Nearly four years ago, the Recipes Project introduced Around the Table, a monthly series intended to highlight the blog’s community of scholars, writers, and readers. I proposed the series in order to further promote a sense of community among Recipes Project readers; while I had long turned to the blog as a source of new ideas and information and as a resource for identifying scholars with related interests, I hoped to formalize this role for others.
In the editors’ recent introductory post to the new Recipes Project format, we mentioned a change in the format of Around the Table. We are trying out the series as a podcast! You can expect an episode at least once a quarter. We will be offering the same exciting interviews and community-building for the Recipes Project you have come to expect, just in an audio format.
As we pivot to a new delivery method for community information, the editors wish to again remind you that we want and value your suggestions! Please reach out to pitch any ideas for Around the Table or the Recipes Project. You can find us on social media (we are active on Twitter and Facebook) or email the Recipes Project.
I look forward to sharing our new Around the Table format with you soon!
This summer proves to be an exciting one for anyone seeking recipes-related exhibitions at museums, libraries, and other institutions. Many exhibitions featuring the history of food, medicine, and science are well underway or opening soon, and many of the below institutions have created online components to accompany the in-person exhibitions. You will also see below that two culinary museums have opened this year. Furthermore (and excitingly!), exhibitions of interest are already being announced for 2023, such as Staging the Table in Europe, 1500–1800. Be sure to check the websites for full descriptions, as well as information like hours, fees, directions, and COVID-19 updates. Thank you to all in the Recipes Project community who contributed to this post and let me know about upcoming exhibitions! We always welcome readers to share your trips to any museums and exhibits of interest to the Recipes Project community on Twitter or Facebook!
African/American offers a view of the breadth of African American culinary traditions and innovations. The exhibition celebrates and seeks recognition for the countless Black chefs, farmers, and food and drink producers who shaped American food culture. Visitors can experience 400 years of Black influence on agriculture, culinary arts, brewing and distilling, and commerce, particularly through their movements during the Atlantic Slave Trade and Great Migration. The exhibition features impressive installations, such as the Ebony Magazine Test Kitchen and the Legacy Quilt, a collaborative project celebrating people, stories, and art; the Legacy Quilt also includes an interactive, virtual experience. Links to other interactive experiences such as the Virtual Reality Theater and Mapping the Nation’s Table are available on the exhibition website.
Alchemies of Scent is an interdisciplinary research group exploring the practice of ancient Egyptian and Greek perfumery, studying its place in the history of science, and examining the changing connections between art, craft, science and culture in the ancient Mediterranean world. In June 2022, the group is hosting two public workshops and a performance. Participants in the workshops, The Metopion Perfume: Ingredients and Experiment, will learn the myths and stories of scents and substances of the Ancient Mediterranean by plunging into one of the first cross-cultural perfumes of the Greco-Egyptian world: the Metopion. Through smell, taste, and touch, participants will experience the differences between past and present ingredients. Additionally, participants will develop skills of interpreting ancient recipes. Alchemies of Scent is also hosting a dramatization of the myth of Myrrha (the birth of Myrrh according to Ovid and Hyginus) on 17 June 2022.
Four institutions in Basel are exploring a single theme, the relationship between humans and animals, through four distinct exhibitions. Each exhibition considers questions such as “how has the relationship between humans and animals changed, here and elsewhere?” and “what are the strengths and abilities attributed to animals?” The Pharmacy Museum’s exhibition investigates the use of animals as drugs, active ingredients of pharmaceuticals, and symbols in the history of pharmacy up to the present day. These themes are addressed through a fascinating collection of texts, artifacts, and specimens such as bezoars, isinglass, musk, Spanish flies, and snake flesh.
This innovative exhibition allows visitors to experience the Prado’s collections through the sense of smell. In collaboration with the Perfume Academy Foundation and the “AirParfum” technology developed by Puig, the perfumer Gregorio Sola created ten fragrances associated with elements present in the painting “The Sense of Smell,” part of the series on “The Five Senses” executed by Jan Brueghel in 1617 and 1618. The fragrances allow visitors to appreciate elements in the painting in a new way. For example, Sola has crafted the fragrance “Gloves,” which reproduces the smell of gloves scented with ambergris, based on a 1696 recipe. All ten aromas in the exhibition are detailed on the website.
Visitors to the Food for Thought exhibition will explore mealtime riddle practices through items curated from McGill Library’s collections and beyond. Focusing particularly on the 18th and 19th centuries, the exhibition reveals ways in which people bonded during meals. This exhibition stems from a broader project, the Riddle Project.
This exhibition explores the relationship between food and health over the last 600 years. The featured objects and texts on display consider changing ideas about how food could be used as a prophylactic, cure, and more. The exhibition also highlights the role of the physician, particularly Fellows and Members of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, in the development of food-based medical treatments. The website includes links to recorded talks and articles related to the exhibition.
