IU musician composes dishes to complement musical selections
By Lynn Schwartzberg
January 4, 2012
I entered Evelyne Brancart’s home and was instantly overwhelmed with the heady aroma of freshly baked waffles. These were not everyday, ordinary waffles; these were authentic Belgian waffles made with a yeast batter and prepared by a Belgian cook.
Evelyne Brancart is not just a wonderful cook; she is a world-renowned concert pianist as well. A member of the piano faculty of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, Brancart was the department chairwoman for more than nine years. Her recent CD, titled “Chez Chopin,” certainly caught my attention. As a lover of music and food, this was the perfect disc for me.
During my recent visit with Evelyne, our discussion ranged from playing Chopin to cooking and how we as humans use, or don’t use, our senses. You see, it was Chopin that truly inspired the recipes on the accompanying data disc.
After years of playing the Etudes, Opus 10 and Opus 25, Brancart began to visualize actual dishes that the music evoked. She described the musical compositions as sketches or pictures that became clear after years of study.
It was a dinner party several years ago that Brancart hosted for her students that brought the recipes to light. Since there are 24 etudes, and each student was studying them, Brancart promised 24 dishes if they all played the entire composition.
During the process of planning the menu for the party, she discovered that each etude connoted a certain type of food. For example, the second etude in Opus 10 is fast paced and filled with chromatics. When Evelyne began to play it for me, I could actually “hear” the caviar popping in my mouth.
Etude No. 5 in Opus 10 is played with an emphasis on the black keys on the piano. A fascinating composition, Brancart created a dish called “Tones Noir” or black tones. It even captures the spice added by the left hand in the etude. A spicy black bean dip is served with blue corn chips, marinated black olives and deep red grapes.
For Chez Chopin, Brancart created 12 small dishes for Opus 10 representing a young Chopin and the light and short compositions in the opus. For Opus 25, there are recipes ranging from hearty stews to desserts.
One of my favorite recipes, and perfect for our current weather, was created for Etude No.11 in Opus 25 called Winter Wind. The recipe is called “For a winter’s night” and it is a beautiful beef and vegetable stew. Brancart artfully describes the dish as a representation of the opening of the hunting season. The left hand on the piano illustrates that part. The chromatic ring of Brussels sprouts and carrots represent the right hand’s role as the wind.
The entire project took Brancart quite some time to complete. You see, she is a wonderful cook, but doesn’t usually measure accurately when she is preparing food. She actually had an assistant follow her every move while preparing each recipe, carefully measuring ingredients and recording every step of these wonderful recipes.
Now, I did mention some wonderful waffles earlier. I did enjoy one during my visit and asked, begged actually, for the recipe. Evelyne described her method and quantities for me. The recipe makes many, about 40 waffles.
Evelyne was planning to serve the waffles that evening at a party for a young piano student who needed practice performing for an audience. A willing audience surely arrived, with the promise of freshly baked waffles and a house full of music. A better evening is hard to imagine.