Almost every genre of music from jazz and blues to rock and roll and rap has songs about food. There are songs about sweets, paeans to poultry and there are even raps extolling food critics along with bush meat and bánh mì. Here are a few of my favorite gastronomical ditties, with food pairings.
1. Pass the Peas, The JB’s
Just like Bobby, I like soul food “because it makes me happy.” Pair this funky jam by James Brown’s band with a plate of stewed pig ears, collards and sausage and rice from RCL Enterprises.
RCL Enterprises, 141-22 Rockaway Blvd., Rochdale, (718) 529-3576
2. Brunch, Action Bronson
Sure the video for this tune by Flushing’s finest chef turned rapper is a grisly tale of romantic betrayal and murder, but hey it’s got a great blues hook and food too. Pair it with an offal-themed brunch from M. Wells Dinette. M. Wells Dinette, 22-25 Jackson Ave., Long Island City, 718-786-1800
3. Taco And A Pork Chop, Ray Brown, John Clayton, Christian McBride.
Beyond the call and response, “Taco And a Pork Chop,” there are no lyrics to this swinging bass virtuoso showcase. Pair it with the truly spectacular pork carnitas taco from Tortas Neza.
Tortas Neza, 111-03 Roosevelt Ave, Corona
4. A Chicken Ain’t Nothing But A Bird, Cab Calloway
This 1940 tune from the viper’s viper Cab Calloway swings hard and sings the praises of “Nice fried chicken!” I don’t get there often enough but the nicest fried chicken I know is made by one Charles Gabriel at his Harlem eatery.
Charles Country Pan Fried Chicken, 2839 Frederick Douglass Blvd, Harlem, 212-281-1800
5. Jonathan Gold, Spiderfang w/Prince Zimboo
Although its named for the omnivorous Los Angeles Times food critic the lyrics to this bizarre rap tribute teem with New York City food references like “Robert Sietsema/goat on the fork/lamb brains on the stove/how I eat it all up/Call me Jonathan Gold” and the hook, “Midwood Pizza, Roosevelt Sichuan.” Much as I love Brooklyn’s Difaras Pizza I’m going to root for the home team and recommend pairing this jam with dumplings with chili sauce from Little Pepper Hot Pot Restaurant. Little Pepper Hot Pot Restaurant, 133-43 Roosevelt Ave., Flushing, 718-690-2206
6. Savoy Truffle, The Beatles
This confection-rich cut off the Beatles White Album is a jaunty cautionary tale with sugar-laden lyrics “Coconut fudge really blows down those blues.” If you’re not too concerned about having all your teeth pulled out afterward, pair it with classic British candy bar, Yorkie.
7. Chow Mein,The Gaylords
This 1950s novelty tune is the tale of a gent who’s quite distraught at the closure of his favorite Chinese joint. “If I live at all/It will be in vain/Cause what is this life/If there’s no chow mein.” Pair it with chow mein—what else—from classic American Chinese joint King Yum.
King Yum, 181-08 Union Tpke., Fresh Meadows, 718-380-1918
A few of mine:
“Mother Popcorn” — James Brown
“Grits Ain’t Groceries” — Little Milton
“Gravy” — Dee Dee Sharpe
“Worst Pies in London” (from Sweeney Todd)
“Punky’s Dilemma” — Simon & Garfunkel
“Pulling Mussels from a Shell” — Squeeze
“Watermelon Man” — Hugo Santamaria
“Polk Salad Annie” — Tony Joe White
“Wild Honey” — Beach Boys
“Canned Ham” — Norman Greenbaum
“Peaches and Cream” — Ikettes
“Ice Cream Man” — Jonathan Richman
and for adventurous eaters…”Timothy” — The Buoys