Garum is a culinary library and museum tracing the history of cooking and eating habits from the fifteenth century to the present. The museum boasts collections of culinary artifacts used in haute cuisine, home kitchens, and the creation of professional pastry, chocolate, and ices. The library consists of a fine collection of antiquarian culinary texts, including rare editions of Platina, Scappi, Menon, Carême, and Escoffier.
LA Plaza Cocina, a museum dedicated to Mexican and Mexican American cuisine, opened earlier this year with its inaugural exhibition Maize: Past, Present and Future. Through objects, images, and cookbooks, the exhibition celebrates maize as a sacred grain and global food source. The museum will feature a new exhibition every six months. This culinary museum also includes online tours and exhibitions.
Henry Mercer established the Mercer Museum to give people tangible reminders of preindustrial daily life, including the collective acts of creativity, innovation, problem-solving, and making do. Prototype B, the second part of the exhibition series, Awaken, explores these acts through the themes of food, cooking, dining, and inheritance. The exhibit includes an installation devoted to cooking and recipes and another on dining and unforgettable meals. Visitors are encouraged to share their own food-related stories, traditions, and memories.
Drawing upon prints, illustrated newspapers and magazines, comic books, zines, and more, this exhibition seeks to reframe the history of medical images towards a broader socio-cultural history. The exhibition’s images span a range of themes, perspectives, and eras to address topics such as environmental health, gender and sexuality, disability, and health inequities.
This mini exhibit set within the Resetting the Table exhibition is focused on rice cultivation in the Americas. It explores the establishment of the rice industry based upon African knowledge systems, the toll of the Atlantic Slave Trade, and the lasting culture of the Gullah Geechee, the descendants of the enslaved Africans who provided labor for the rice industry.
Princeton University holds two of the twenty-three extant Ripley Scrolls, each spectacular manuscripts central to the transmission of alchemical knowledge in premodern Europe. This exhibition featuring Princeton’s Ripley Scrolls shows how European alchemists built upon Greco-Egyptian, Islamic, and late medieval knowledge to create a golden age of alchemy from the 15th through 17th centuries. An accompanying digital exhibition is also available.
If you’d like to feature a museum exhibition or collection on the Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.
We recently had the opportunity to chat with Olivia Miller, curator of the Art of the Food exhibit at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Olivia has been at Curator of Exhibitions at the museum for nearly a decade and this exhibit is features more than 100 works from the renowned collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and his Family Foundation. The exhibition uses a variety of mediums to examine food in a variety of non-alimentary contexts, from satire to social commentary. With prominent artists of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including Damien Hirst, Hung Liu, Analia Saban, and Andy Warhol, the collection shows the ways that food is our communities, relationships, cultures and languages.
R.A. Kashanipour on behalf of the Recipes Project: Thank you so much for taking to the time to talk about this wonderful exhibit! What was the inspiration, particularly the focus on food? How did you select this collection of works?
Olivia Miller: I first visited the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation in Portland in 2019 to look at the collection. My intention at that early stage was just to gather information and to see what types of works were in the collection. Being part of a university art museum, I strive to curate exhibitions that are interdisciplinary with various entry points for engagement. We want as many students as possible to visit our exhibitions, so it’s important to have shows that connect to contemporary issues.
As I was going through the artworks, the topic of food kept standing out to me. I can’t explain exactly why—it just made sense because Tucson is a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, there are many faculty and researchers on campus vast knowledge of food, and it’s a broad topic that would allow me some flexibility in the curation. It seemed like the perfect topic to explore.
Selecting the artwork was challenging. For one thing, food is a huge subject to tackle, so I had to figure out what themes to focus on and which artworks illustrated those themes best. The Schnitzer Collection is quite large so I had to make tough decisions on artworks to exclude from the show. Eventually, I narrowed down the checklist to 109 works after selecting the themes for the show: community, control, dissociation, food for thought, elixirs and libations, eye candy, and still life. Through those themes I made sure to include a mixture of well-known and lesser-known artists and a variety of mediums.
RP: The collection is impressive, particularly the variety of works. What kinds of media are included in the exhibition?
OM: There are many different types of media in the show including: paintings, sculpture, glass, ceramics, screen-prints, ready-mades, and lithographs. However, there are some artworks that take a traditional medium to a new level. For example, Red Groom’s Deli is a three-dimensional lithograph that extends off the wall and into the viewer’s space. Some works, such as Malia Jensen’s salt-lick sculpture, or Ed Ruscha’s prints News, Mews, Pews, Brews, Stews & Dues use food itself as the medium!
RP: What messages and insights about food do you see this incredible collection of artists communicating ?
