The end of 2022 is fast approaching, and I’m happy to report that I should achieve my goal of reading about a book per month. I’m about to finish my twelfth book of 2022. Will I be able to make it a baker’s dozen (13)? I’m pretty sure I can squeeze in another book before December ends. I’ve also read about five or six comics/graphic novels this year, so far.
Last year (2021), I waited until the end of the year to post a short write up featuring the ten or so books I had read. I plan to go back over all of the books, but I first wanted to go into the last two books I just finished, since they have both had a big impact on me.
These two books:
(1) Stanley Tucci’s Taste: My Life Through Food, and
(2) Dave Grohl’s The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music.
Both are collections of stories, essays, and life lessons revolving around one central theme — Music for Dave and Food for Stanley. There are many similarities and differences between both books, but what ties them together is how they have both sparked my creativity in different ways — food and music.
TASTE – Stanley Tucci
As a kid, I was an extremely picky eater. I didn’t even like hamburgers. I thought of them as a meatloaf sandwich — but maybe my dad was just over-grilling and drying his burgers out.
It wasn’t until I watched the movie Good Burger in theaters, that I asked my mom if I could eat a burger immediately after the movie. She took me to Burger King and that’s when I added burgers to my basic list of food demands: hot dog, chicken nuggets, pizza, and now burgers.
It wasn’t until college where I began trying different types of food. This led to me trying new recipes in the kitchen. My early college diet was basically made up of simple pastas, fast food takeout, and frozen treats. Once I began cooking for myself and trying new things, I wanted to learn how everything was made. I went from, How do I make this myself to How do I make it better?
After college I continued to cook, learning and creating new recipes. I have always enjoyed creating delicious feasts that bring people together. Pre-pandemic I even held a few food parties where friends would send a set amount of money (via Venmo), so I could go out and purchase ingredients for a great big meal. It was a fun idea and made me feel like a contestant on a show like Iron Chef or Chopped.
The pandemic sort of slowed my creativity in the kitchen. I continued to cook for my girlfriend and myself, but it was mostly creating the same types of meals over and over again. I was still enjoying cooking, but not as much as before.
What makes Taste a unique read is that it doesn’t only include stories from Tucci’s life, it also features food and cocktail recipes sprinkled throughout. I’ve already made most of the cocktail recipes in the book (including countless martinis and old-fashioneds). Even though I love my cookbooks with photos, having a full story about a recipe is also enticing.
I’ve always been a fan of Stanley’s on screen work. There’s something calming about seeing him pop up in a movie. Even in The Hunger Games as Caesar Flickerman with that silly hairdo — still very calming. We just watched the new series Inside Man on Netflix this past week, where he portrays a man on death row for the murder of his wife. His performance still puts me at ease.
Stanley just seems like such a charming and sweet fellow. I would love to share a meal with him one day. Actually, I would love to cook an authentic Italian meal with Stanley Tucci.
THE STORYTELLER – Dave Grohl
In Dave’s book he’s mostly focused on music, although he does dive into some food stories — including Champagne and Fried Chicken, a Foo Fighters backstage staple.
Dave Grohl is one of the most talented musicians of our time. Think about it, he was the drummer for one of the biggest bands and when tragedy hit he didn’t just become some other band’s drummer. He created the first Foo Fighters album on his own, before becoming the frontman and guitarist for one of the greatest (*my opinion) and the biggest bands in the world.
Dave has dealt with a lot of loss in his life. First, with the tragic death of Kurt Cobain, while Nirvana was huge. Later on, he lost his best friend since childhood, Jimmy. And the latest, which is not featured in the book because it just happened this year, Taylor Hawkins (best friend, musical brother, and Foo Fighters drummer).
I’ve read many biographies and memoirs by musicians in the past, but this is by far one of the best written ones. I compared the structure of Dave’s chapters to what a narrative piece in improv should be. He begins with a tidbit to give you a taste of the main story or point. Next, he jumps around into a few other short anecdotes — related ones. Finally, he takes you back to that beginning story for the payoff. By the time you reach the end of the chapter, you think, Damn, I totally forgot about that whole story.
What made Dave’s book so important to me was how music was the great commonality between all of these stories from his life. Even though I have always loved figuring out how recipes are made when it comes to food, for some reason I never felt that way when I picked up the guitar back in college (during my “Quarter Life Crisis”). Instead of learning how a song is made or why it works, I would just learn simple riffs and solos from different songs I enjoyed.
The Storyteller has inspired me to go back and actually learn how the guitar works. When visiting my friend in Minnesota a few weeks ago, I was reading Dave’s book and I came across a guitar book in my friend’s collection, VAIdeology. Once I returned home, I picked up this book by the great guitar god, Steve Vai. I even got to see him live a few weeks ago. I’m still on “Lesson One”: becoming familiar with all of the notes on the fretboard.
Since I wasn’t picking up the notes quick enough, I also added piano lessons at the same time. Since we have my girlfriend’s nice keyboard on display, I figured that could help my musical explorations.
Dave’s book made me realize how I missed playing guitar. There were also many stories of jamming and playing with other musicians. Some of my best music memories have always been playing with others.
I always remember a cold day in college, when my friend Scotty
(who sort of unintentionally introduced me to the guitar) brought
his guitar and amp over and we played together on the balcony.
There was another time, back when I had a drum set, where he
came over and we jammed with my fog machine. I also remember,
early on, trying to learn different parts of Metallica songs with my
friend Nick on guitar.
My current goal is to understand both the guitar and piano. This is all so that one day I could meet up with Dave Grohl for a jam session, which will take place after cooking with Stanley Tucci, for the perfect day.
I could have featured both of these books in separate posts, but as I read the second book (Dave’s The Storyteller) I started to notice many similarities. The main one being the way they made me feel a new creative spark towards two of my passions — food and music.
Both books are extremely well-written, in very different ways. It may also help that I had previously read a very poorly written book full of errors and typos. I’ve seen typos in books, but these were so bad and so many that it actually took me out of the story, in almost every chapter.
The common theme from Taste and The Storyteller, is how there are certain subjects that bring people together. Food, music, even books, and so many others.
I was also inspired by both authors to explore the past. I would stop myself to write down bands to check out, movies or shows to watch, and search for old, simple Italian recipes.
Stanley and Dave have both had very successful careers, in film and music, respectively. Both have also seen a great deal of tragedy and loss, but have found ways to cope and overcome those moments. I didn’t do a deep dive into the stories and subject matter from the books, because I’m hoping you will go out and read them yourself. Or, if you’re more of a food lover or music fan, you can choose the one that suits you.