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Terez Mertes


July 28, 2011 at 5:44 PM

Even though it’s only mid-summer, the sun still high in the sky, I’m starting to feel that hunger, for summer to shift into fall. I’m craving a return to fall activities, cooler weather, the new symphony season. As always, I’ve tweaked my subscription to incorporate both daytime performances (easier drive to/from my home in the mountains) and Saturday nights (staying in San Francisco afterward—my personal favorite). But the issue the Saturday night attendance raises: to eat dinner before or after? And what? Dinners are such a celebration for me on other weekend nights. I take my time preparing and consuming them, accompanied by wine, background music, company, a 5pm to 10:00pm process. I hate eating early, eating quickly. But for those infrequent Saturday nights at the symphony, I tend to do just that.

It started me wondering what performing musicians do. In my own performing days, mostly dance, mostly back in my early twenties, my fellow performers and I would eat lightly beforehand and throw together dinners afterward, festive occasions, sometimes not eating till after midnight. Great fun. Performances were seasonal, with short runs, which was probably a good thing. But what about professional musicians whose weekend nights regularly entail working through those dinner hours? What do you eat, and when? Particularly if you’re a foodie, like myself, who reveres the dining experience? 

I found a partial answer and a lot of fun stories and recipes in a cookbook called Culinary Harmony, created and edited by cellist David Rezits.

Book cover

In this book he’s collected favorite recipes from 200 classical musicians around the world. Each entry gives a bio, often includes an anecdote, a flavor of their world, and follows up with a recipe or two. As well as loving food, I love books, and perusing cookbooks is huge fun (made more so if a bottle of wine sits nearby).  Add the classical music world to the equation and I’m all over it.


Here are a few of the recipes I have tagged to try. Warning: reading this may make you very hungry… 

*Thai Fish Soup with Coconut Milk (contributed by Erick Friedman) A decisive YES.

*Poor Man’s Caviar (contributed by Irina Dicterow) Eggplant-based, looks like an ideal, mouth-watering appetizer.

*Garlic soup (contributed by Yehudi Menuhin) This is twice now I’ve seen the recipe, the other in an esteemed cookbook, and both authors assure me that it’s got a creamy, smooth taste, not a “garlic” taste. Time to give it a try.

*Poached Dishwasher Salmon (contributed by Eudice Shapiro) The title says it all. Oh man. I can’t not try this one. What a story to tell my guests… after they’ve eaten it.

*Pâté de Foie de Volaille (contributed by Joseph Flummerfeld) Every now and then a craving for a good chicken liver pâté just overcomes me. Homemade tends to be the best. As does the Very Fattening variety. Which is why I’ll also have to try Itzhak Perlman’s recipe for Very Fattening Chopped Chicken Livers.

*“Light my Fire” Orange Roughy (contributed by Sydney Hodkinson) The pan sauce has veggies, jarred jalapeños, clam juice, lime, wine, Tabasco—it’s all looking like a tasty combination.

*Red Lime Chicken Fettucini (contributed by Thomas Bacon) Again, the combination of flavors in the recipe sounds too tasty to resist.

*Potato Crusted Chicken (contributed by Yolanda Kondonassis) – You shred the potatoes hash-brown style and press into the chicken (first prepped with a mustard/garlic paste) before baking. Ooh, the smell alone wafting from the oven will win me over.

*Ropa Vieja, which translates into “Old Clothes” (contributed by Manuel Barrueco). Again, the name has sold me. And the recipe— flank steak, cooked in veggies, garlic, wine, then shredded—looks like a winner too.

*Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie (contributed by Stephen Girko) Because all this great food needs an equally resplendent conclusion.

Dang. I’m getting hungry. Really hungry.

So. Now I know what at least 200 professional musicians like to eat. But back to my original question. When? If you regularly perform during dinner hours, how do you handle the eating thing? Particularly if you are a foodie, and, like myself, live to eat. Do you have a favored post-performance meal and time? A good recipe to add to my collection? I’m all ears (and stomach).  

© 2011 Terez Rose

PS: If the aforementioned recipes have you drooling and you’d like to acquire your own copy of Culinary Harmony, author David Rezits has offered a 20 percent discount to V.commers if you order the book through him. His email address is drezits(at) or you can contact him on Facebook. Amazon stocks his book, as well. 

From Tom Holzman
Posted on July 28, 2011 at 8:44 PM

What a cool book!  Thanks for letting us know about it, and don't forget to let us know when you are preparing some of these wonderful sounding dishes so that we can help you sample them and critique them.  Meanwhile, getting back to your original question, I remember one close friend, a professional musician who is a wind player, declining a coq au vin I had prepared, because he said that eating before playing clarinet made him feel seasick when he played.  Probably different for string players, but it would surprise me if the pros consumed any sort of heavy food before playing a concert.

From Anne Horvath
Posted on July 28, 2011 at 9:27 PM

It is nice to read your blog again!  I found a Chekhov short story for your annual Violin Books blog...

For a Freeway Philharmonic gig, I'll take a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and a cup of coffee to have in the car.  For the drive home, an apple is a nice snack.  A chocolate bar is better.  (Smiley face here)

From Anne Horvath
Posted on July 28, 2011 at 8:56 PM

Also, due to popular demand, I will share my favorite bean soup recipe.

The "What, Am I Still In Grad School?" Bean Soup:


1 bag of dried 16 Bean beans. You can find 16 Bean beans in the bean section of your favorite local food emporium.   Pre-soak the 16 Bean beans the night before, and toss the "flavor pak" that comes with the 16 Bean beans.  Flavor paks are gross.  Drain and rinse the soaked beans. 

