Day 10: ‘What is a Recipe?’ Final Event

WMS 4051, Wellcome Library, London.

And so we must come to an end…

For the past month, we’ve been regularly feasting on delicious presentations on and indulging in wonderful conversations about ‘What is a Recipe?’

On July 10, we’re going out on a high note, with two livestreamed panel discussions of about 45 minutes hosted at the Wellcome Library, London. RP editors Amanda Herbert, Elaine Leong, Lisa Smith, and Laurence Totelin, along with Elma Brenner (Research Development Specialist, Wellcome Collection), will discuss ‘What is a Recipe?’

The first panel will kick off around 2:30 p.m. (UK time) with an examination of some recipe book highlights from the Wellcome Library, followed by our thoughts on ‘What is a Recipe?’, drawing on our virtual conversations.

The second panel will start around 4:00 p.m. (UK time) with an examination of some recipe-related objects, followed by a round-table discussion in which we respond to your questions. So please send in your questions — here, on Twitter, on Facebook…

Details about the live-streaming and timing to follow. We will update on Twitter, Facebook, and here!

Please join us in bringing our conversation to a close.

 

Conferencing and Conversing: Summary of Day 9 of “What is a Recipe?”

Amanda Herbert

Crispijn van de Passe, "Tactus" (Cologne, 17th c.) ART Box P281 no.5, Folger Shakespeare Library.
Crispijn van de Passe, “Tactus” (Cologne, 17th c.) ART Box P281 no.5, Folger Shakespeare Library.

Reading over the posts and conversations on Day Nine of our digital conference “What is a Recipe?” I was struck by the many ways that our participants engaged with one another.  When we started this project, we wanted to make sure that we were speaking with, and to, all of our constituents.  The Recipes Project is a blog invented and managed by academics, but our readers and contributors come from a wide range of backgrounds: professional chefs, activists, scientists, medical doctors, linguists, folklorists, and food enthusiasts.  We wanted to talk with, and to, all of the parts of our community.

It should come as no surprise that academics love to talk about their discoveries and ideas.  When academics talk to each other, they use formal, traditional venues and formats (professional conferences/20-minute read-aloud papers) as well as more free-form, new ones (of all the forms of social media, academics seem particularly taken with Facebook & Twitter).  Both offer advantages as well as drawbacks.  But in order to reach new audiences, sometimes you have to move the conversation into different formats and genres.

That’s why we were determined to embrace a wide range of social media outlets and online platforms for the #recipesconf (or, as it’s officially called, our Digital Conversation).  Over the course of this project, we have all “talked” with one another on Instagram and YouTube; on our blog and on guest blogs; in podcasts and in person; via Google Chat, Skype, and Join.me; on Facebook and especially on Twitter.  Each platform had its strengths and weaknesses, and each also engendered different styles and sorts of conversations.

Day Nine of our conference showcased this phenomenon.  There was an Instagram essay by Katherine Cheyenne Hysmith (Twitter: @kchysmith, Instagram: @kchysmith, and blog here).  Emily Contois shared an e-journal and created a Twitter chat (hashtag #teachingcookbooks, Twitter: @emilycontois and website: bit.ly/foodgender).  Rachel Snell blogged about her teaching and shared a website of her students’ work.  The Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine at the University of Minnesota unboxed a new manuscript via Facebook Live (https://www.facebook.com/umnbiomedlib, Twitter: @umnbiomedlib, and Instagram: @umnlib).  Siobhan Carlson continued her Instagram and Twitter essays (@SpuddenlyFarming and Twitter @Spuddenly_Farm).  Harry Hayfield wrote a blog post (on Boeuf Bourginon) and Sietske Fransen talked to us via Twitter and her blog (Twitter @sietske_fransen and her blog post on her archives tweets here).  And last but not least, some of our RP editors and our #recipesconf participants joined together on Twitter for a two-hour open forum on the “recipe” for our program — or, what were our guiding principles, designs, and methods in creating and administering a virtual conference?

I was struck by the ways that each platform offered its own unique sort of conversation.  Real-time, instant engagement came most readily on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook; in these formats, participants seemed more willing to make comments and ask questions.  Twitter was particularly lively, and it felt like the conference “lived” there, with quick response exchanges and lots of helpful reminders about the content that was being hosted elsewhere.  On the blogs and on YouTube, participants shifted into a more scripted, prepared mode — carefully plotting out their presentations ahead of time, delivering them, and then giving us time to process and think through on our own.  Over the course of the month-and-a-half that we’ve run this virtual conversation, I’ve enjoyed thinking and learning and conversing in all of these different modes, and I hope that you have, too.

