About Notes From Musicians' Kitchens

When it first became clear that the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus was to lock us all down in our homes, the reaction of millions of people was to rush to the nearest supermarket and panic-buy more food than they could ever need. Food is so central to our global culture that most of us live to eat, rather than eat to live. I grew up in a household where food was front and centre of our family life, meals were about more than the food, and brought us together as a little community, to break bread with one another and share life’s ups and downs, the belief being that a problem shared is a problem halved.


My dad grew up in a very poor single-parent family in Liverpool, where money, and therefore food, was scarce. He can make a meal from very little, never follows recipes and is famed for his soups and roast dinners. He is also a true foodie, who isn’t snobbish about where he eats: if it’s good food, it’s good food. He has passed this philosophy on to me, and consequently I have a preference for fresh, high-quality ingredients cooked well and simply, in my kitchen at home.


As a touring opera singer, my life has been spent travelling the world, and therefore being exposed to food cultures that are new and often challenging. It isn’t always easy eating in foreign lands where I don’t speak the language, and keeping myself well and healthy, without also spending too much money, but I’ve always coped and have loved discovering new dishes and ingredients, very often bringing things back home in my suitcase so I can experiment with these unfamiliar flavours.


I’ve also observed that my colleagues and friends throughout the music industry share my love of food, that there is a very definite link between food and music and the comfort both bring. Food is not just a universal need but also a universal link to our homes and communities and a universal pleasure, just like music, and so, in the midst of this worldwide shutdown, I want food to bring us all together as a global community, uniting us with the aim of raising money for musicians in need. The musical world across all genres has been very seriously affected by the shutdown, and there are millions of musicians and music professionals worldwide who are out of work and fearing for both their futures and the future of the industry as a whole. We rely on food in the same way that we rely on music at extraordinary times like this: to bring structure and a feeling of normality to our days, to alleviate boredom and frustration, to entertain, to strengthen the feeling of community and to bring comfort, joy, and solace.


We therefore need to ensure that there is a music industry to return to after the shutdown and not leave any of our colleagues and friends behind. This cookbook and digital recipe resource is written by musicians to raise money for musicians in need, but is also for everyone. It is a means of digitally breaking bread with each other, of sharing and appreciating our diverse food cultures, of creating new memories. Once lockdown is over, food will be used to celebrate our freedom and our ability to give each other hugs again, not to mention throw parties. The recipes are from all over the world, and all have a personal story attached, we all have our own stories to tell. There’s also a section for those who don’t like to cook, or who are too busy and want an easy life, and there are plenty of vegan / gluten-free / vegetarian / dairy-free / Keto recipes, so there should be something for everyone.


My thanks go to those who have submitted their recipes and told their stories, and to those who are helping me run this project behind the scenes, especially Madeleine Pierard (soprano), my right-hand woman. In the process of compiling this book, I have asked musicians to tell me what food means to them:


Food is culture
Food is habit
Food is nourishment
Food is health
Food is identity 
Food is memories
Food is comfort
Food is family
Food is community
Food is universal
Food is life
Food is home
Food is love 

Jennifer Johnston

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photo © Helena Cooke