1 handful of chopped celery, with leaves.

1 handful of chopped onion.

1 can of unsalted tomato sauce.  (You can use two cans.  Or, a can of tomatoes.  Or, tomato paste.  Whatever.)

1 ham hock (or two, or none.  Whatever.)

1/2 bag peeled and chopped carrots.  (You can use less carrots.  I like carrots, so my soups and stews always have a lot of carrots.)

Some chopped garlic.  (Or not.)

3 bay leaves.  (Now, "3" is important.  Be sure to have three bay leaves.)


Put above ingredients in the biggest crock pot ever.  Use 1/2 recipe for smaller crock pots.  Add some water, but not too much.  Cook on high for awhile, then cook on low.  It will be done in awhile, maybe 5-8 hours.  Soft carrots are a good sign you are done.

As this recipe makes enough bean soup for the Prussian Army, I freeze half, and eat soup for a week.  The next month I thaw out and eat the other half.

You can do the same recipe with dried green peas, senza pre-soaking and tomatoes. 

Also, sometimes you'll find not only 16 Beans beans in the grocery store, but 15 Bean beans, and, even 17 Bean beans.  I can't really tell the difference. 

The whole recipe costs about $5.00.


From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 28, 2011 at 11:05 PM

 Tom - Saturday night. My place. Be there.

>... declining a coq au vin I had prepared, because he said that eating before playing clarinet made him feel seasick when he played. 

Better  that, over giving him... wind, I suppose. (I'll bet members of the wind section have never heard that joke.)  

Anne - bring your soup on Saturday night. Oh, and BWT, the meal you described for your events sounds very much like my SFS Sunday matinee food regime. Easy on the budget. I spoil myself with a cup of Peet's coffee post-concert, however, before the drive home.

From George Philips
Posted on July 28, 2011 at 11:15 PM



My teacher has a recipe in that book that you absolutely must try. It's for an absolutely amazingly decadent chocolate mousse. Look up Lynn Blakeslee. I've made this many times and it is always a hit. After all, how can you go wrong with chocolate?



From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 28, 2011 at 11:43 PM

 George - oh, YES!! Looks fabulous. I made a chocolate mousse last New Year's Eve and it was authentic (maybe Julia Child recipe) and great, but it was a lengthy prep time. This recipe you just referenced has all the quality ingredients but seems like half the work.

This goes on Saturday night's menu...

From Tom Holzman
Posted on July 29, 2011 at 12:52 PM

Terez - if the prep time was lengthy for the mousse, it was probably Julia Child's.  Someone once calculated the average time for a recipe in her first book, and it was something like five hours.

From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 29, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Tom, that's funny... and true! I made her French onion soup (same New Year's Eve meal, actually) and it was a very lengthy process. The stock alone was a day's worth of work. (Remember this foodie blog? ) But ah, tasty stuff.

From Tom Holzman
Posted on July 29, 2011 at 1:58 PM

My mother figured out shortcuts for a few recipes, which was a godsend.  Otherwise, it is hardly worth it, good as her recipes are.  Maybe when I retire I will have time to do something with her cookbook, but not now.

From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on July 30, 2011 at 2:19 PM

 Hi Terez,

Glad to see your blog back here--I've missed it!  

From Terez Mertes
Posted on July 30, 2011 at 9:14 PM

 Aww, thanks, Karen. : ) Come join us for the dinner tonight! I'm about to go make the chocolate mousse and the poor man's caviar recipes. (This part is for real - I really AM off to make these for a dinner party I'm hosting. And yikes, it's late - time to get off my seat and into action.)

From George Philips
Posted on August 1, 2011 at 5:31 PM



How was your dinner party? I forgot to mention that although my teacher recommended using a dash of Grand Marnier in her mousse, I found that Creme de Cassis or Framboise Liqueor really make the mousse explode with flavor.


Best of luck!



From Terez Mertes
Posted on August 1, 2011 at 7:30 PM

George, thanks for asking! 

Recap: the Poor Man's Caviar was a huge hit and I found out on Sunday night that oh, my, it tastes even better cold, the next night. Wow! We did, however, decide that it would be even better with some pine nuts in it, and coarsely chopped Kalamata olives. My friend had made her own black olive tapenade and we subversively mixed the two concoctions together and boy, was it good. 

The mousse was given thumbs' up by all, but I must confess I added one less egg than the recipe called for, in my pathetic attempt to make it less caloric and cholesterol (my husband is watching that). I don't think I should have - it wasn't quite as mousse-y as the last time I made it. But hey - still tasted great. Very dense and chocolately. I like your idea, George, of Framboise. I used Meyers dark rum, which gave it a strong, unforgettable flavor, but I sense that less might have been more in the equation. Framboise, though - wow, great idea. Will have to try that next time. Might also try Grand Marnier sometime. And I just LOVED the relative ease of the recipe.

So. Dinner party was a hit (for the main course I'd smoked fresh salmon on our little Brinkman smoker - it was also given a thumbs' up by guests) and I'm already perusing what's next from the cookbook. There's a seafood au gratin that was calling my name on Saturday after leafing through the day's recipes. That might have to join the list of "must prepare"s. And a Swiss steak recipe. Omigosh - a childhood flashback, one of my mom's best meals. How did this miss my "must make" list?

So many recipes, so little time... : ) And thanks for the tip on the mousse recipe, George!

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