Select: Songs about food and drink

Music and food are so interlinked; there are shared creative processes in the making of both and we listen to music while we cook and eat

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Though food is often used as a metaphor in music (think Kelis’ Milkshake), to my knowledge there are a surprisingly small number of songs that are directly about food and food issues. Music and food are so otherwise interlinked; there are shared creative processes in the making of both and we listen to music while we cook and eat.

I’ve found it interesting that, in looking for more songs about food and drink, I have discovered very few mainstream songs that deal with food activism. In fact, the only one I know of is Neil Young’s Monsanto Years, about the corporation’s takeover of small farms in America through seed patenting. Music and social activism go hand in hand as a hugely effective way to spread ideas. It’s interesting to me that it doesn’t seem to be appropriate to sing about real food issues.

Perhaps it’s because we largely associate food in music with silly songs, such as Peaches by The Presidents of The United States of America. One of my other favourite songs in the genre of “silly” is Lime in the Coconut from Harry Nilsson’s 1971 album Nilsson Schmilsson. It tells the story of a brother and sister who drinks a homemade potion of lime and coconut juice. When the sister starts to feel sick, they rush to get the doctor, who ends up prescribing a tonic of lime juice mixed with coconut juice.

George Harrison wrote a song about Eric Clapton’s sweet tooth called Savoy Truffle, from The Beatles’ White Album (1968). Not only is it an inspiration for your next 1960s-inspired buffet and cocktail party (crème tangerine, montelimat nougat, coffee desserts, ginger sling and, of course, Savoy truffles could all feature on the menu), it also captured something small but insightful about a popular culture figure; Eric Clapton likes to eat sweets, and perhaps eats too many of them. He must have, if his friend George was inspired to write a song poking fun at this weakness.

The song warns Eric that he’ll have to get his teeth pulled if he keeps going after the Savoy chocolate truffles. It gives me the impression of a very sweet, innocent and playful friendship between George and Eric. Unless this song was written after the love triangle with Pattie Boyd began to take shape; in which case, it’s darkly passive-aggressive.

Bloated with metaphor
Mm. Food is the 2004 album by the enigmatic American MC and producer MF Doom, and is bloated with food references and metaphors, and offers more of a substantial meal lyrically than the songs mentioned above.

It employs the classic hip-hop mechanism of samples, from music libraries as well as from cinema’s archives, to blend and link tracks together. Kermit and Fozzy turn up at one point. Though the album includes unsavoury titles such as Hoe Cakes, Vomitspit and Poo-Putt Platter, it constantly plays on words with one life in food and another in hip-hop, such as Beef Rap; beef as in slow-braised short ribs and beef as in a row with your adversary.

The best track, and I’m not just saying this, is probably Guinnesses, which features Angelika and 4ize. Angelika raps that “I shoulda deaded it from genesis, ‘stead of hittin’ the Guinnesses” in reference to the appeal of turning to drink after a tough break-up. MF Doom is an intriguing character; he wears a mask and was once nearly two hours late for a show in Dublin, offering no explanation when he finally showed up – and killed it. This album is a strong introduction to this absorbing artist.

To finish, the 1973 album Heart Food by folk singer Judee Sill is my cheat’s entry. This is one of those cases where a culinary word is used to signify something else, used obviously here to describe the ways we can feed our hearts and soul.

Sill, who died of a drug overdose at the age 35, had a turbulent life and this album captures a longing for the peace and calm that comes from self-care. This swelling, orchestral and moving album should be the next thing you listen to. I bake to it all the time.

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