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Tasting Notes #1 – Coffee and Chocolate

In a year where so much has been so frustratingly unpredictable, we’ve entered a period and an environment of relative stability. The grass is covered in a heavy blanket of snow, the sun has become a reclusive monk in the monastery of the sky, and our social circles have shrunk to where they more resemble social specks. 

But I, in this period of frigid confinement, have found a nice routine. I invariably get up and make my coffee to drink  with a Trader Joe’s mini biscotti, and I invariably make myself some dinnertime Franken-meal grounded by rice, udon, or ramen. 

So, in commemoration of the boring and the not-so-bad, I’ve compiled ten of my favorite food-themed songs of the moment. They range from the despondent to the blithely pleasant, much like life itself in this cursed decade. Enjoy in the morning, at night, or anytime in between.

One More Cup of Coffee for the Road- Bob Dylan

We all make our daily trudges to the valley below. The titular cup of coffee represents, to me, a respite before the weight we carry makes its load known to us. A quotidian struggle that we shrug off with stoically downturned eyes, faces buried in scarves and parkas. Enjoy that last cup before you go, my friends.

Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson

If Dylan’s song is Wednesday at 8 a.m., Jack Johnson’s ode to the iconic breakfast is a lazy Sunday morning. Johnson knows that his song is nothing other than the backdrop to the spectacle of light hitting the fresh pancakes, a supporting actor in the performance we give to others and ourselves when we go through the work of making pancakes. It’s cheesy, it’s glorious, it’s replete with contentment.

Agua De Beber – Astrud Gilberto (or Antonio Carlos Jobim)

The grooviest melody on this list —and possibly of all time?— is reserved for a song dedicated to the most boring way of caring for yourself: Drink water. Beneath the melody that has squatters rights to your head, though, is a song about the importance of opening your heart. The act of vulnerability and opening yourself to the love of others is, as Jobim and Gilberto imply, a thing just as crucial and strangely quotidian as the act of drinking water itself. And just like drinking water, we so often forget to do it, going days without it until we’re too parched to ignore it. Wherever you are reading this, make sure to stay hydrated. Drink some water.

People Eating Fruit – Caribou

What does the color green sound like? In my opinion, it’s the gentle beep-boops of this song, a verdant song that, when coupled with a glance out of the window, becomes an ode to the beauty of mundanity. The way someone’s hair bounces when they walk, the way the bare trees cast a spiderweb of shadows on the snow, the beautiful geometry of the buildings we walk by every day. Or, someone peeling and eating a fruit, enjoying the bounty of the natural world for everything it has to offer.

Bittersweet – Lianne La Havas

The most direct way that food and taste relate to the human experience, at least on this playlist. Beyond Lianne La Havas’ effortless oscillation between the bitter and sweet sensation of a goodbye that hasn’t fully happened yet, the song is like biting into a square of 90% dark chocolate. Powerful, distinctive in its flavors, it’ll leave a gorgeous tapestry of taste in your mouth.

The Chocolate Conquistadors – BadBadNotGood and MF DOOM

One of the last songs MF DOOM recorded before his passing earlier this year, this song seamlessly combines BBNG’s signature jazzy odysseys with Doom’s ever-intricate flurry of internal and multisyllabic rhymes. It’s two artists working overtime to provide us with a 7-minute jazz analysis of colonialism. The title, itself a reclamation, references chocolate’s fraught history as the product of conquest in the Americas. Though not at all about food, it reminds us that food history is everywhere, inevitably.

Coconut – Harry Nilsson

Coconut Schmoconut. That’s what Harry Nilsson would’ve said about it, anyways.

Tasty Cakes – Idris Muhammad

What do you mean this song isn’t about food?

Savoy Truffle – The Beatles

A mystery: What’s George Harrison’s goal here? Ostensibly, this is a song about various fancy desserts. But then he hits you with, “You might not feel it now / But when the pain cuts through / You’re going to know and how / The sweat is going to fill your head / When it becomes too much / You’re going to shout aloud.” Is this the hangover after so many motley desserts? Is it a damnation of the gentry that takes these sweets for granted? Or is it just a nifty little tune?

What’s in a quarantine? Is it a chance to enjoy the minutiae or is it the swing of a sledgehammer on our passions and hearts? Like the Savoy Truffle, it’s both and it’s neither. Maybe it’s, as Wikipedia says, just about Eric Clapton’s fondness for chocolate.

Live on. Drink your coffee and eat your chocolate. Everything is changing.

Find the full playlist here: