“Recipe Box” is a social practice performance art project about how food knowledge and culture is stored and shared. In the museum, visitors browse through our own recipe cache, contribute recipes of their own, and take away a gift recipe box that encourages them to value their food cultures. On Sundays, Spatula&Barcode hosts potluck lunches in the lobby, where participants eat together, show off their own recipe boxes, and share stories of how recipes and other foodways are passed on.
“Recipe Box” celebrates the humble containers many of us cram full of index cards, notes, and clippings. Beyond this sometimes nostalgic reflection, the project celebrates the food knowledges and cultures that are lost, displaced, and undervalued, as well as the kinds of food know-how that are in daily use but not yet committed to a shareable form. In engaging participants in the gallery and at the potlucks, we encourage folks whose immediate response is “I don’t cook” or “I don’t have family recipes” to reflect for a moment on their actual food practices and how we practice some food creativity every day, whether in the kitchen or the drive-thru lane. For us an important part of the project is, as always, the conversations and stories people share, however far they stray from the recipe box itself.
The impulse for the project came from the emotion-laden, chaotic pile of recipe cards that Spatula&Barcode founders Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson inherited from two mothers and four grandmothers. At the museum, visitors can sort through this pile of recipes, contribute a handwritten recipe of their own, and take home a papercraft recipe box to store their cooking knowledge. We archived all the contributed material, and continue sourcing more, online.