BY CHRISTINE BARBOUR
Oddly, IU Jacobs School of Music professor Evelyne Brancart does not listen to music when she cooks. For the Belgium-born creator and performer of the CD Chez Chopin: 24 Études, 24 Recipes, it is in her imagination, not at the stove, that music and food truly come together.
In her CD liner notes, she writes that both musicians and chefs create within a similar realm: “a world of sound and movement—shapes, colors, texture, and smoothness.” Chez Chopin is her effort to share the “pleasure and sensuality” in both, by performing Chopin’s Opus 10 and Opus 25 and by presenting recipes she has created to go with each musical sketch, 24 in all.
Brancart has been playing the Chopin études since she was a young girl. So personal has this music become that she can imagine Chopin’s thoughts as he played it; and as she taps into the deep well of creativity that produced the music, she turns it into recipes in her mind—the black notes dancing across a score in Étude in A Minor, Op. 10 No. 2 become popping bubbles of caviar, the arpeggios in Étude in E-flat, Op. 10 No. 11 are twists of pastry crunchy with caramel and nuts, the more mature but light Étude in A-flat, Op. 25 No. 1 suggests a creamy and autumnal butternut- squash soup full of spice and mandarin juice.
The first 12 sketches, written in Chopin’s youth, are light fare, finger foods, simple and frivolous. By the time he has written the second dozen, he is older, the music is more complex, and “you can’t really eat it with your fingers anymore”—and the recipes move from champagne and caviar to beef stew and tiramisu.
As Brancart describes her love of cooking and the dishes she has created, music is never far away. Her fingers run over an invisible keyboard, and she hums to illustrate how a recipe evolved, how the music makes her feel, how the form of the food on the plate mimics the shape of the music in her head.
Purchasers of Brancart’s CD will find one disc of music and another of food, an electronic cookbook of sorts, with detailed recipes, explanations of how the music inspired the dish, and photographs taken by Brancart. It is available for $15.99 from Amazon and can be downloaded for $8.99 as an MP3 file.
Below, enjoy a video taken by Nicholas Demille.