Wendy Fonarow, better known as the Guardian’s Indie Professor, is an Anthropologist specializing in audience behavior, rituals, and the music industry. She has written about the intersections of food and music, and is the author of Empire of Dirt: The Aesthetics and Rituals of British Indie Music.
What was the food highlight of your year?
At dinner this week, my friend Russell commented he was not bothered about where we had dinner, he just cared about the company. This is the foundation of any great meal, who you eat with. The food is part of the experience. The people and circumstances are as essential; a food highlight is a life experience. This August I was in the UK, and received an email of a hotel location in Leeds. I knew this meant the boyfriend had a day off and this was an invitation. My boyfriend had never eaten Indian food in the UK. He laughed off my refusal to eat Indian food in LA because he couldn’t believe that Indian food could really be so much better in Britain that I wouldn’t eat it anywhere else. This meant I was going to have to throw down. Because of my Guardian blog “Ask the Indie Professor,” I’m lucky to have a lot of twitter friends in the UK. I tweeted “Where is a good Indian in Leeds.” @stevenswift and @waj1 responded thoughtfully and recommended Aagrah, next door to the BBC. They even sent the address and opening time. Aagrah was nicely appointed and already busy. I encouraged the waiter to guide our selections making sure to include a curry and papadums. I took my first bite and smiled, this is the Indian food I come to the UK for and now I was sharing it. As the food came, we both became increasingly giddy. He agreed. It really was different and better than any Indian food he had ever tried before. There was wine and laughter, and the delicious food kept coming. Yet, the circumstances that brought us there seemed so fortuitous and epic. Our mood was infectious. People at other tables and the wait staff gave us knowing smiles. As we left the restaurant to walk back, a torrential rain began to flood the city. We got in a cab and kissed like in the movies.
What was the music highlight of your year?
This year’s music highlight came in the midst of the Coachella festival. I was able to attend with best friends from both the UK and US; Brian who runs Craftlandia (food service company in LA) and Tim (music writer and editor for the Guardian). I had asked to ride the giant Ferris Wheel during Blur’s set. In the big wheel, we sang along looking over the festival field and the skyline dotted with illuminated balloons. After the ride, we crossed the festival field. Blur began to play the song Tender. I was absolutely besotted with a new love and this song captured my feelings. Brian teased me all that weekend that I was “twitterpated.” I grabbed my friends’ hands and we danced. Then, as the song reached the crescendo “Love’s the greatest thing that we have”, without warning I threw my whole weight backwards and they held me up. It was bliss and giving yourself totally over to the music, but most of all faith. In that moment, music, trust, love, friendship, past, and future collided. The line “I’m waiting for that feeling to come,” had finally arrived.
Was there a moment when food and music came together in a memorable way?
The last year had far more travels than usual, which meant many opportunities for music, friends, and food to come together. Yet, by not being home, I kept missing people while they were in Los Angeles. I had promised a house party to the guys in Franz Ferdinand. Instead it was a series of just barely missing each other. It seemed like I was always at the right festival on the wrong day. As my time in London was coming to an end, I decided to meet up with the organizers of All Tomorrow’s Parties at Canteen in Spitafields Market, a quintessential British restaurant that features pies, bangers and mash, and this year’s favorite dessert Eton Mess. I had no other plans for the day so I was slowly making my way to the overground when across the street I see Paul Thompson, drummer for Franz Ferdinand. Granted the east end is London’s hipsterville, so it wasn’t the most unlikely thing in the world, but I was over the moon. Once we had given up trying for the year, it happened. He was getting a haircut and then meeting up with other members of the band for drinks and dinner. We went to Soho House for pizza. It was one of those casual evenings you have when you live in London. Running into friends in the international family of music professionals, having a drink, and dinner and then another drink afterward. Music, food, and everyday life indistinguishable.
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