Day 9: What is a Recipe?

Ferdinand Wright, Summer Landscape, 1877. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

We hope you’re still enjoying this brilliant weather and are equally as excited for our last big event day of the virtual conversation on ‘What is a Recipe?’. We’ve got some brilliant new topics coming your way and some of our oldies, but goodies, joining us too.

“Teaching Cookbooks: A Twitter Conversation on Food, Gender, History & Writing” from Emily Contois with the hashtag #teachingcookbooks. Twitter: @emilycontois and website: bit.ly/foodgender. Emily will be sharing her reading list, lesson plan, and teaching tips—plus some of her students’ cookbook analysis essays in a 24 hour twitter chat on the topic starting from 8am.

Credit: Katherine Hysmith.

“#FreeFireCider: Folk Herbalists, Feminist Hashtags, and the Instagram Modernity” from Katherine Cheyenne Hysmith. Twitter: @kchysmith, Instagram: @kchysmith and blog post here. Herbalists regard Fire Cider as a community-owned recipe but it has built up a commercial niche. Katherine will be exploring the historic “recipe” and how this community of shared knowledge deals with modern legal issues with a focus on the Instagram accounts of women folk entrepreneurs, how they use the hashtag #freefirecider in the hopes of winning back their recipe, and, in turn, help form a folk narrative within the Instagram modernity.

“Teaching Recipes: Recipes as Sources for Women’s Lives” from Rachel Snell.  Rachel blogs about her module here and shares the website of students’ work from “Food, Femininity, and Feminism in American Culture from Amelia Simmons to Martha Stewart”, which looks at the ways in which  the production and consumption of food fundamentally shaped concepts of femininity and feminism in American culture.

“‘Unboxing’ a new acquistion” from Wangensteen Historical Library of Biology and Medicine at the University of Minnesota. We’ll be witness to the ‘unboxing’ of a new French receipt book manuscript! Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/umnbiomedlib, Twitter: @umnbiomedlib, and Instagram: @umnlib.

From the Potato Experiment.

The “Spuddenly Farming: A reconstruction of Rev. Mr. Cochran’s Potato experiment, 1791” from Siobhan Carlson is back again with updates on the experiment! Siobhan will be on Instagram  @SpuddenlyFarming and Twitter @Spuddenly_Farm

“Henri’s Kitchen”, the final installment in which Harry Hayfield looks at Boeuf Bourginon through the eyes of his seventeenth-century musketeer, Henri.

“Recipes in the Early Royal Society Archives” from Sietske Fransen, who has been exploring the visual practice of the early Royal Society will be on twitter as @sietske_fransen and @MVCRASSH and her blog post on her archives tweets here.

Still ongoing we’ve got ‘Cooking With Anger’  where you can join the comments and create your own improvised recipe from a basket of ingredients. If you joined in Day 8’s discussions about fictional foods, you might enjoy taking a crack at ‘Cooking With Anger’.

In any case, make sure to check out Tallulah’s intriguing blog post about ‘Stories and memories: Day 8 of the Recipes Project’ where she explores all of the brilliant things which happened on Monday– including that extended discussion of fictional meals! She also discusses the focus on reconstructions, discussions of the ‘art’ of a good recipe and the connections between recipes and family history, and the many forms of recipes that appear in our daily lives.

It looks like there’s going to be a lot of themes today for our last big event day with focus on gender, community, improvisational cooking, digital recipes, and pedagogy cropping up already. We’ll have to see if we get reconstruction popping up again today…

We’ll see you again on the 10th with a final recording at the Wellcome Library.

Recipes as Sources for Women’s Lives: Student Reflections on Food, Feminism, and Femininity

By Rachel A. Snell

In the summer of 2016, Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Maine approached me with the opportunity to teach a course exploring women and food. I eagerly accepted, since opportunities to teach connected to your research don’t come around every day. My dream course, titled, “Food, Femininity, and Feminism in American Culture from Amelia Simmons to Martha Stewart,” considered the ways in which the production and consumption of food fundamentally shaped concepts of femininity and feminism in American culture from the period of the American Revolution to the present.

Since the course was listed as both a History and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies course, these majors were well-represented among the students taking the course. However, the topic of food attracted a number of social scientists, education majors, and even a Biology major who all confided they otherwise would not have considered signing up for a history or a women’s studies course.

An intriguing 1925 Maine publication that was the starting point for several student projects.

