Exploring Other Cultures Through Music and Food

Two of my favorite things in life, beside my family, are music and food. Music as a medium is a way to explore cultures. I have co-hosted a two-hour music show on public radio, with my dear friend, Lynn. Our theme was curating, broadcasting, and discussing music of the world in the folk tradition. What does that mean? I am quite sure there is a human group on this planet that does not have music. Music is the ultimate communication tool. We use some form of music, on instruments or voices, to express love, faith, happiness, sadness, and the whole range of human emotions. We explore political systems with music. We relate stories about birth, death, dying, murder, disaster, and other events in the human experience. We may sing about our dogs, cats, our cars, our bicycles, trains, and other forms of transportation.

Some of my favorite forms of musical explorations are those that related news of the day and other current events. The English and Scottish popular ballads collected by Francis James Child were broadsides, sort of news-carrying posters, that told stories of, for example, a man killing his mistress for becoming pregnant, or about a hanging on the “gallows pole”. Led Zeppelin once recorded that vary song, which was a “Child Ballad”. Folk Duo, Simon and Garfunkel recorded a song called “Scarborough Fair”, which was Child’s “Elfin Knight”. Child was Harvard’s first oratory and rhetoric professor at the end of the 19th Century when he collected more than 300 ballads of English and Scottish origins. He also noted that many of those ballads arrived on, what is now, United States soil largely intact and made their way into the Appalachian mountains, Arkansas, and Virginia. There are other stories of song collectors, like Ralph Van Williams, known for orchestrating the traditional “Greensleeves” as other orchestration of poetry, like George Meredith’s “A Lark Ascending”. We can look to music to give us a glimpse into the history of a people. That is why I love it.

For the past eight years I’ve played in a band. In my first band, I played with very good musicians. That helped me to be a better musician. In my most recent band, there did not seem to be a desire to practice, and we were not the best musically, but we had a great time, and the people who came to hear us had a good time. Now, I meet with a group of musicians weekly. They are very good, and I can see that I will have to step up my game. One thing for sure, each musician in these musical gatherings walks away feeling good about the two or more hours spent together in expressions about the fabric of humanity. In the picture above, a friend and I entered a “talent” contest, and we performed a song called, “Sweet Violets”, which is a rather goofy song once performed by Mitch Miller and his Orchestra. Look it up. It’s a fun song with unexpected poetic forms.

I have moved recently. I used to live in a small rural community that boasted 36 languages and dialects. My job (and passion) was researching the new communities to understand better their lives around health, well-being, and social connections. I ate many a wonderful meal around tables with families from 10 countries of Africa, eight Latin-American countries, 10 Asian countries, and many others. Now, I’m in a university town, and I still have the wonderful opportunities to share meals with international families. Until we get fully moved from our previous town to this new town, I live in temporary quarters with another person, Patty. A good fit for me, Patty connects with many people from different parts of the world. One evening I came “home” to find friends from China who had brought their “hot pot”. On the table were many-colored vegetables, raw meats, tofu, and noodles laying ready for us, gathered around a pot of exquisitely-flavored broths, to plunge our chosen food-stuffs in for a fragrantly-cooked meal. The pot held two types of boiling broths. One was mild, and one was hot. (I’m sorry that I can’t rotate this picture. Apparently, it has something to do with doing this from my iPad).

During our meal, we talked. We laughed. We ate, and we shared stories of our personal experiences. Once again, food was a vehicle for socializing, and transmitting of culture.

A few days later that week, it seems to go in cycles, we shared a lovely mean with one of our best-friend-couples, Bob and Adrian. They are sheep ranchers, and the source of my beloved lamb that graces my freezer. Adrian wanted to present a lovely meal around lamb, so her menu: Rack of Lamb, braised Brussels sprouts, tiny baked potatoes, and homemade bread. Sublime!

Adrian finished the meal with a densely-packed apple pie. Look at this:

I love to cook, and, somehow, I have close friends who love to cook, too. We eat. We laugh. We love, and we are happy to be alive!

Thank you for reading my blog!

4 thoughts on “Exploring Other Cultures Through Music and Food

  1. I am so happy for you that are enjoying your new town and continue share your love of food as a vehicle to meet new people! I enjoy reading your blogs my friend, I hear your voice and passion! Hugs!!
    Callie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love hearing your enthusiasm for all of life, the music, food and fun that makes it all worthwhile. See you in Council Grove, safe travels, my friend! Diane

    Liked by 1 person

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