OM: Some artists, such as Ellsworth Kelly in his plant lithographs, are focused on the aesthetics of food. Others, like Abraham Cruzvillegas’s Ichárhuta, speaks to environmental concerns and the accompanying social impact. Damien Hirst’s Last Supper series speaks to the over-reliance on prescription medications and making a parallel to the artificiality of processed foods. The incredible part of learning through art, is that although the artist may be communicating a specific message, contemporary events and people’s personal experiences add additional layers of meaning to the artwork. This is also part of the art of curation. By framing certain artworks in this exhibition, I’m adding a new interpretive lens to the work. In this way, the meaning of all of these artworks is ever-changing.
RP: How does The Art of Food contribute to ongoing conversations about food and spark new ones?
OM: The Art of Food is certainly intended to contribute to ongoing conversations about food, but hopefully in a way that inspires more people to join in on these conversations. As a curator on a university campus, it is very important for me to remember that I work in a unique place with incredible access to current topics. While a particular subject might seem old-hat or common knowledge to me, the museum is often the place where young students or community members are introduced to these conversations for the first time.
In this light, I hope that people leave the exhibition with a heightened awareness and a broader perspective about food. I hope they leave with a level of critical thought about where their food is sourced from, how food is integral to maintaining community, and who has agency over their food choices. Naturally I hope that people also understand the integral role that art plays in communicating ideas about food, telling food histories, and inspiring a call to action.
RP: Which works have garnered the most attention? Are there any issues or conversations that have developed that have surprised you?
OM: The porcelain sculptures by Oregon-based artist Chris Antemann have been very popular. She worked with the Meissen porcelain factory to produce them. They have the aesthetics of the Rococo style, so in addition to being genuinely beautiful works, they are also quite amusing. There are also two small, early watercolors by Andy Warhol, painted when he was only 19 years old. Those have really surprised people because they are not used to since they are more familiar with his Pop Art aesthetic than his earlier expressive works. The Roy Lichtenstein Bull Profile series has also been very moving to people. It is a series of six screen-prints that begins with an image of a cow that gets gradually broken down into an almost-unidentifiable geometric abstraction. It really speaks to the disconnect people have between their consumption of meat and the individual living being it comes from. People have also been very drawn to the glass sculpture by Emily Brock. It is called Diner Story, and it shows a woman sitting at a diner counter wiping up her spilled coffee as bacon and eggs cook on the stove behind the counter. People are fascinated by the fact that she made this miniature scene out of glass, but there is also a melancholic mood about the piece that is captivating.
RP: What other events and collaborations are a part of the Art of Food?
OM: Chelsea Farrar, Curator of Community Engagement and Willa Ahlschwede, Assistant Curator of Education and Public Programs have done an incredible job planning various events and collaborations in conjunction with the exhibition. Two complementary exhibitions in our community gallery have focused on food. The first was a collaboration with ArtWorks, an on-campus arts program for adults with developmental and intellectual disabilities. They worked with a class in the School of Art to create an exhibition centered around food and memory. We currently have an exhibition with the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona and photographer Kathleen Dreier that highlights the personal food stories of Tucsonans. One of the most important collaborations was with the Campus Food Pantry. For the first month of the exhibition we collected donations that went directly to students on the University of Arizona campus. It was really important for us to call attention to the food insecurity that exists here, right on our campus. We have also had a number of public events including a Community Day, community garden tours, artist talks, scholarly talks, and even a food-themed art trivia.
RP: How can we continue to talk about food and art at the University of Arizona?
OM: Well for one, we should continue to exhibit artwork about food that speaks to its evolving significance. This exhibition has only scratched the surface and there are many more artists and issues to discuss around food. The subject will continue to evolve in our daily lives and artists will continue to respond to those changes. It is important to remember that there are incredible similarities between food and art. They are both cultural manifestations and are made in similar ways—a chef’s kitchen can be likened to an artist’s studio. Food preparation and art making involve a knowledge of the past, changing technologies, creativity, and innovation. Consuming food and consuming art are both multi-sensory experiences that can inspire different ways of learning. They both nourish the soul. Because of this, I think it is important for faculty to incorporate food and arts experiences into their curriculum whenever possible.
RP: Thank you! We will be sending students to the exhibit, especially those from my Food Studies and Latin American Studies courses.
With the advent of the new year, two members of our editorial team have stepped down from their positions: Recipes Project co-creator Lisa Smith and longtime contributor-and-editor Laurence Totelin. Today we celebrate Lisa and Laurence’s valuable contributions to the project and their service to our community! Amanda Herbert recently spoke with Lisa and Laurence to reflect on their time with the Recipes Project.
Amanda: Tell us about your introduction to the Recipes Project: when did you join, and why?
