Thursday, January 13, 2011

Music to Cook By: The Buena Vista Social Club

I find that music is an integral part of the kitchen experience. When I worked in professional kitchens music was a constant during the prep and breakdown hours. The music was replaced with sounds of cooking and yelling during the rush, but was always a welcome sign that the day was ending at the close of a long shift. It was usually a mix determined by whoever got to the grease and flour covered boom-box first. This could result in anything from Nordic Death Metal to Mexican Rap and Mariachi to Indie and Classic Rock (but not the f@#*ing Eagles{the petite copine wants the kitchen talk in check for the kiddies reading}). If you are having trouble grasping this concept picture Anthony Bourdaine with out the influence of The Ramones.

Now cooking at home I tend to vary the type of music to what I am making, the pace I am doing it at and who the guests are going to be that evening. Over the course of this blogs life I plan to submit some of my favorite music along with the type of food that it goes well with.

The Buena Vista Social Club was a night club in Havana, Cuba that was a local congregating place for musicians during the Havana nightclub scene of the 1940s and 1950s. 50 years later American guitarist Ry Cooder and Cuban musician Juan de Marcos Gonzalez made a record featuring music of the period and featuring musicians that had performed at the club. The record became an international success, spawning an Academy Award Nominated documentary and several concert appearances.

The music is a wonderful fusion of jazz, Spanish guitar, dance music of the 40s and 50s, and folk echo the swank nightclub life. It creates images of men in white dinner jackets with red gardenias in their lapels, pomade in their hair and pencil thin mustaches. A more elegant time. It creates at once a calm and lively mood to create food too. When you're not in "in the weeds". It can move seamlessly from kitchen creation music to the perfect dining music.

I love Cuban food and normally use this soundtrack when I am making Ropas Viejas (dirty laundry) and a citrus risotto(recipe and images to come in later blog posts). However, The Buena Vista Social Club has become more than a soundtrack for Caribbean, Spanish, Latin or soul food. It is my go-to album. It fills the air with creativity and a sense of adventure that all chefs seek. It can be both omnipresent and perfect back ground music.


  1. CD has been added to my library hold list. Can't wait to check it out. Thanks for the suggestion

  2. I think you'll really enjoy it. I love the library for movies and music. I call it the "The Poor Man's Netflix".