw it as yet another outlet: "To an extent, cultural producers are branching out now you don't just do one thing anymore."
The project kicked off when the couple moved to Connecticut a few years ago: Lynn who once made pizzas in SF alongside his friend, Deerhoof founder and 7 Year Rabbit Cycle leader Rob Fisk was teaching at Wesleyan, and the bored and unemployed Kay began e-mailing bands about their favorite recipes, not expecting anyone to write back. But they did with at times startling passion. "The Country Teasers, who actually have a reputation of having music that's super-misanthropic, were super-duper helpful," Lynn marvels. "Almost everyone in the band sent recipes, and they introduced us to other bands who wanted to participate, and then when they played in Providence, R.I., they invited us to come to the show." Lynn went so far as to pull rank as a Wesleyan instructor in order to get alumni Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls to cough up a chocolate zucchini cake recipe. Students were enlisted as test kitchen guinea pigs.
Piqued by Lost's inclusion of multiple chili and mashed potato recipes, I decided to try my hand with the taters, a band favorite, natch, because they're "filling and relatively cheap," as Lynn puts it.