Dine and Jam: Italian influences make a meal, musical mood harmonious

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Legend tells that Alfredo sauce was invented by a guy named Alfredo who frantically combined ingredients to satisfy his wife’s pregnancy cravings.

The first dozen times I tried to cook an Alfredo, I broke the sauce. I’m not sure what I was doing wrong, but clumpy milk it became. Nevertheless, I have grown and so have my skills. With Pandora as my disc jockey and the citric perfume of freshly cut lemons, I made clams and shrimp in a garlic butter sauce over simple Alfredo sauce that blanketed angel-hair pasta. To pair, I chose a Pinot Gris.

I know – you’re asking why I paired a French wine with an Italian dish. I don’t feel the need to confine my experience with food, wine or music within boarders. And, if you must know, Pinot Gris is made with the same grape as Pinot Grigio; however, Pinot Gris flavor is slightly heavier than its Italian cousin. Can I taste the difference? Not really; I’m a pretentious foodie who listens to Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, IL Divo, Luis Miguel and Nana Mouskouri when I cook Italian food.

The most important part of the meal is the cheese because good cheese has history in its funk, but cheap cheese tastes of plastic. When I have an extra $15 to $20, I spring for the good stuff. I put three cheeses in my sauce: Parmigiano-Reggiano, Asiago and mozzarella. The Parmigiano-Reggiano is crumbly and much more pungent and nutty than regular supermarket parmigiana. The asiago can be pungent and nutty like Parmigiano-Reggiano if aged, but for my sauce, I like to get it when it is mild and has a creamy mouth feel. The mozzarella is first in the mother sauce and is mostly there to give the end product the right consistency. 

I am fully aware that not all of the artists I listed are Italian. My experience is not ethnocentric. I’m looking for romance. I want something that will make me impulsively dance while I’m standing in my kitchen, clad in my red apron, waiting for my bechamel to thicken. 

I’ve tried traditional Italian opera, but It’s too loud and dramatic. I prefer the way Bocelli sings “Pero Te Extrano.” I have no idea what is being said, but it reminds me to drink my wine and to pretend I can sing in Italian when no one is listening. Groban’s “Alejate” and IL Divo’s “Ava Maria” fill me with the same sence of romantic euphoria as most of Bocelli’s music. Miguel is from Mexico, and his voice resonates with enough passion to make my list.

I don’t listen to many women, probably because I grew up with an understanding that Frank Sinatra was the epitome of class and romance. However, my socialized misogyny aside, Mouskouri’s “Besame Mucho” fills all of my irrational and ever-changing criteria. Like a lullaby of love, it sets the quintessential environment to move from cooking to eating.

I like my music to be fairly loud when I cook, which is why I bought a Bluetooth speaker for my kitchen. However, if your dining room isn’t far enough from your kitchen to quell the volume, it is important to lower it until it is nothing more than ambiance.

The music I listen to will someday be the soundtrack to my memories. The food I cook makes my family happy. So, if I do my best and live passionately, I will be left with memories of good music and my family’s love.