How come musician and cook they are similar? What do they have in common? Enrich i convivial moments with listening to music is a very ancient custom, and a real musical genre, between the 17th and 18th centuries, was called “table music”. But I would not like to focus my little reflection on this, but on the structural similarity between the two languages, which, respectively, speak to the ear and the palate. In both cases we are dealing with combinatorial arts: dishes are created by combining ingredients just as musical pieces are built by combining notes. In both cases elementary rules apply: look for theharmony without forgetting contrasts, the dissonances, which give greater flavor to the whole. For this reason the same word, composition, can be used both in the musical and gastronomic fields: Cristoforo Messi Sbugo, table master at the Este court in Ferrara, called food compositions his parents’ recipes Banquets (1549); a work very rich, coincidentally, with information on the music performed during banquets.
Musician and chef: two sides of the same coin
The same principle of combination, which operates in individual dishes or musical pieces, regulates their succession in time, the rhythm of cooking and music: the alternation of different courses composes a menu just as the alternation of different songs composes a musical work; a symphony, a quartet, a piano sonata, with infinite possibilities of choice, but with a clear preference for compositional models based on variety, an adagio after an allegro, a dessert after a savory… But there is a fundamental element that unites music and cooking: both are ephemeral arts. Both are part, like theater or dance, of that set of artistic expressions which are called performative because, unlike a painting, a sculpture or a monument, they do not last over time, but exhaust their function at the very moment which they are produced: eating, listening. It will be said that recipes and scores exist, but here the teachings of Gualtiero Marchesi, a great music lover as well as an unparalleled cooking master. He often repeated that in a cooking recipe (well written, of course) there is everything except the essential: the food to eat, which still needs to be prepared. Because of this Marchesi equated the cooking recipe to a musical score: here too the indications are all there, but without an interpreter the music does not play and cannot be listened to. This is what truly unites the two arts: to exist, music and cooking must be performed. And in both cases the result is unpredictable: no “reading”, by different performers, and even by the same performer at different times, will ever be the same as the previous one, since it is carried out through gestures (of the cook, of the musician) that each time they interact with the place, the moods of the moment, the reaction of the “public” who, participating in the event, listens or eats.