Category Archives: Food and Drink

Building Community Through Recipe Sharing

By Sara de Blas Hernández

All of the famous cookbooks emerging in early modern Spain were written by men who worked for the royal court: Libro de guisados (1529) was written by Roberto de Nola, Arte de cocina, pasteleria, vizcocheria, y conserveria (1611) by Francisco Martínez Montiño, and Arte de repostería (1747) by Juan de la Mata. Outside of the palace walls, however, it was generally women —and not men—who were in charge of feeding the family. Even though there is no record of edited cookbooks by female authors during the period, there are some manuscripts authored by nuns and by literate noblewomen that made possible the preservation of knowledge shared through oral traditions. One of these recipe books is Libro de apuntaciones de guisos y dulces written by María Rosa Calvillo de Teruel around 1740.

Original Libro de Apuntaciones de guisos y dulces at the Real Academia Española in Madrid. Image Credit: The author

At first sight, one might consider recipe books to be straightforward texts with instructions, but they can provide the attentive reader with more information than what initially meets the eye. This is the case with Libro de apuntaciones de guisos y dulces. The only biographical information contained in the book is the name of the author, which, interestingly enough, is written by a different hand than the one that writes the recipes in the book. Is María Rosa the author? Was the book passed down to a relative who signed her name to claim it as hers? Even though these questions remain unanswered, a careful reading of this recipe book has allowed me to reconstruct, to a certain extent, the details of María Rosa’s life, the social context in which she lived, and the cooking practices used at the time.

In Libro de apuntaciones, the titles of some recipes —“How to prepare quails as it is done in Seville” or “How to make Utreras’ pastries”[i]— locate the author in Andalusia, the southernmost region of mainland Spain. The ingredients, meanwhile, disclose María Rosa’s social class, or at least the one she interacted with, which was the lower nobility. The book calls for spices such as clove, paprika, cinnamon, and saffron. These are a constant in most of the recipes and were very expensive but essential ingredients in the preparation of most dishes at the time. There is a recipe that even calls for Flemish butter, a special kind of butter mixed with potassium nitrate that kept the product fresh. This butter was imported from the Netherlands, Denmark, and Ireland and was a luxurious and expensive ingredient not available to all.

Map of Spain with the Andalusia region highlighted. Image Credit: Wikicommons

An exploration of the handwritten recipes in Libro de apuntaciones reveals yet another key detail. Out of the 100 recipes contained in the book, six of them are attributed to other women: Antonia, Mari-quita, tía Felipa, doña Joaquina, María Teresa, and María Manuela. These recipes are considerably longer and more accurate than María Rosa’s recipes. By including these recipes in the book, the author recognizes other members of the food-making community and also acknowledges their skills, abilities, and knowledge. This resonates with Janet Theopano’s concept of “cookbook as community,” which understands recipe books as spaces where women created networks of support and spaces that promoted social interaction and exchange of ideas.

In these six recipes, María Rosa’s own voice gets intertwined with the voices of the six other women. She suggests improvements and variations to the original recipes proposed by her peers and evaluates the quality of the food being prepared. This is proof of experimentation. María Rosa tests and tastes the recipes herself, which is the kind of experimental knowledge and sensorial methodology necessary in the kitchen.

Food making relies on what Sutton defines as the “lower senses.” Take as an example the recipe for “Huevos moles” in which the sense of sight — “both things are whisked until they are very white and they make little bubbles”— and the sense of smell— “ cook until it smells done”— are the ones that determine when the eggs and the sugar are done. In “How to make pork blood sausage,” the sense of touch, and more specifically the hand and its parts, become the unit of measurement: “[add] a handful [of aniseed] with the whole hand,” “as much [cumin as] can be fitted in three fingers,” or “as much [ginger as] can be fitted in four fingers”.

The examples above position María Rosa and her peers as a community of practice that boasts a unique set of knowledge and skills rooted in experimental methodologies and the senses. In turn, this is conducive to the validity and recognition of a field —food-making— and a group of people—women— undervalued and undermined by society. My work helps unveil the potential of a text which, although not very promising at first sight, proves to be a rich source of avenues of inquiry and a way to rescue women’s voices and their knowledge from an unrecognizing past.

[i] Utrera is a town south-east of Seville

 

References

Calvillo de Teruel, María Rosa. Libro de apuntaciones de guisos y dulces, 1740.

Sutton, Davis. “Cooking Skill, the Senses, and Memory: The Fate of Practical Knowledge.”  Sensible Objects ed. Elizabeth Edwards, Chris Gosden, and Ruth Phillips, Taylor & Francis Group, 2006.

