A linguistic analysis of the ‘cookbook’ and the ‘recipe’.
The Eat Your Words, collective cookbook
The Eat Your Words, collective cookbook, emerged from a focus on the language of culinary guides, but would draw from its more positive aspects, the collective nature of cooking. I wondered what would a recipe look like if I wrote it to my mother or to my ex or to old friend. So I started by writing 3 recipes for 3 different people. My ‘recipes’ became writing that moved away from the understood autonomy of a cookbook, a book which in many in cases feels like a strict guide to follow. I thought about how I could I could reclaim ownership in the kitchen in a way that isn’t solely concerned with fighting domestic servitude, I could do this through my recipes, owning the language and controlling how they are written. I also wanted to remind myself of the joy and empowerment many women, including myself, feel within the kitchen. Cooking extends beyond capitalist labour, it is more than a service that can be bought or sold. The importance of cooking is deeply imbedded in human social relations. Whether it is between a parent and their children, or among friends and communities or for yourself, whether it takes the form of a gift, or self love and care. In this case, one can consider the work of Nigella, and what her culinary career represents. Is it simply a manifestation of tropes attributed to ‘sexy housewife’, or is it her expression of fantasy and escape in the kitchen. Therefore, what if the cookbook was a fantasy escape, the writings of a sensual cook.
So, I began to deconstruct and reshape the possible forms a recipe can take.
My plan was to create a collective cookbook, one that works to bring back the personal elements of cooking. Commercial cookbooks can often lose their collective nature because a cookbook is always a collection, but they often feel like a singular perspective on cooking and food. Often times, the history or emotion behind the recipe is lost. What is the context that surrounds the meal? What do you feel when you are cooking it, who are you cooking it for? We understand the age-old saying ‘made with love’, but what if the recipe was written with anger, guilt, passion, self-care. What if the recipes in a cookbook focus on the conversations and language that surround cooking, rather than the dish itself.
For that reason, I opened up this process to others, during a time where communal eating may not be as common, and so offering a creative outlet that would hopefully instil a feeling of sharing stories over food. I was really inspired by these virtual dinner hosts who instilled a sense of communal eating online through zoom calls etc. So, I proposed a loose brief, encouraging alternative submissions, recipes that are perhaps written to someone like a love letter, break up text or a quick note on a scrap piece of paper at the end of a dinner party. It may be a cookie recipe you write to yourself to get over a heart-break, a soup to say sorry, a drink to remember a friend or a bread to help you forget one. These dishes, desserts, and drinks can be anything the contributor wanted. Whether the recipe followed more traditional format, or if the dishes were even edible at all, was completely up to the contributors. I hoped to create a collection of recipes that reference every feeling or situation, and I feel as though with the help of everyone involved, we have achieved exactly that.