In my life, food and music have each been synonymous with joy and pure love. The smell of a certain dish or the strain of a particular song can alternatively bring me back in time (one verse of "Eternal Flame" by The Bangles and I'm 12 again at my first school dance) or imprint a new memory that will forever be recalled with just a whiff or a chord (the smell of burnt lasagna will forever remind me of cooking with my daughter for the first time.)
While food and music have been important in my life individually, it was only through a recent conversation with my dear friend Jaime Laurita that I made the powerful connection between the two. It has rocked my world, but, in a strange way, it's something I've always felt.
First, a little bit about Jaime: he is an incredible chef who has worked with some of the world's most famous musicians, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Josh Groban, Madonna, Steven Tyler, Sarah McLachlan and Sting.
Many of you know Jaime from his frequent appearances on The Real Housewives of New Jersey (his siblings Caroline, Dina, Chris and Jacqueline make up the heart of the show). In fact, this year his beautiful wedding to the handsome, kind and special Rich Lane was featured on the show. As anyone could see, Jaime and Rich are a wonderful match who compliment each other in every way. It is a privilege to know them.
What I wish everyone knew is that Jaime puts his whole self and soul into whatever he does, seasoning his food, life and relationships with great energy and passion. Jaime always inspires me with his knowledge, care and wisdom -- about food, music, life and how they all connect.
This past winter, after a day of sledding with the kids, Jaime and I were having one of our marathon gab sessions over hot chocolate and marshmallows as songs of snow and cold played in the background.
After sharing some of our new favorite dishes and restaurants, Jaime began talking about his love of food and music. Not as two separate pleasures but rather how intertwined they are ... how powerful they are together. How much it means to him when Rich makes a playlist for their dinner parties. This seemingly simple act gives them the opportunity to create together, ensures that the music matches the tempo and energy of the menu and creates a magical night for all who are lucky enough to attend.
Jaime went on to describe some of the musicians he has worked with and how food is the ultimate expression of our minds, bodies and spirits.
Madonna is a true-to-life icon, a beacon of practice, power, strength and dedication -- to her craft, to her person, to her art. She believes that her surroundings and food are not only crucial to enable the hard work necessary to achieve her goals, but both are a representation of who she is, which is why she is so meticulous about ensuring both create and reflect energy, commitment and creativity. It is through this devotion, coupled with a relentless pursuit of learning, that Madonna never misses a rehearsal -- or a beat, allowing her to put her full self on a platter for people.
When you listen to Sarah McLachlan's songs, it probably won't surprise you to know that Sarah is inspired by different cultures, particularly India, and has a love of curries and masalas. What you can also taste in her music is her generosity of spirit, sense of community and family. Jaime said that when Sarah gives something, she takes her hand back quickly, for she never wants anything in return. She hosts huge family dinners while touring, creating a family among all who participate and building lasting bonds, long after the tour is over. Sarah savors food and also loves to cook -- so much so that she and Jaime released a cookbook together entitled Plenty: A Collection of Sarah McLachlan's Favorite Recipes, a collection of meat-free recipes inspired by cuisines from around the world.
In their music, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are completely in sync -- so much so that it seems as if they don't even need to speak to communicate, so it makes sense that Jaime told me if he could only use one word to describe them it would be "family." Even during the controlled chaos of a tour, they make it a point to sit down and eat together. In their case it's clear that family dinner reveals the answer to the question. Interestingly, Jaime said they eat for their blood type, so they all have different diets and understand what food means to your body.
Last, but not least, Jaime shared a fantastic story about the inimitable Steven Tyler and the humble peanut butter and jelly sandwich. To me, Steven and Aerosmith ARE rock n' roll. Rebellious, loud, fun and different, in the way that lets you know it's okay to be different. Like Madonna, Steven has a palate for energy. Jaime said you can feel him pacing your soul. One day, Steven asked for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, which, of course, Jaime made perfectly with fresh, organic jam and the crusts cut off. Steven saw the sandwich and observed that it was very good, very proper -- but not how you cook for a rock star. If you want to make me happy, Steven said, let your freak flag fly. He then proceeded to teach Jaime how to make a rock star PB& J by smothering a ridiculous amount of peanut butter and throwing a fistful of jelly on the bread, slamming down the bread, and proudly lifting the sandwich to take a bite, with jelly everywhere.
I listened attentively as I sipped the best hot chocolate I have ever had, basking in Jaime's storytelling, wisdom and humor ... and then something funny happened ... cue classic Oprah "a-ha!" moment.
Food and music. Music and food. Both are touchstones in my life and suddenly it all made sense. I never put it together before my conversation with Jaime but in that moment, it just clicked, in a way somehow I always knew it to be true.
It all flooded over me -- just as food nourishes the body, music nourishes the soul. Music and food both have the power to heal and the food you eat and the music you listen to influences your surroundings, relationships, mood and outlook. They both provide energy and enable you to connect you with yourself and others.
Food AND music! Music AND food! They go together like, well, like ... "ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong!"
Ever since that afternoon with Jaime, I have been proactive about bringing music into my home. We listen to it while we cook and after dinner we sing and dance around -- celebrating out meal, our day and, most of all, each other. Guests are invited, actually more like encouraged, to join in. It doesn't matter if you can carry a tune or cut a rug, all you have to do is jump in, jump up, laugh, sing, and let your freak flag fly.
This new ritual has brought added joy into our home and has helped keep us connected and laughing as we make our move from Chicago to Austin.
In addition to incorporating music into my daily life, I have reached out to some friends in the music industry to learn more about the impressive, yet often overlooked, philanthropy to which many artists devote their time, money, music and resources. I will be sharing their inspiring stories with you over the next few weeks.
On that note, writing this blog has frankly made me hungry for a PB&J sandwich. So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put on some Aerosmith and smash some ingredients together.