Le Bell Canto by June LeBell

Nutcracker Sweets

Posted December 17, 2010 at 1:00 pm

by June LeBell

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In what now seems like another life, I had a cooking program on WQXR, the New York radio station where I spent more than 29 years of my life. As a singer, I always knew that great music and wonderful food went hand in hand so the idea of interviewing famous classical and Broadway performers who loved to cook (and eat) and well-known chefs and restaurateurs who loved great music seemed like a natural recipe for a successful program.

For almost two years, five days a week, I spent 30 of the most fun-filled minutes of my career listening to people like Beverly Sills, Itzhak Perlman, Marilyn Horne, Julia Child, Daniel Bouloud and Rose Levy Beranbaum talk about their favorite things while I set them to music. Yes, set them to music.

When someone brought in a recipe for chopped chicken liver I used music by Frederic “Choppin” (it gets worse!) played by Emanuel Ax. For a bagel recipe George Jellinek, the wonderful Music Director of WQXR with whom I shared an office, recommended I use a Beethoven “Bagel-telle.” Lamb recipes were accompanied by an “Agnus Dei” or “All We Like Sheep” from “Messiah.”

Now that I think about it, it’s pretty amazing I lasted 29 years at the station. But the audience loved our playing with food and, after the show went off the air and I was left with hundreds of handwritten recipes from the greatest musical and culinary minds in the world, I turned them into a cookbook, published by Doubleday, for the 150th anniversary of the New York Philharmonic. It had 50 illustrations by the great Al Hirschfeld, stories about how musicians ate before, during and after a performance, recommendations for music to accompany the recipes and more puns than you could shake a whisk at.

Rosy Levy Beranbaum (http://www.realbakingwithrose.com) was on the show at least a half dozen times. You’ve seen her beautiful books: “The Cake Bible,” “The Pie and Pastry Bible,” “Rose’s Celebrations,” and so many more. I had an in with Rose — we went to the High School of Music and Art together, so the concept of “Kitchen Classics” was one she immediately embraced. In fact, she wrote the Foreward to my book.

Last week, I received a phone call from Naomi Lewin, one of the “new” WQXR announcers. She told me that Rose was going to be her guest for a series of broadcasts called “Nutcracker Sweets,” in which she and Rose would talk about the essence of Christmas cooking, set to morsels of music from Tchaikovsky’s great ballet.

Well, I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hear about this. Now I’m even more excited to be able to share this series with you. If you go to http://www.wqxr.org/clusters/2010/dec/13/nutcracker-sweets/ you’ll be able to hear these charming tidbits for yourself, complete with some mouthwatering recipes that will most certainly come in handy for the season.

Delectable food and delicious music are, as Cole Porter would say, De Lovely. Enjoy!


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Currently 1 Response

  • 1.
  • How nice to have your'legacy' continue. But, of course, we have your cookbook [I do belive two copies are on our shelves...one signed by you].

    Love the way you say ' don't know how I lasted 29yrs at the station', haha, how modest........we old NYr's know and miss hearing your melodious, intelligent, wittty voice on radio.

    We'll be sure to listen in..........

    Ro & Stan
  • rosalie pearlman
    Sat 18th Dec 2010
    at 8:21am
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