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Cooked up with music

"Bravo!" has been heard often by Ann Arbor's University Musical Society. Fittingly enough, it’s also the title of a cookbook that brings together the Society's 120-year history and an exciting collection of recipes contributed by the likes of violinist Itzhak Perlman (bean sprout salad with ginger), soprano Jessye Norman (quick tea cake laced with Grand Marnier) and Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock (smothered catfish).

Officially, it's a "community cookbook," a category most often produced by church groups and social clubs. But Bravo! Recipes, Legends and Lore (Favorite Recipes Press, $29.95, 223 pp.) is an elegant book, professional in every respect.

The book is divided into 12 chapters, each opening with the program from a memorable University Musical Society concert, arranged chronologically. You might think that reading about a concert you didn’t attend is as exciting as watching slides of someone else's vacation, but the text is fascinating.

In 1942, the Society's May Festival featured composer and pianist Sergey Rachmaninoff. The 69-year-old Rachmaninoff walked on stage, "taking surprisingly short steps. He sat at the piano with his back straight, his feet above the pedals, his face expressionless. Once he began to play, his trunk remained nearly motionless, and he performed without broad gestures. Afterward, he left as he had entered, with an appealing air of shyness and humility." Less than a year after that performance, Rachmaninoff died. Don't you wish you’d been there?

Sidebars about culinary history add another dimension. In 1894, when the 14-year-old Musical Society held its first May Festival, the W. Atlee Burpee Company introduced iceberg lettuce and chef Auguste Escoffier created Peach Melba in honor of soprano Nellie Melba.

Additional sidebars divulge anecdotes about renowned artists, such as one about the time when Glenn Gould, the eccentric Canadian pianist, had to borrow a dress tie for the concert.

Bravo! is the product of a committee of volunteers, says Mary Ann Daane, who co-chaired the project with Anne Glendon. Daane devoted three years, almost full time, to working on the book. One group solicited, tested and selected recipes; another wrote the text; and a third designed the book.

Each recipe was tested and retested, and the dishes were evaluated at potlucks. Daane says the committee rejected more than 2,000 submissions, finally settling on just 250.

In addition to musicians, the Society's patrons and local chefs (such as Brian Polcyn of Five Lakes Grill and Jim Lark of The Lark) also contributed. The book even won second place in the National Tabasco Community Cookbook contest. Daane laughs, "We didn't use Tabasco sauce in a single recipe!"

Proceeds from Bravo! will be used for the Society's outreach program to schoolchildren throughout southeast Michigan. The book is available at Borders or online from www.ums.org or www.amazon.com. —Elissa Karg

TREATS

Shop at Troy’s Whole Foods Market (2880 W. Maple, 248-649-9600) on Thursday, Aug. 17, and 5 percent of your purchase amount will go to benefit On My Own, a local charity which helps young people with developmental disabilities. … Combine your culinary and fashion interests in one fun contest: Share Our Strength (the national anti-hunger organization) and Chefwear (the name says it all) are teaming up to provide great prizes for the person who designs the coolest-looking chef’s jacket. Call 800-568-2433 or visit www.chefwear.com for complete contest rules, and start sketching — the deadline is Sept. 30. Got a food tip? Tell us about

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