Admittedly, there has been more than a bit of neglect to this, my personal reflecting pool of cookery and philosophy. It has been a heavy thesis-writing couple of months, and as such the inspired baking and cooking has suffered. It’s also been hot. Really hot. I’m going to break with my usual format here totally, but bear with me, I do ultimately make a point at the end of this post, and it’ll only really work with your feedback.
I’ve been working on a difficult chapter in my thesis, the theoretical framework. This chapter has to direct the reader to understand my perspectives on how and what we can know about the world and somehow figure out how to talk about that with clarity. In the conservatoire (conservatory, if you’re in America) environment is so heavily entrenched in a culture of tradition that I have been trying to balance a fine line of defining what I’m even talking about when I talk about culture (there are about as many definitions as there are people on this pale blue dot) and how tradition plays an active role in the modern culture.
By talking about a culture, I try to explain things that most people don’t ever put into words. The ways which we interact with our peers, how the expectations of superiors affect our ‘downtime,’ and how we define the world around us (in the case of music students there’s often a pretty distinct “these are my music friends” and “non-music friends” divide). There are also guardians of tradition who ultimately decide what is allowable within the culture. (Think: TV execs who decide what kinds of shows get through the pilot season, the people at Starbucks who choose year after year what seasonal drinks to put out, or in my world its folks like the concert programmers who decide what orchestral repertoire gets put in the concert season).
And all that thinking about culture and tradition as guarded yet continually evolving phenomena made me think about food. (Everything makes me think about food.) Thanksgiving is a food tradition in America, Sunday roast is a food tradition in the U.K. – and there are expectations that everyone has come to know. Everyone has a ‘grandma’s special recipe’ for green bean casserole – and pretty much every grandma’s recipe is the same. But it’s a family recipe, and it’s treasured so who really cares? I have been relentlessly asking for family recipes so I can create my own little vault for the years to come. Cooking and baking for our friends and family is what makes us human.
I read a Facebook post recently in one of the baking groups I belong to where a woman was showing off a gorgeous cake, the sponge recipe coming from that month’s cookbook and the frosting was a family recipe (her grandmother’s, perhaps). The end result was beautiful like I said, but the off-handed comment that caught me as being so important was that they got her grandma to write down her recipes after she was diagnosed with dementia and therefore some of the ratios and measurements weren’t quite right. It was both heartbreaking (dementia is a bitch, and I won’t apologize for saying so) and so special because someone realized how important those food memories are before it was too late.
In everything I do and write I hope to find a personal story that someone maybe doesn’t even know is a special story and write it down. My research is centered around the student’s experience in the conservatoire because the words of a student in the midst of the culture and tradition are so important. Writing for ExplorHer Career (shameless self-plug) has allowed me to use those skills of talking to people and searching out that unique story even further. And it seems logical that I try to tie that into my other love of mixing sugar and flour and eggs to make tasty treats.
So, the logical thought is talking to people and helping them preserve the food memories that are special to them. The family memories and the foods that were central to those moments, the jotted down notes beside a well-worn copy of The Joy of Cooking, or the actual recipes collected over generations. Putting them together and making them beautiful alongside photography featuring those recipes or family moments. It could be one memory or a collection of recipes. It could be a single recipe card to go inside of a family reunion invitation, a booklet of recipes and stories, or an ebook to share with anyone who cares to reminisce. Food is so closely tied with memories and emotions, and I haven’t yet come across a decent way to honor our cultures and histories that incorporates the care and concern for both the recipes and the memories.
So that’s where your feedback comes in. If someone approached you with that service what would you be looking for? In America there’s a tradition of community or church cookbooks where everyone contributes recipes, and then everyone buys up the whole book – these are awesome and also really poorly organized and usually include a few typos, and the header notes are typically limited to “this is Bob’s favorite roast” or similar. I’m interested in this kind of project for selfish purposes – I love learning about other peoples’ family cultures and traditions. And it’s hard to decide on an appropriate price for that kind of work. I know it’s all quite vague BUT here’s what I’d like to know:
1. Would this kind of service be interesting to you?
2. Would you potentially utilize this kind of service?
3. What would you pay (per recipe, I’m thinking) for said service?
4. What would you expect to receive in return for that cost?
IF the answer is “no this isn’t interesting” or “I probably wouldn’t utilize that” then firstly, I congratulate you for reading this whole post about something that doesn’t interest you but also, tell me why! (But don’t be a dick, there’s no need.)
Anyway, thank you for making it through my first self-indulgent post in nearly three months.