Connection through taste

Sweet, bitter, sour, acidic, salty, divine, delicious, dry, gooey, fruity, rich, gamy, hot, spicy, juicy, peppery, picante, dry, flavorful, rancid, pungent, savory, succulent, tart, tangy, tasty, yummy.1  All words describing the way food tastes. Musicians can borrow these words as well.

When practicing the violin, we can delve into the world of food. We can play a note marked staccato “secco” or dry, like a very dry red wine. We can enjoy the experience of working against the instrument like an elephant walking through peanut butter as in playing high on the G string. The sensation of taste is universal. Describing sound by using the imagery of flavor and texture is easily understood even by very young students.

The greater story here is experiencing other cultures through food. I have a colleague who has traveled the world. She inspires her students with stories from her travels. It is also a way she connects with students who may have recently immigrated to the US. These students suddenly realize they have an ally at school. There is a teacher who talks passionately about the distant land from which they emigrated.

Inspiring the wondrous and fantastic is what we do as music teachers. We play and talk about music from foreign lands and from times long ago. We tell stories of the composers and of great performances. We reach for that deeply musical place in our students.

As music teachers we can welcome new students into our studios/classrooms by inviting discussions about food and taste. It is a good way to learn more about a student’s background without prying into their home life. It may also be possible to detect issues such as food sensitivity or even food insecurity. Hopefully the conversation can be mostly a fun temporary diversion that inspires a particular articulation, bow technique, or deeper emotional connection with the music.

A great way to start is to get out there and try some new foods yourself. Dine at restaurants you haven’t tried before. Try cooking with unfamiliar spices. Having grown up with one parent who refused to use condiments, I have never been adventurous when cooking with sauces and spices. Luckily, a few years back a friend recommended trying spice blends.  You can also try wandering around a spice shop or an ethnic market.

You could recruit a parent to hold a cooking class or spice tasting. This could be a great way to raise money for a scholarship fund or a group concert tour. People who cook a lot tend to be generous with advice. It is like talking to someone who has discovered nirvana. What a wonderful gift to share with your students!

The Inspiration for Violinists card deck
This “Food imagery” card is part of a 50 card deck. Every card has a unique image and text inspiring musicianship, mindfulness and spirituality.

1. ‘Describing Food’. worldfoodwine.com. (Accessed: April 30, 2022).

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