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"If music be the food of love, play on!"

William Shakespeare "Twelfth Night" act 1, scene 1

I had the immense pleasure of meeting Maestro Jamie Oliver the other day. The Naked Chef (actually he wore pretty decent clothes that day) who at the age of 24 changed our world forever. The Knight of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire - an honour awarded for outstanding contributions in charitable and welfare organisations, art and science - who fought with Governments, who gave a new life to many disadvantaged youths, who made us all fall in love with food and introduced us to a whole army of Italian nonnas. That guy! Guess what: Turns out Jamie loves music! Is that surprising? It is not actually. Who doesn’t! Just like “who doesn’t love good food?”. Meeting the famous chef in the music studio made me think about all the similarities between music and food. The ingredients that make us love them both so much.

So! For a starter, we will have to go to Italy! (Oh, yes, please! Any day!)

Most of us would agree that the cradle of the best food AND music was Italy. I am aware that the French and the Chinese will now be all up in arms with arguments about cradles, sophistication and origins, however the only food we all can eat everyday of our lives is almost certainly the Italian. As far as music goes, the Italians are the unbeatable World Cup holders. The official terminology in music is in Italian, the Opera comes from Italy, the Concerto, the Aria as well and so do the best violins made by Amati, Stradivari and Guarneri. Vivaldi, Verdi, Puccini, Pavarotti, Eros Ramazzotti and Bocelli as well as some of the most famous conductors and film composers... all Italian. There are no doubts about the immense music contribution of that country.

Years ago I read some random statistic about the Italian language which stated that the word most commonly used by the Italians is “bello/bella”(the gender derivatives of beauty), followed by "buono/buona" (tasty). In recent years that first place might have been replaced by something that sound like “katsu”(nothing to do with the Japanese sauce so do not ask your children to google it in Italian!), but we shall not lose hope and believe it is still "bello/bella" that is the first thing we will hear on our arrival.

The Italians care a lot about beauty and they often compare physical beauty to food. You could hear compliments like: "Beautiful like a strawberry", "Hair like honey"or "Eyes like almonds" and you could hear similar metaphors in the popular songs. In 'That's Amore, Dean Martin compares the reflection of the moon in the girl's eyes to pizza. Romantic? Yes, it is, if you love food with passion.

And then of course there is “O, sole mio”!

The beautiful, warm Italian sun. There must be a connection between the extraordinary beauty of this country and the energising blue sky and sun. That sun that makes the colours look so much more vibrant and the tomatoes taste so much sweeter. In that purely perfect outset, a very basic mixture of flour, water and a few tomatoes creates pure magic.

So here we go: in food and in music (and in love, someone adds) all starts with simplicity. You need a simple and solid foundation and then, adding on ingredient after ingredient, stone after stone, you build Rome! No, not in a day. It takes years, even centuries, but when you start from beauty what can go wrong?

The foundations of Classical music were also laid in Italy. The rules were tough. Only certain notes could mix together, only certain movements were allowed. It was all performed by singing men, not allowed any liberties. However, the Sole (the sun) above was making people look for bellezza (beauty) and liberta (even more important, freedom). They needed a bit of … something. A pinch of salt. The Arabs were luring everyone with the sugar they were making and no, it wasn’t Marco Polo who brought the pasta from China. It was they, the Arabs from Libya who had settled in Sicily, who created the lasagne.

The music needed a bit of oriental spice too. Secretly and tentatively, the composers started altering the notes a bit. The sharps were their sugar and the flats were their salt. The music was starting to have some flavour. How about adding some other instruments to the male voices? That created more substance in the dish. From the boats waiting at Customs in the port of Venice, carrying all the new spices from the East, came a very special wood which was turned into beautiful string instruments in the tiny, dingy violin shops of Cremona. The music started to come out of the church and to dance around the wedding tables. What better way to meet your potential husband than dancing the tarantella under the blue sky and the hot Puglian sun? But despite all the violins, clarinets and accordions, what is a tarantella without a drum and a tambourine? Can you imagine the teenage sons of the Cosa Nostra bosses’ who had to fight with their fathers for their dream to become drummers instead of thugs? The only two non mafia members in The Godfather who were granted the love and the mercy of the Capos were the chef Enzo and the singer Johny Fontane.

Music, just like food, started to self-segregate according to its presentation. The music with the most immaculate, polished concept and execution was chosen by the aristocrats in their fancy homes. The more stars in the composer’s reputation, the fancier the castle. On the other hand was the rustic and slightly messy form of folk and popular music. There were no wigs there. Even the slaves could let their blue voices and trumpets be heard.

However, no matter how many stars, how much virtuosity in the improvisations, music and food always stand on 7 solid and constantly repeating pillars. It was in that mystical prime number that Phytagoras discovered the mathematical pattern in music. The distinct seven notes - the white keys on the piano which form the scale - are the foundation to all music.

1. Do - C

2. Re - D

3. Mi - E

4. Fa - F

5. Sol - G

6. La - A

7. Si - B

and then we repeat it all over from C.

Seven notes! That's it. And just from that, ALL your favourite music followed. The imagination of the millions of musicians toying with those seven notes created endless combinations which would make us feel happy, sad, stimulated, energetic, lethargic … The whole spectrum of emotions which music triggers in us, sits on only seven notes!

In food, similarly, we can build the foundations for pretty much anything with just a few major stones:

1. Water

2. Flour

3. Eggs

4. Milk

5. Meat/Fish

6. Grapes

7. Cocoa

I am sure the big chefs might have a different list to this one however with these 7, in all their 21st Century alternative forms, one could create pretty much anything. From pizza and pasta to wine and tiramisu. Add the embellishments and the novelties and you are in the magic world of endless food choices.

In the hands of a master with vivid imagination, the magic number 7 - the medieval symbol of trivial arts and persuasion of academic excellence - can turn simple elements into symphonies and feasts.

Music and food are a match made in heaven which has been persuaded and explored by many famous musicians. In addition to the ones who choose to name their bands after certain food: Zucchero, Black Eye Peas, Bananarama, The Cranberries, Suva babes, Hot Chocolate, The Smashing Pumpkins and my personal favourite name choice, Meatloaf, there are the super music stars who turn into chefs after a successful career in music. Snoop Dog (no, it is not marihuana cookies for that man. He is also off to Italy, eating tasty vegetables!), Gloria Estefan and Coolio have all opened restaurants, published cookbooks and even participated in cookery shows.

That is not a novelty. The most successful and celebrated composer of his time Gioachino Rossini, the one who came up with “The Barber of Seville” and the famous “tara tam tara tam tara tam tam tam” from “Willliam TellOverture, at the peak of his fame retired from music to become a chef. That could be an effect of the unexpected meeting with one of the best chefs of his time Marie-Antoine Carême in the Parisian villa of Baron Rothschild or just an impulsive act of a fed up musician, but his personal philosophy formulated the essence of life so vibrantly and in such culinary terms, that there is little more one can say:

“Eating, loving, singing and digesting are, in truth, the four acts of the comic opera known as life, and they pass like bubbles of a bottle of Champagne. Whoever lets them break without having enjoyed them is a complete fool.”

It is very difficult to imagine the world without food and without music. It is impossible to imagine love without food and music. Hence in my darkest hours I tend to recall one of my happiest memories: heading towards a famous trattoria inside the spectacle of the green hills of Tuscany, anticipating the flavours on the tip my tongue, the beautiful sun above, the summer breeze in my hair and Dean Martin’s anthem to life echoing in the air. What more? Music, food, and sun. That’s amore!


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