Sweet Potato Cornmeal Pancakes With Smoky Peach Sauce (Inspired by Kacey Musgraves)

Cornmeal Pancakes

My 2013 music collection has officially been dominated by country albums. (Shhh, don’t tell this to the Warped Tour-going 15-year-old me.) I don’t mean the bros singing about pickup trucks and cowboy boots, or the kind of infuriating garbage that topped the country charts earlier this month. But as someone who loves a wide range of folk and Americana, I guess my dip into the twangier stuff was inevitable. There’s a staggering number of grade-A country albums out this year — I’m using that term sort of broadly, but a few faves (which might show up here later on): Jason Isbell’s Southeastern, Brandy Clark’s 12 Stories, Amanda Shires’s Down Fell the Doves, Ashley Monroe’s Like a Rose… I could go on for a while! But one of the first gals that started the trend for me this year was the 25-year-old Texas native Kacey Musgraves, who’s been touring with the likes of Kenny Chesney and Lady Antebellum and just kicked off a headlining U.S. tour (I saw her at Bowery Ballroom last week — even after playing all those stadium shows she seemed genuinely thrilled to have sold out a show in New York. Loved it!)

On her album Same Trailer Different Park she sings about getting out of small towns, finding the positives in a crappy situation, and loving who you want; at least a couple of themes that aren’t so commonplace in the typically uber-conservative country world (“Follow Your Arrow” encompasses all of this). It’s refreshing!

I wanted her dish to be something round, for the never-ending cyclical pattern of small-town living that finds its way into so many of her songs, especially the first single (and one of the album’s best tracks) “Merry Go ‘Round.” It’s about how girls are expected to be married with two kids by 21, go to church every Sunday, and follow exactly what their parents did, with the absurdly clever chorus of “Mama’s hooked on Mary Kay/ Brother’s hooked on Mary Jane/ Daddy’s hooked on Mary two doors down/ Mary, Mary, quite contrary/ We get bored so we get married/ Just like dust we settle in this town/ On this broken merry go ’round.” Then in “Blowin’ Smoke” she’s singing about waitresses who keep saying they’re going to get out of town, but they’re just “blowin’ smoke” and before they know it their kids are already finishing school. The cornmeal is there because it’s common in a lot of southern dishes, but the texture also fits Musgraves’s music: It’s rough and grainy (and the pancakes are savory) for the “Merry Go ‘Round” line about dust settling, and it represents the tough situations her characters find themselves in. The sweet potatoes are for her Texas roots (her hometown, Golden, has a whole festival for them every year), and the yellow/golden color of the pancakes is for the song “Dandelion,” as well as the summery and autumnal feel her songs give off.

For the topping, the sweetness in the peaches is for the hopefulness in songs like the album opener “Silver Lining,” which is, not surprisingly, about finding the good on a day when you “woke up on the wrong side of rock bottom.” The molasses gives the sauce a sort of smoky flavor (for “Blowin’ Smoke”).

Read More »

Advertisements
Whoopie pies

Sweet Potato Whoopie Pies (Inspired by James Taylor)

Whoopie pies

Earlier this year, my friend Daphne Carr launched a Kickstarter project to publish the Best Music Writing book series independently, through her new music-focused press Feedback Press. (BMW is an anthology of the year’s best conversation about music, in the form of features, essays, reviews, blog posts, etc.) One of the pledge options toward the project’s $15,000 goal was for me to bake treats inspired by the artist or song of the backer’s choice, and this was the first of the two purchased, inspired by James Taylor’s “Carolina In My Mind.”

THE DISH
Sweet potato whoopie pies with maple cream cheese frosting and candied pecans

THE INSPIRATION
James Taylor grew up in North Carolina and he wrote his hit song “Carolina In My Mind” when he was homesick overseas. I chose sweet potatoes because North Carolina is the No. 1 producer of them in the U.S., so they might help with a little bit of homesickness. And while I was brainstorming for this, my aunt unknowingly (via Facebook — thanks, Aunt Linda!) tipped me off to videos of James Taylor baking pecan pies and maple sugaring, so I made the sweet potato whoopie pies, then rolled them in pecans that I candied with maple syrup and brown sugar.

Read More »

Vegetarian shepherd's pie

Veggie Shepherd’s Pie (Inspired by Strand of Oaks)

THE DISH
Vegetarian shepherd’s pie (recipe here)

THE INSPIRATION
I was introduced to Strand of Oaks (aka singer/songwriter Tim Showalter) through work, when we released his most recent album Pope Killdragon through our eMusic Selects program. I like that album plenty, but I admittedly have spent more time with his first release, 2008’s Leave Ruin, which was written after Showalter’s house burned down and his then-fiance broke up with him. A coworker recently referred to it as “cabin music,” and while the album wasn’t literally written in isolation in a cabin a la Bon Iver (it was on park benches and in the hotel he checked into after the fire), it evokes the same thing when Showalter sings, “This is what it feels like to see the world end in flames,” in his case quite literally. It’s a gorgeous album — hushed, sometimes-twangy vocals and a mix of clean electric and acoustic guitar — with lots of references to the cold and winter. In “Dogs of War” he sings, “I need you like I need the snow/ You feel much better than the cold,” and in another song he talks about a fur-lined coat. I recently learned that shepherd’s pie used to be called cottage pie; so the “cabin music” combined with the need for comfort while going through a bummer time like that makes this a perfect fit for Showalter’s music. It’s warm, filling and comforting — and if you are in need of some alone time, there’s certainly enough here to last you a few days.

Read More »