Theophano, Janet. Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives through the Cookbooks They Wrote. Palgrave, 2002.


Sara de Blas Hernández is a Ph.D. student specializing in Spanish Linguistics at UC Davis. Even though her main field of research is Second Language Acquisition, she has a keen interest in Food Studies. She is currently working on creating and testing pedagogical materials that develop students’ communicative competence and critical thinking skills while boosting motivation and engagement through multisensory and experiential learning methodologies.

Transpacific Kitchens: The Makings of the Diasporic Kusinera

By GJ Sevillano

“Through my family’s many moves to many different cities, I began to connect the dots of my life. Every single dot I connected was a pot…that form[s] a picture of my life, my family, my calling, and my home.”

-Malou Perez-Nievera, Connecting the Pots: Charting Stories and Filipino Recipes to Find Home

“This peek into the cooking pots and lifestyle of some families makes one realize how much culinary wealth hides, grows, and brings pleasure in Philippine homes, where in truth our mother cuisine develops.” 

-Doreen G. Fernandez, “Mother Cuisine” in Tikim: Essays on Philippine Food and Culture

 

While elusive, the embodied culinary performances of self-actualization—the private moments and movements in which the cook slices, stirs, and spices her meals to her satisfaction—are palimpsestically constructed in recipes. Recipes serve as a key genre in which historical subjects have constructed versions and visions of themselves that have exceeded the bounds of normative archives and their print cultures—the “undigested” figures that symbolize everyday forms of cultural resilience.[i] Thus, it is important as we expand our understanding of recipes beyond a mere set of culinary instructions, we must also expand our understanding of the figures that “dance” alongside us as we cook through the culinary repertoires of past, present, and future.[ii]

A selection of female-authored Filipino and Filipino American cookbooks. Photo taken by author.

 

 In the opening narrative to her co-authored cookbook with Ligaya Mishan titled Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora, Angela Dimayuga states that writing recipes and creating the cookbook was a “form of coming home.”[iii] Rather than a bildungsroman, or coming-of-age narrative, Filipinx perhaps can be more accurately called a coming-of-home narrative. Home not only in the sense of where she resides, but a coming-of-home within the Filipino diaspora in northern California, within the kitchen, within herself. This literary device, of grappling with different senses of home and homeland, is a key genre used by diasporic Asian writers. From the refugee narrative to the transnational adoptee narrative, Asian migrants have dealt with issues of home in their writing for some time. Similarly, Dimayuga uses the cookbook as a literary site to showcase herself “as a complete person.”[iv] For Dimayuga, her recipes inform not only the foodways she inhabits, but also the person she has found home in—a diasporic kusinera (chef).

The figure of the diasporic kusinera represents the ideals of the modern Philippine kitchen. Caught in the double binds of Spanish and American postcolonialism; cultural preservation and culinary innovation; belonging and unbelonging; and subjecthood and abjecthood, the diasporic kusinera represents the complexities in which Filipina womanhood is constructed in and beyond the sites of the culinary. Recipes like Vanessa Lorenzo’s “Navy Beans with Chorizo and Tomato Chutney (Habichuelas),” Nicole Ponseca’s “Banana Ketchup Ribs,” and Abi Balingit’s “Adobo Chocolate Chip Cookies” index the culinary creativity of the diasporic kusinera that takes seriously the everyday realities of postcolonial life.[v]

As Denise Cruz argues, “Figures of transpacific Filipinas are still a means of negotiating shifts produced by geopolitical transitions, now manifested not in formal empire of occupation, but in the dynamics of neocolonialism and the global marketplace.”[vi] Important to expanding Philippines’ foodways are cookbooks that recenter minoritized experiences of the culinary realm.[vii] Leland Tabares notes how “misfit professionals” use the narrative device of “coming-to-career narratives” to underscore the ways in which chefs of color, female chefs, and queer chefs utilize the genre of the cookbook to challenge normative notions of culinary professionalism.[viii] Building from this, I argue that the cooking, feeding, and eating Filipina embodied in these cookbooks and recipes materializes the ontoepistemological tensions of the quotidian Philippine diaspora. In other words, Philippine tastemakers must grapple with the afterlives and aftertastes of colonial histories that continue to stricture contemporary diasporic life.