Throughout the course, students were asked to develop the skills to read a recipe not just as a set of instructions for a culinary process but as sources for women’s lives. Although they initially approached the assignments with some skepticism, in their end-of-semester reflections many divulged that “before this class, I had never looked at recipe further than how it would get me to a completely finished baked product;” through in-class exercises and weekly recipe analysis presentations students came to appreciate recipes as “stories and little snapshots of a woman’s life” and “a reflection of the time in which [they were] written.”

Mildred “Brownie” Schrumpf, Maine food expert, author, and home economist.

Over the course of the semester, students developed independent research projects that used recipes to explore major course themes. The research project was purposefully open-ended, to allow students to draw on their personal and academic backgrounds to demonstrate the breadth of recipes as sources for historical research. The one limiting factor placed on students’ projects was a requirement to make substantive use of materials from the Mildred “Brownie” Schrumpf Papers, a collection of recipes, newspaper columns, cookbooks, and personal correspondence collected by Maine culinary authority, Brownie Schrumpf. The final products demonstrated the students’ research creativity, as they used recipes to exploring topics ranging from:

  • An analysis of chocolate chip cookie recipes from six different time periods to explore changing ingredients and tastes.
  • Combining The State of Maine Cookbook produced by the Democratic Women of Maine in 1925 with genealogical and archival research to create a personal and culinary portrait of selected participants.
  • Analyzing 1940s cookbooks to better understand housework and cookery as patriotic service.
  • A nutritional analysis of several mid-twentieth century recipes compared to similar recipes published on social media within the past year to contextualize the Center for Disease Control’s data on rising obesity rates in Maine.
  • A historical survey of labor-saving devices in the kitchen, focusing on the development of refrigeration from ice boxes to modern appliances and the transformation of American diets and culture as a result.
  • A geographic analysis of community cookbooks published throughout Maine to explore the regional variance in the identification of “Maine” food (lobster, potatoes, blueberries, etc.).
Collage of cookbook covers from the Schrumf Collection.

In course reflections, students addressed how their perception of a recipe had changed through course instruction and their research process. When asked to define a recipe, students described their shifting attitudes toward recipes and the discovery of recipes as historical sources:

“What I have learned is that a recipe can provide an image of the identity of women during a certain time period. We often do not get to hear about the perspective of women in history, so cookbooks help fill in the gaps of what it meant to be a woman during certain eras.” (Mara Hintz, Secondary Education)

“From the earliest cookbooks we looked at to the more modern ones, it was evident to me that recipes are often more than just directions for how to prepare food. In fact, recipes seem to tell their own story. They hint at relationships, economic status, available resources, and the roles of domestic women and how those roles changed over the years.” (Naomi Holzhauer, Biology)

“What I also learned from this class is how the power of a recipe can empower a movement in spreading a message, raising funds for the cause, or show a way of life that doesn’t have to be solely about homemaking . . . It is more than just a way to share good meal ideas. A recipe is a way to share culture, promote independence, and when used in the right way, used to further the conversation and culture shift regarding women’s roles in society.” (Sarah Nichols, Secondary Education)

“The dictionary’s definition of a recipe is as follows: ‘a set of instructions for preparing a particular dish, including a list of ingredients required.’ I find that what this definition fails to capture the essence of recipes. It fails to acknowledge that recipes are so much more than just mere instructions and ingredients. Collectively, recipes give us insight into different parts of history. How people lived, what they had available, what their homes and families were like, how society functioned, among many more things. Recipes often times have deeper meanings and connections within our lives than we realize. History is certainly reflected in the cookbooks, diaries, and other examples of culinary literature. By studying recipe books throughout time, we are able to better understand how we came to be where we are with food today.” (Sarah Noble, Psychology/Women’s Gender, Sexuality Studies)

“I’ve learned that a recipe is more than just a list of ingredients with instructions on how to make it. A recipe has history, family connections to people. A recipe could be a reminder of the first time you’ve made it with someone you love; a recipe that has been passed down through the female generations with all the written side notes of modifications.” (Sierra Crosby, Psychology/Women’s Gender, Sexuality Studies)

Finally, history major Abby Belisle Haley, provided the perfect postscript for the course as an in-depth exploration of transformations in American women’s lives through the lens of food:

“In terms of ‘recipes’ I think this course in itself was a recipe because it provided new and interesting ingredients for the student to combine together to produce a wholly new product that is different from another dry, overcooked research paper.”

More information about the course can be found here, including syllabi and sample student projects.

Food, Magic, Art, Science, and Medicine