Dislocate your hip: Sound Bites

Sound Bites Cover

I’ll be the first to admit that I am no longer hip. Now that I am 39 again, life is about comfort, not hippness. I haven’t been hip since Raspberry Beret. Come to think of it, maybe it was that album that pushed me in through the out door from hipster to foodie.

Anyway, I’m not on the cutting edge of contemporary music. I’m not stuck in the eighties either, though. My music tastes are fairly diverse, ranging from Norah Jones to Robert Earl Keen to Ladytron. I have been peripherally aware of Franz Ferdinand. I have been mildly interested in picking up some of their music, but my entertainment money mainly goes to DVDs and (food) books. What finally swung me fully into the FF camp was the release of the book Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand. The book is a collection of food articles written for The Guardian (London) by Alex Kapranos, lead singer and guitarist for the band.

I went to the bookstore at lunch to get the book. While I was there, I also picked up two FF albums, Franz Ferdinand and You Could Have It So Much Better. Back at work I wasn’t able to get into the book, but I did load the albums (Yes, they’re still albums dammit.) into iTunes right away.

I wouldn’t presume to pass myself off as any sort of music critic. I would, however, dare to make a wine analogy. The music is medium-bodied with a nice punk structure and a delightfully danceable bouquet. To this old, throwback nose, there are hints of the Kinks and the voice of Nick Cave. All in all, the music is a very nice varietal blend in which many sources and inspirations are brought together and made far better than the original pieces.

The book is a delightful collection of small plates, giving us samples of life and food on the road around the world. Some of what a musician sees on the road isn’t pretty, like the cowboy in Austin wearing a tube top, speedos, and cowboy boots. Some of the food isn’t pretty either. There are fried insects, which he likes, and mountain oysters (bull testes), which he doesn’t like. Most of the food is good though. There are the best donuts in New York, which he eats in a cafe full of NYC cops in Brooklyn. There is delicious bone marrow that leaves his stomach suspicious in spite of the good taste.

The story of his best meal, at La Broche in Madrid, has me ready to go. The story also sums up the book.

As a spoonful of chestnut soup with bacon ice cream passes my lips, I want to laugh, because I can’t believe what’s happening in my mouth. After early childhood, there are few opportunities to experience a completely novel sensation, so when you come across one, you’re not quite sure what to do.

He continues, “it is as if Spanish rural cooking has been concentrated, refined and reduced to its essence.” Kapranos’s short pieces are like that. His experiences are reduced to their very essence. Reading his stories in the newspaper would have been nice, but reading the book is like a long, glorious evening at a three star restaurant.

Still, of all the stories, all the meals, all the people, all the places, nothing is as good as Kapranos’s reminiscences on food in a happy, precocious childhood.

One of my favourite memories from childhood is of eating pease pudding while listening to my granddad tell stories. … I still love to eat pease pudding as often as I can because, when I do, I can still hear his voice.

I will remember these stories. I will savor this book over and over.

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