In her genre bending cookbook-cum-autobiography-cum-poetry-collection titled Asian Girl in a Southern World: This is Not Your Mother’s Cookbook, Dalena H. Benavente, narrates the struggles of growing up Filipina in Obion County, Tennessee, one of the least Asian-populated places in the U.S. Benavente states, “It’s not enough to tell the stories. You can’t just read about it, hear about it or imagine it. You can’t because it’s just too much. In order to truly understand these stories that I have to tell, you have to eat them.”[ix] She continues, “I hope my noodles make you laugh, my cake makes you want to hug someone you love, and I hope my sangria makes you want to fight for what you believe in.”[x] For Benavente, the normative literary form of narrative is incomplete without taste. To translate her experience as a diasporic kusinera is incomplete without her recipes and her readers cooking alongside her. The consumption of her autobiography can only be corroborated by the embodied experience of following her recipes, cooking her food, and eating the flavors of her transpacific kitchen.

Benavente ends her cookbook where a lot of other Philippine and Filipino-American cookbooks begin, with a recipe for kinilaw, or as she names her dish, a ceviche of jalapeno peppers, prawn and peach. Kinilaw is a dish “cooked” with acid thought to be one of the longest standing pre-colonization culinary traditions native to the Philippines. Benavente’s version differs slightly in her preference to pre-cook the shrimp before she adds it to the lime juice, onion, jalapeno, and peaches. The blend of these seemingly unrelated surf and turf ingredients formulates the essence of her Filipina-American subjecthood. She states, “It’s the marriage of the prawn and peaches together in one place, much like your feet standing on unfamiliar ground but knowing that there is something about the proximity that seems so right.”[xi]

To cook the recipes and eat the foods of transpacific Philippine kitchens means to directly engage with the kusineras that grapple with the complexities of diasporic life. To taste her cuisine one must simultaneously confront the material realities of postcolonial haunting, global capitalism, and everyday cultural resilience.

 

Notes

[i] Kyla Wazana Tompkins, Racial Indigestion: Eating Bodies in the 19th Century (New York: New York University Press, 2012).

[ii] Robin Bernstein, “Dances with Things: Material Culture and the Performance of Race,” Social Text, Vol. 27, No. 4 (2009): 67-94.

[iii] Angela Dimayuga and Ligaya Mishan, Filipinx: Heritage Recipes from the Diaspora (New York: Abrams, 2021), 10).

[iv] Ibid.

[v] For recipes see: Jacqueline Chio-Lauri, ed., The New Filipino Kitchen: Stories and Recipes from around the Globe (Chicago: Surrey Books, 2018), 122-129; Nicole Ponseca and Miguel Trinidad, I Am Filipino: And This is How We Cook (New York: Artisan, 2018), 316-319; Abi Balingit, Mayumu: Filipino American Desserts Remixed (New York: Harvest An Imprint of William Morrow, 2023), 143-145.

[vi] Denise Cruz, Transpacific Femininities: The Making of the Modern Filipina (Durham: Duke University Press, 2012), 234.

[vii] Francheska Go, “The Next Generation of Filipino Food,” Food Philippines, https://foodphilippines.com/story/the-next-generation-of-filipino-food/#:~:text=Making%20waves%20in%20the%20global,dishes%20like%20adobo%20and%20sinigang.

[viii] Leland Tabares, “Misfit Professionals: Asian American Chefs and Restaurateurs in the Twenty-First Century,” Arizona Quarterly, Vol. 77, No. 2 (Summer 2021): 103-132.

[ix] Dalena H. Benavente, Asian Girl in a Southern World: This is Not Your Mother’s Cookbook (Self-Pub., Dalena H. Benavente, 2016), Introduction.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Ibid., 232-233.

 


GJ Sevillano (he/him) is a doctoral candidate in the Department of American Studies at George Washington University. He received his M.A. in American Studies from George Washington University in 2021 and A.B. in Politics and Certificate in American Studies from Princeton University in 2019. He was born and raised in Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles, CA where his academic curiosity and passion for Filipinx food was cultivated. His writing has been published in Verge: Studies in Global Asias, Ampersand: An American Studies Journal, and Alon: Journal for Filipinx American and Diasporic Studies.

The Bear and the RP

By R.A. Kashanipour

FX’s The Bear is, ostensibly, about a kitchen. A kitchen—The Original Beef of Chicagoland cum The Bear—inherited by the French-trained, highly-decorated Chef Carmy, who attempts to install order and structure to disruption and disarray. A kitchen that barely marshals a brigade system to deliver everything from greasy breakfast sandwiches to braised short-ribs and risotto (and desserts that I do not understand). Every day in this kitchen is chaos, caught somewhere between group therapy and a seven-alarm fire. Ultimately, The Bear’s kitchen is a space where professional identities succumb to financial maleficence, family legacies, and personal failings.

The Bear, of course, stands as a multifaceted metaphor for the uncontrolled chaos of kitchens that involves navigating the hierarchical labor of cooking, professional-family relationships, and the emo-sensational experiences of food. As Sydney, the overqualified sous-chef, surmises late in the first season, the professional kitchen is often a site of despair.

“It Would Be Weird To Work In A Restaurant And Not Completely Lose Your Mind.”

–Sydney, Season 1, Episode 8

For those who have toiled in the food industry or those who have worked on the scholarship of food, these themes may appear timeless and a bit too real. At The Recipes Project, we’ve been publishing accounts on shifting understandings and approaches to food (and medicine…and magic) for more than a decade, so a great many of the themes related to kitchen struggles resonate in our archives.  

Time management is no doubt critical to food production, but its historical development is relatively recent. Printed recipes of the nineteenth century paid particular attention to order and structure. Time became an important component to both meal preparation and social aspects in the kitchen. Rachel Rich’s 2013 post called “Keeping Time in the Victorian Kitchen” noted that English cookbooks prioritized timing. “The recipe contained in nineteenth-century cookbooks was more than the sum of its parts; this was not a simple collection of instructions for how to cook soups, sauces, roasts and game, it was the recipe for success.” Disrupt the timing of a recipe and a meal can be ruined. Disrupt the timing of a restaurant kitchen and, well, chaos…

Food elicits emotions, both in its production and consumption. From the joy of discovering a new dish to the rage of a poorly executed recipe, there are no shortage of emotions the culinary realm. The labors of kitchen activities have long been means to express personal conditions and reaffirm relationships.  In a post from 2013 called “The ‘Emotional’ Nature of Recipes in Correspondence,” Katherine Allen highlighted familial letters focused on recipes and cooking, but also captured expressions of sympathy, hope, and desperation.  Written remedies served to tie family members to their shared history and reaffirm their relationships.  Emotions are critical to the process of cooking, as well. As a part of our “What is a Recipe?” series from 2017, we introduced a story-telling game focused on “Cooking with Anger.”  Lisa Smith, long-time editor of the RP, posted a galvanizing original recipe called “The Terror of Chard.”

(Capriciousness, steak, and terror… Season Three of The Bear?)

But kitchens are not just spaces for production and individual experiences, they are spaces that reflect social systems and changes.  Leah Astbury’s 2016 discussion “Recipes for Relationships’: Food, medicine, families and cultural engagement” stands to remind us that diets reflect communities. Through medical accounts of chocolate (a topic close to my heart, and stomach), the piece shows how food served personal, restorative roles for communities in seventeenth century England. Preparation of food as medicine, therefore, could be socially reinforcing acts that bridged households. More recently, Nikarika Tripathi reflected on how hierarchical, familial, and social systems could be manifest in food in a piece called “Unlearning Patriarchy: Flavors of Change in the Kitchen”. In the family kitchen, changing social relations can transform and enlighten and Tripathi noted a “subtle revolution” in which the “kitchen became a space where everyone’s voices were heard, preferences were respected, and contributions were celebrated.”

Ultimately, The Bear’s kitchen centers on dreams and aspirations to make brilliant food, often in spite of the cadre of conflicted chefs. And on The Recipes Project, we’ve had countless works that highlight the elevated food of the past. Here are but a few:

While The Bear’s kitchen is a space of chaos and conflict, it is also a space where social and family bonds are negotiated amid both disgusting and sublime food.  For those connected to the world of professional kitchens, the show appears to have conjured a trauma that is real to life, possibly too much so. For those of us at The Recipes Project, however, this aspect of pop culture reflects the multifaceted history of kitchens of the past. 

ALL: Yes, Chef!

Unlearning Patriarchy: Flavors of Change in the Kitchen

By Niharika Tripathi

In the heart of our family kitchen, where the flavors of tradition and conformity converged, I witnessed a peculiar blend between food and patriarchal influence. As a child, I observed how my father’s preferences dictated our kitchen. His love for pumpkin permeated every dish, while the absence of spices like amchoor reflected in our meals. The very clear patriarchal hierarchy fueled by the society shaped our family dynamics. However, amidst this influence, my mother quietly rebelled by striving to please my brother and me with foods that catered to our tastes. It was a small rebellion, but it stood out as a symbol of individuality in a household that often adhered to traditional norms. Little did I know then that this seemingly mundane aspect of our daily lives held a deeper connection to the journey of unlearning patriarchal codes and the pursuit of personal rejuvenation, reimagination, reconception, and rebirth.

An image of kaddu ki sabzi (pumpkin dish), lovingly prepared by my mother.

Thinking back on the food choices that were made, one ingredient stands out in my memory: khatai. This small, pickle-like condiment, with its tangy and savory notes, held a special place in my heart. Growing up, khatai was a rarity in our meals, as my father never allowed its inclusion. I could only indulge in its delightful taste when I visited my grandmother once a year.

