THE READING ROOM: A Cookbook Designed to Bring Comfort to the Music World
Food and music create a sense of place for us. We likely can still smell the bread or the casserole that mama would bake when we were in second grade and out playing in the yard before supper. A bite of pecan pie might transport us to the church picnic or the family reunion where we first tasted that gooey concoction oozing Karo syrup and fresh, meaty pecans picked that morning from trees in the yard or bought at a roadside stand. Often, of course, food never tastes as good as it does in our memories of the ways our families prepared the food.
Like food, music carries us back to certain times and places in our lives. And often the two go together — think potlucks at a house concert, dinner before (or at) a show, or wee-hours snacks after a concert lets out into the night.
Looking for a socially distanced way to bring comfort to the music community at a time when the industry has come to a standstill (and soon after the March tornado that tore through parts of Nashville), Maria Ivey, owner of the Nashville-based PR firm IVPR, decided to gather recipes from music industry friends for All the Thyme in the World: A Collection of Recipes from a Grounded Music Industry, shipping in late June to those who preorder it. The money raised from the cookbook, after production costs, will go to Music Health Alliance’s COVID-19 & Tornado Relief Fund.
When venues and festivals started canceling shows to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Ivey, like her clients, faced some unexpected downtime, and she decided to fill it with cooking.
“We were at home with not a lot to do,” she laughs, “so we started just cooking. We pulled out a bunch of our cookbooks, and one of my favorites is the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook. The cookbook has stories with the recipes that create a sense of place and the people who cooked these recipes.”
That format sparked an idea in Ivey that hit close to home. “I’ve always been a fan of Junior League cookbooks that collect recipes but whose sales give back to the community,” she says. She decided to put together a cookbook that would include favorite recipes, and the stories of those dishes, from a wide range of people in the music industry. In the time since she sent out her first email describing her project to a few friends — just a little over six weeks ago — she’s collected close to 275 recipes from artists, producers, drum techs, DJs, road crews, and others.
Ivey takes her inspiration from the four pillars of community cookbooks that Alton Brown puts forth in his introduction to the Southern Foodways Alliance Community Cookbook:
“First, such books must be spiral-bound or they are not to be trusted. Second, all recipes must be directly attributed to a member of the community. Food is mighty personal, and the sharing of a recipe, especially one that may have been polished and perfected through years of practice, is powerful medicine. Third, community cookbooks must be truly democratic. Rarely do you feel the heavy hand of an editor on such tomes, which means they’re honest if nothing else. Fourth, community cookbooks convey a strong sense of place. That’s no small feat in this age of global-international-world-pan-planet-fusion cuisine.”
Once Ivey reached out to her network — “I sent an email to someone in my network; they’d send it to people in their network; those people would send it to people in their network,” she laughs — the recipes started flowing in. All the Thyme in the World contains recipes from Emmylou Harris, Carlene Carter, Elizabeth Cook, Bob Boilen, Mary Gauthier, Rosanne Cash, Marshall Chapman, Bill Cody, Lindsay Hayes, Regina Joskow, Telisha Williams, and Radney Foster, to name only a few. The recipes appear with stories the writers recall about the origins of the recipes. In true Junior League cookbook fashion, the recipe writer’s name alone is listed beneath the recipe’s name. “Where they work and what they’ve accomplished has no bearing on their taste in food,” Ivey says.
Pre-orders for All the Thyme in the World: A Collection of Recipes from a Grounded Music Industry are open through the end of May and can be placed here.
Walter Carter, owner of Carter Vintage Guitars, submitted this recipe and the story that goes with it.
Crab Dip Devine
Submitted by Walter Carter
8 ounces crabmeat
6 ounces cream cheese
6 ounces Swiss cheese (shredded or cut into small pieces)
6 ounces mild cheddar cheese (shredded or cut into small pieces)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon brown mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Microwave or place in a 350-degree oven for 30-second increments. You want to heat it a little, stir it, heat it some more, stir it, etc., until it gets all mixed (but you don’t want to bake it). Stir and repeat until the cheese is melted and the dip is well-mixed. Serve with Stoned Wheat Thins or the crackers of your choice. Also makes a great omelet.
In a previous life (1978-82), I was a reporter for The Tennessean. Every Christmas, the Living department had an office party where everyone brought a dish. I took two of my favorite foods — crab and cheese — and figured out how to make a dip. The food editor, Betty Caldwell, chose the best dish, and there was also a vote among the entire staff for the best one. My Crab Dip Devine won both honors. The recipe was published in The Tennessean and later in The Bluegrass Music Cookbook.
My prizes were two cookbooks — a Larousse and a James Beard. Unfortunately, they did me no good. For the next Tennessean Christmas party, I made an apricot upside-down cake, based on my mom’s recipe and a childhood favorite of mine. It wasn’t so well received and my reign as Top Chef of The Tennessean ended.
This dish will get you invited to Super Bowl parties year after year.