Lisa: It was a chilly April evening in Saskatoon, Canada, back in 2012… Elaine Leong was over for a week for a conference and various network-building meetings. We were sitting in my (then) living room plotting all sorts of recipe-related activities. We were both intrigued by the possibility of developing a blog that could bring together lots of different voices and would appeal to the wider public. We also wanted to think more widely about what is a recipe, anyway, which is why we took a liberal definition to recipe from the outset, which could encompass ingredient parts, books, magic, and more. Over the summer, we looked into different platforms and ended up going with hypotheses.org as being the most flexible one for a collaboration. We launched the blog on 11 September 2012, with a post on scribblings by Elaine, and were pleased with the good reception it received immediately.
Laurence: I was on maternity leave with my second child when Lisa and Elaine invited me to contribute to the Recipes Project. At the time, I had never written a blog post, and I was rather nervous. But the invitation sparked something in me, and I started my own blog (Concocting History), which allowed me to grow in confidence. I wrote my first post for the Recipes Project in February 2013 and joined the editorial team at the beginning of 2015, with a series on Greek and Roman recipes. I did not hesitate one second to join because I knew that the Recipes Project was a supportive environment, in which I would be able to develop my editorial skills.
Amanda: What was your favourite TRP project?
Lisa: What is a Recipe? A Virtual Conversation, an online conference we held in 2017 to celebrate our fifth year. This was a lot of hard work and required a lot of creativity, but we were definitely ahead of the game in terms of a virtual shift. Our goal was to make our conversations about recipes more inclusive, for both people around the world who could not afford to travel and to a wider, non-academic audience. It worked so well, as participants used YouTube, podcasts, blogging, photo essays, and Twitter to join in. We had students, farmers, famous authors, and museum specialists drop in accidentally–they didn’t know it was part of a bigger thing– and contribute to the conversations in thoughtful ways. As Laurence and I were saying the other day, we wish that we had written an article about the conference, which we had planned to do and just never got around to doing… When the pandemic happened, it turned out that our knowledge would have been useful to a lot of people, but by then all sorts of people were trying out virtual conferences with varying degrees of success anyhow. (Readers, let that be a lesson: don’t sit on your good ideas!)
Laurence: I have two favourites. Like Lisa, I enjoyed the Virtual Conversation immensely. In the COVID era, we have had to switch to virtual conferences, but in 2017, this was very new. We didn’t try to replicate a ‘normal’ conference virtually; we threw away the rule book and tried all sorts of things. Some were more successful than others, but I think that I learnt a lot from the Conversation both in terms of contents and methodologies. My second favourite project was the interaction I had with Jennifer Park on the topic of curdled milk in the breast (here and here). This really demonstrated to me the potential of blogging as a venue for the exchange of ideas between scholars working on different periods (early modern period for Jennifer; Greek and Roman antiquity for me) and different types of sources (drama for Jennifer; medical sources for me). Exchanges between scholars have always happened of course, but blogging allowed us to have our conversation publicly and faster than if we had simply added references to each other’s work in more traditional academic publications. I can’t actually recall whether we had this blogging exchange before or after Jennifer and I met (at the Wellcome Library), but that exchange remains very special to me.
Amanda: How do you think the project has grown and changed over the years?
Lisa: Our definitions of recipes got even broader. We actively sought out new voices and aimed to be more inclusive by moving beyond our own pre-modern European networks. We quickly realised that we could not do it all with such a small team and expanded to a much larger team of editors and social media editors. This has ensured that we could bring in even more new voices and exciting research! I can’t wait to see what direction the editorial team takes next.
Laurence: Both the chronological and geographical scope of the project have widened, as we have attempted to decolonise our approach to historical recipes. We used to be a woman-only team, which felt like the right thing in the early days, but we made a conscious effort to change this in the last few years. The blogging format always allowed for flexibility and reinvention, and I look forward to witnessing where the editorial team will take the Recipes Project in the future.
Amanda: What are your own new directions?
Lisa: I’ve recently taken on a senior leadership role in my university (Faculty Dean Postgraduate, Arts and Humanities) and will take over as Chair of the Society for the Social History of Medicine Executive in the summer. But my work with the Recipes Project has very much shaped my aspirations in these roles. Through the Recipes Project, I developed my skills in mentoring new scholars and a deep concern about what opportunities are available to them. I also gained experience in virtual community building and collaborative work. These will, I anticipate, be useful in both roles.
Laurence: Like Lisa, I have learnt so many skills through working with the Recipes Project. Most importantly, the Recipes Project has shown me a model for a supportive scholarly community. I have tried to take some of that ethos to my current roles, which include several editorial roles and the co-chairwomanship of the Women’s Classical Committee UK. I’m currently on research leave and I feel at a crossroads from a career point of view, as many large projects I was involved in have come to an end. I’m not entirely sure which road(s) I will take next, but I’m excited to find out.
Thank you Lisa and Laurence for your years of innovations and contributions! The entire Recipes Project team wishes you all the best in your future endeavors.
If you’d like to feature a project, scholar, or institution on Around the Table, please email Sarah Kernan.