The limited access to khatai made it all the more precious to me. It became a symbol of the connections I cherished, the memories I treasured, and the small rebellions that brought me joy. So, as I continue to infuse the flavors of khatai into my meals, I do so with gratitude for the memories it evokes and the personal liberation it represents. It’s a reminder that even the smallest additions to our kitchen can carry profound significance, honoring our past while shaping our future.

A collection of spices, including amchoor, representing the diverse flavors explored in our kitchen.

Thinking back on the food choices that were made, one ingredient stands out in my memory: khatai. This small, pickle-like condiment, with its tangy and savory notes, held a special place in my heart. Growing up, khatai was a rarity in our meals, as my father never allowed its inclusion. I could only indulge in its delightful taste when I visited my grandmother once a year.

The limited access to khatai made it all the more precious to me. It became a symbol of the connections I cherished, the memories I treasured, and the small rebellions that brought me joy. As I continue to infuse the flavors of khatai into my meals, I do so with gratitude for the memories it evokes and the personal liberation it represents. It’s a reminder that even the smallest additions to our kitchen can carry profound significance, honoring our past while shaping our future.

As I grew older, I couldn’t help but notice another aspect of patriarchal codes: the unequal distribution of food. Even as times changed, the practice of serving men first persisted within our extended family. Even now, as my cousins’ wives and my sister-in-law strive for change, my aunts and mother find solace in feeding everyone else before savoring the meals they have lovingly prepared. 

Amidst the flavors that defined our family’s culinary landscape, there was one dish that my mother held close to her heart: kadhi. Its tangy notes and velvety texture had always enticed her taste buds. However, a cloud of restriction hung over this beloved dish. My father, driven by his own preferences, made it very clear that he did not care for kadhi. The mere mention of it seemed to trigger an unspoken restriction. Although my mother had a strong fondness for kadhi, she still adhered to the restriction. It was a silent sacrifice, a relinquishing of her own desires to appease the patriarchal codes that subtly dictated our family’s culinary choices.

Kadhi Recipe

Ingredients:

1 cup yogurt

3 tablespoons gram flour (besan)

2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

A pinch of asafoetida (hing)

1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)

Curry leaves 

Salt to taste

Fresh coriander leaves for garnish

My mother would whisk curd with gram flour to form a smooth mixture. In a pan, she would heat ghee and add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and a pinch of asafoetida, sautéing them briefly. Then, she would add the yogurt-gram flour mixture and stir in water, turmeric powder, red chili powder, and salt. The kadhi would simmer on low heat until it thickened and the raw taste of gram flour disappeared. Finally, she would garnish it with fresh coriander leaves. While this process resulted in a delicious dish, its significance has always been beyond its flavour for me. 

Through these experiences of our kitchen, I developed a sense of self awareness of the pervasive influence of patriarchal codes and their impact on individuals and relationships around me. I started questioning the norms and expectations that permeated our family dynamics. Witnessing my mother’s quiet rebellion and the compromises she made to accommodate the preferences of others opened my eyes to the hidden sacrifices and silencing of personal desires that often accompany traditional gender roles. It became clear to my brother and I that unlearning patriarchal codes required a conscious dismantling of ingrained patterns and a reimagining of relationships rooted in equality and individual autonomy.

A bowl of tangy and velvety kadhi, representing a dish restricted by patriarchal preferences.

The change in our kitchen may have seemed subtle at first, but in hindsight, it was a much-needed and transformative shift. As I began questioning the patriarchal nature of our surroundings, a seed of change was planted within our family dynamic. The conversations initiated sparked a collective awakening, encouraging each family member to reevaluate their own beliefs and behaviors in the kitchen. We recognized the need to break free from the limitations imposed by tradition and embrace a more inclusive and authentic way of living. Gradually, our kitchen became a space where everyone’s voices were heard, preferences were respected, and contributions were celebrated. It was through this subtle revolution that we cultivated an environment of harmony, equality, and individual empowerment. The change in our kitchen rippled into other aspects of our lives, inspiring us to challenge societal norms, pursue personal growth, and forge deeper connections with one another. In hindsight, I now realize that this seemingly small shift held the power to transform not only our family’s relationship with food but also our overall sense of well-being and fulfillment.

The dining table displays a variety of dishes. In the center, a vibrant pumpkin dish stands out, accompanied by a creamy kadhi bowl.

Niharika Tripathi is a feminist researcher and writer specializing in research and advocacy. With a background in law, she brings a unique perspective to her work, focusing on gender-based violence and social change. Through qualitative research and community engagement, Niharika challenges patriarchal norms, striving for a more inclusive world.