Pairing, to Music

By / Food / August 15th, 2013 / 1

I don’t know how it goes at your place, but around here we don’t spend a lot of time between the end of the evening meal and the cleanup that follows. Too often, what should be the gracious, prolonged rituals of dinner are lost in a frenzy of hurried food, followed by a rushed exodus to private worlds of television, texting, and topping up the dishwasher.

Which is why I was delighted the other week when my daughter, who lives in the sleepy fishing village of La Peñita, an hour or so north of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico introduced me to the Spanish word sobremesa — or sometimes estar de sobremesa. Roughly translated, it means sitting around the table having a good time at the end of a meal. Clever Spaniards! Why all of those words when one does it so well?

There were six of us at dinner on the weekend. The meal began with a fine beef tourtière that I had made earlier in the day, and ended with apple pie, topped with a generous blob of smooth and delicious ricotta cheese that Jennifer had made from scratch in a new, at-home dairy venture that we all found beyond fascinating. And then? An amazing estar de sobremesa that went on until midnight.

The motivation for the conversation, and the laughter that went along with it, was this: I had been assigned by my Tidings editor to randomly choose the names of a handful of Canadian musicians, living or not, and to pair them — that word is being applied to everything these days — with a menu item that might be a likely match for their personalities, style, and music. Tough call? For a flurry of foodies, it was a feast — a larder full of possibilities.

Saying that “Google is God,” Jennifer quickly discovered just how many names we had to play with, how many genres of music had rocked, rolled and fat-lady’d out of the Great White North over the years, making fortissimo stamps of Canadian excellence around the world. Did we have biases in our choices? Of course. Canada’s massive geography, cultures, our regional preferences, and personal musical tastes meant that our opening list was a mélange of just about everyone, up to and including Glenn Gould, humming at the piano, deftly cruising through the Goldberg Variations as we contemplated what we might feed him when he was done.

At the end of the night, having made notes, we randomly pulled eight names from the list and talked long about how we might pair them with a meal, or, as mostly happened, part of a meal. Starters were as important as mains and desserts — and super simple seemed to be the way to go.

Examples? I recalled Diana Krall’s Departure Bay, and how, in the first verse of this song, Ms Krall mentioned — of all culinary giants — Dairy Queen. The beautiful Nanaimo, BC native sang:

The fading scent of summertime,
Arbutus trees and firs;
The glistening of rain-soaked moss,
Going to the Dairy Queen at dusk,
Down narrow roads in autumn light.

It was a given to serve up Nanaimo Bars for a dessert for Diana, with a tiny tub of Dairy Queen soft ice cream on the side. A treat for husband Elvis Costello and the twins! And may the late Oscar Peterson, in his break from the keyboard, have enjoyed a hearty bowl of French onion soup — a nod to his Montreal life — and a crusty French loaf loaded with butter, before launching into his second set?

These were our starters, names that tumbled out in a flood of musical memories. Those who made the cut — names pulled from a hat — are highlighted, and imagined food pairings included. And no, we didn’t determine before plunging on, whether our musical giants are, or ever had been vegetarians or vegans, even if we knew that k.d. don’t eat meat.

Alanis Morrisette, Anne Murray, Avril Lavigne, Barenaked Ladies, Blue Rodeo, Bobby Curtola, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, Chilliwack, David Foster, Glenn Gould, Gordon Lightfoot, Harmonium, Holly Cole, Ian and Sylvia Tyson, Jann Arden, Joni Mitchell, Justin Beiber, k.d. lang, Leonard Cohen, Lighthouse, Michael Bublé, Michel Pagliero, Mitsou, Neil Young, Nelly Furtado, Oscar Peterson, Paul Shaffer, Paul Anka, Robert Charlebois, Sarah McLachlan, Shania Twain, Stampeders, Stompin’ Tom Connors, The Guess Who, Tragically Hip.

You may wish to play with the rest at your own estar de sobremesa. By all means, send your pairings along. No promises, but we may print the most fascinating.

Chickpea and Coconut Curry




Our West Coast wordsmith Duncan Holmes likes to cook all parts of the meal—hot and cold apps for the eyes; big, generous mains, where timing, color and taste come together on sparkling, white plates—and there’s always enough for seconds. But it’s at dessert time when he really shines. Not with precious fancy dancy, but with a melt-in-your-mouth-pastry apple pie. Granny Smiths, of course, and French vanilla ice cream.

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