From The Guardian
Photo Credit: Photograph: Levon Biss for Observer Food Monthly
The jazz musician’s childhood food was a heady mix of his family’s Burmese, Indian, Spanish and Jewish roots
My mother was born in Burma but my grandfather on her side was Indian-Spanish. So I have this quite exotic mix, which is reflected in my earliest memories, in our Wiltshire country kitchen, of gran, and aunts, cooking spicy stewy, casseroley curries, a version of Indian food with a Burmese twist.
My grandmother on my father’s side, a nightclub singer, was a Jewish refugee from Prussia who ended up in Jerusalem, where she met my grandfather – a British army officer. I remember as a child having bowls of chicken soup made by her. There were lots of interesting components, like feet and necks.
Every day, from age five until my GCSEs, I took a packed lunch – ham or cheese sandwich and an apple – to Grittleton House school, which never had a kitchen. So I’d never experienced a school lunch until I moved to a comprehensive at 16. People complain about school food, but to me it felt exotic. All those chips and bad-for-you foods. Awesome.
I believe, from reading biographies, that the great musicians have also been great cooks: Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach. I think I’ve worked out why this is – unsociable hours, plus general creativity.
I remember romantically making a version of my nan’s Chinese noodle stir-fry when I was 15 for a girl from school, which I spent a lot of time over. It worked out quite well and I remember the feeling of empowerment.
In my bachelor days I had a small upright piano in my kitchen. It cost £10 from eBay plus £70 delivery. It was because I’d seen an old photo of Tom Waits – with dirty dishes, empty bottles, a hot plate, a coffee machine and a piano strewn with lyric sheets – and fallen in love with it. I ate breakfast off my upright, and while something was boiling or baking for dinner I’d nip over and compose. There was grease over the keys and a lot of spillage but it didn’t seem to matter.
We recently travelled overnight from a UK festival, where the food was chips, curries and a salad bar, to the Marciac festival in France, where, on arriving, we were offered foie gras, the freshest shrimp, mussels steamed with white wine and cream and glasses of wine at the perfect temperature. The contrast was amazing.
Last night I finished a show at 10.30pm and by 11pm was ordering a gorgeous plate of steak tartare and a bottle of Saint-Émilion Grand Cru at a beautiful cafe next to the Eiffel Tower. I’m sure doctors would have a field day explaining what all this late-night eating does to my body. OFM