On this, the first day of the Boston Symphony’s 2016 European tour, I enjoyed a tremendous dinner of traditional Frankfurt cuisine with two friends: one old, one new, both young. Shanti Flores Arce, from Arequipa, Peru, is finishing a masters degree in psychology here. Her boyfriend, Onno Hansen-Gross, is from Hanover, Germany, and is PhD student in physics. Their only confusion in life is what their last name will be if they get married.
I just met Onno today, but I’ve known Shanti for over ten years. Her older sister, Shadai, studied violin with me at the University of Utah. She is now entering Med School there. How did Shadai get from Arequipa to Salt Lake City, you ask? She played at a master class I gave when I concertized there in 2005, and she wound up getting a scholarship from the U to enter the music program. She lived with us for the first year-and-a-half of her program there, and I’ve gone back to Peru on numerous occasions, the result being the Flores Arces are part of our family.
One of the collateral benefits of being a musician is you have the opportunity to see the world. And I don’t just mean the concert stages and fancy hotels. That’s all well and good, but it’s only when you get to know people and their culture that it really sinks in how rich the experience can be. These days, there’s this theory that the way to make America safer is to isolate it from foreign influences. My view is the polar opposite: the more we interact with other cultures and invest our energies in creating relationships, the better off the world will be.
And what better way to do it than with food! (You thought I was going to say music. Well, that, too.) As you see above, I had the delectable beef tongue. (My deeply philosophical colleague, Ronan Lefkowitz, once mused aloud whether, as you tasted the tongue, it tasted you.) Onno had blutwurst and leberwurst, and Shanti had a divine schnitzel. Two local traditional favorites were apfelwein and handkase mit musik, which is a sour milk cheese served with raw onions and vinegar. You can imagine why it’s called “with music.” Frankly, that’s a connection between music and food that has yet to be explored on a serious basis. I’m sure there’s a grant opportunity somewhere for a composer who’s willing to tackle it.
There are lots of great traditions worth keeping, and our dinner tonight was a prime example. Sometimes the best way to enjoy them is when they belong to someone else.