I can’t count the number of times I have gushed about Anaïs Mitchell‘s 2010 album Hadestown, a folk opera that tells the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, but set in a post-apocalyptic American depression town. It started as a stage production in Mitchell’s native Vermont in 2005, but in 2010 she released it as record with a stellar lineup of singers voicing the characters, most notably Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon as Orpheus, Mitchell herself as Eurydice, folk legend Greg Brown as Hades, king of the Underworld, and Ani DiFranco as his wife Persephone. It’s a masterpiece, and it’s come to mind quite a bit during this election season — I wrote about it in this funny debate-related piece I helped plan and write for eMusic, but thought it’d also be fitting here.
Mitchell’s version of the myth speaks to our less-than-stellar economy and the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor. Hades wants to build a wall to keep the poor out; in the song “Why We Build the Wall,” he sings, “Because we have and they have not… Because they want what we have got,” and later, “We have work and they have none.” Gotta love the 1 percent, huh? (When I saw Mitchell and the “Hadestown Orchestra” perform this last year, she led everyone on a march to Washington Square singing protest songs.) Eurydice and her soon-to-be-husband Orpheus are on the outside of the wall, and in the album opener “Wedding Song,” Eurydice asks where they’ll get wedding bands, a table to eat from and so on, and Orpheus answers that they’ll use what they have and the earth will provide.
I paired the record with a Greek lemon rice soup (aka avgolemeno); obviously there’s the Greek aspect, but there’s also the fact that soups can often be made with whatever you have lying around. They also feed a lot of people for typically not a lot of money — certainly valuable when you’re out of work. My own experience with lemon rice soup is from Coney Island restaurants in the Detroit suburbs, where I grew up. For the uninitiated: Coneys, essentially, are Greek diners, and the signature dish is a “coney dog,” a chili-topped hot dog. I say “Greek diner” liberally — there are some Greek dishes on the menu, but they’re pretty Americanized. Hadestown is based on a Greek myth, but set in an American town, so I think this is fitting: I have to imagine this version of the dish is quite traditional, but the important part is that it’s definitely more so than the bright yellow (but delicious) stuff I grew up on.
Every month or so, I partner with one of my favorite local sites, Brooklyn Based, to bring you an exclusive song by a Brooklyn band, recorded at Nadim Issa’s state-of-the-art recording studio in Gowanus, Let ‘Em In Music. Then, I create a recipe with — or inspired by — the featured artist. This month’s mp3 is The Loom, performing their previously unreleased track “The Devil You Know” (get the free mp3 and read my feature on them here), and here is the stuffed acorn squash I made with the band. All photos by Evan Daniels.
Acorn squash stuffed with rice and veggies (recipe at the bottom)
I’m excited that we were able to time this post with Thanksgiving, because the Loom’s music is perfect for sitting around a big table with friends, and so is this dish. I first heard the Brooklyn-based folk-rock band last year, and it was their communal energy — shared vocals, two bandmembers playing percussion, and a song about having all your friends over to watch fireworks — that drew me to their music. Their songs are also very autumnal, with plenty lines that mention the changing of the seasons (there’s a gorgeous song on the band’s debut LP, Teeth, called “The First Freeze”). So when the band — John Fanning (guitar, vocals), Sarah Renfro (keyboard, vocals, percussion), Lis Rubard (trumpet, French horn), Dan DeSloover (bass, vocals) and Jon Alvarez (drums, vocals) — took over my kitchen last month, I wanted our meal to reflected that. We roasted acorn squash halves and used them as a bowl for a mix of veggies and wild rice (OK, technically it wasn’t “wild rice,” but the closest I could find at Trader Joe’s), and chowed down.
At least a few of the bandmembers are avid cooks: When they got together to hear the test-pressing of Teeth, Lis made baked eggs over portabella mushrooms and tomatoes, with waffles, and pimento cheese; Jon told me about how he learned how to can tomatoes after working on a farm for a summer.
Shannon and the Clams’ new record Sleep Talk has been a recent favorite around the eMusic office, and the band instantly came to mind during a going-away dinner for a coworker a few weeks ago. We were at a delicious tapas restaurant and the dish was a seafood paella with shrimp, monkfish, mussels and, of course, clams, and it was delicious. The rice was dirty (in the way that a rice dish can be “dirty,” as in it wasn’t white), and so is the band — their music mixes trashy lo-fi with hints of girl-group pop, fronted by powerhouse bassist/vocalist Shannon Shaw. (You might recognize her and the rest of the group as Hunx and his Punx’s “Punkettes.”) They also have a song called “King of the Sea.” Done and done. Shannon and the Clams on MySpace