Guest Spot: Gutbucket explains how to argue about food

GutbucketGutbucket: Flock (Cuneiform, 2/22/11)

Gutbucket: “4 9 8”

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Brooklyn-based jazz-rock quartet Gutbucket released its fifth album, Flock, in February on Cuneiform. The band takes its name from the term “gutbucket,” which means to play jazz in a particularly exuberant or expressive style, and it claims that its unconventional style has been “injecting a shot of glorious spazmitude into the minimalist cool of the New York downtown scene” for the past 10 years.

Gutbucket’s off-the-wall music is the result of its members’ distinct contributions and, inevitably, artistic disagreements and compromises. When it comes to food, Gutbucket engages in a similar, hotly contested discourse. So whet your appetite and embrace the taste-bud-inspired tongue lashings with Gutbucket’s culinary treatise, “How to Argue About Food.”

How to Argue About Food
by Gutbucket

Most bands break up. It’s a fact. Rock bands do this quite a bit, and it’s often not very friendly. Jazz bands might be a bit more civil about it, or perhaps not. If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve been in a band before, so this is not unfamiliar terrain.

Take three or more humans engaged in a creative endeavor, and ideas, visions, aesthetics, and more will clash. So how do you handle this?

Well, Gutbucket has the answer.

Forget about consensus. Don’t pretend you will agree. Embrace the friction, disagreement, discomfort, and argumentative spirit.

But please have other outlets and arenas besides your music in which to behave this way.

That’s why Gutbucket chooses to argue, debate, dissect, and regularly disagree about food. Yes, food. We are a band of music nerds who spend most of our time talking about food instead of music.

This is useful. We all eat. We sometimes eat together. We have strong opinions. We can have our strong opinions about food. We have developed an eight-tier rating system for the food we eat, which includes these categories (from worst to best):

1. Not Food / Inedible
2. Disgusting
3. Mediocre
4. Fine
5. Not Bad
6. Good
7. Very Good
8. Excellent

These categories provide an opportunity to further dissect that which more reasonable humans would have abandoned or disregarded as unimportant and juvenile.  But as George Bernard Shaw said, “All progress is the work of unreasonable men.”  If he’s right, we should have time travel all figured out by the end of our upcoming West Coast USA tour.

You might think that these categories provide the groundwork for consensus…but then you clearly don’t know us at all.  They’re really just a chance to argue the shades of gray for those rare instances when the four of us come too dangerously close to agreement.

For example, Europe 2009 tour argument #5: Does the rotating, processed meat slab in Mannheim being sliced before your eyes and ever so gently shoved into that thick Turkish bread, covered by some arguably fresh vegetables, and smothered in a yogurt-y sauce, fall into the inedible category? Or is it somehow just “mediocre?”  It does seem to hit the spot for Eric, Ken, and Ty after the gig, yet it leaves Adam feeling sick and somewhat upset. Maybe the meat is hyper-processed and low-grade, but if the doner kebap stand really nails the bread-to-meat-to-veggie-to-sauce ratio, doesn’t that automatically bring it up to the cusp of mediocrity?

Ken and Eric once spent the better (though some might say worse) part of an hour before a 2006 set in Athens, Georgia discussing which is a better mass-produced doughnut, Dunkin’ or Krispy Kreme.  A waste of time, you say?  (The other band on the show thought so.) Well, fuck you then; we agree on that.

Europe 2011 tour argument #17: “Was that gravy (at the biergarten in Erlangen, Germany) made with molasses?”  “Fuck no, and fuck you for even having that thought!  Probably beef stock.”  “Beef stock for pork shoulder?  What are you…a fucking idiot?!?!”  Now isn’t that more interesting than talking about the sax solo that Ken took two nights prior in Dresden? And isn’t that better than rehashing that old argument about whether or not the music world should have the 1980s wiped from its collective memory (on that question, Ty says no; Eric and Ken say yes)?  But hey, been there, done that. It’s “fine.”  Should I really give Zappa or King Crimson another chance?  Yawn. “Mediocre.”  But was that the saltiest thing you’ve ever been served (what was that?!?), or was the sugar content of that dessert (see the Freiberger eierschecker) enough to send a lesser man into a diabetic coma?  Now you’re talking about shit that matters!  “Excellent!”

Unfortunately, far too many meals in our lives fall into the “fine” category, but from time to time, a discovery is made — the chorizo tacos at El Bronco in Brooklyn; the duck at that biergarten next to the Jazzclub Unterfahrt in Munich; the cold BBQ-pork rice-noodle wraps at Sam Wo’s in San Francisco; Al Pastor burritos at El Farolito (this may classify us as San Francisco Mission beginners, but we’ve tried a lot); the Rangoon Night Market Noodles at Mingala in Manhattan; the Pad Thai at Thai Tom in the Seattle U District; tagliatelle and rabbit in Polenta, Italy; most everything at the veggie Punjabi place around the corner from where we mixed Flock in Manhattan; that perfect croissant Guillaume brought us in Paris.  These are the transformative, transcendent culinary experiences that we live for.  And don’t try to argue with that.

Gutbucket is now keeping a food blog.  Go, contribute, and argue at  Or listen to our music at or

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