Idiolect-able is a linguistic analysis project of the ‘cookbook’ and the ‘recipe’.
This project began with a focus on illustrating how the ‘cookbook’ and the ‘recipe’ can serve to show a change in dynamic regarding eating behaviours.
These texts can aid an understanding of food histories and the discourse surrounding female self-identity, cultural identity and ‘disidentity’ within the kitchen. My first response to these themes derived from Hillary Clinton's controversial comments in 1992: “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was to fulfil my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life.”
To combat the criticism, she released a recipe for her chocolate chip cookies which has since developed into the First Ladies baking competition. These recipes have become disproportionately synonymous with the adequacy of these women as mothers, with ingredients likened to personality traits. It is a competition which displays how culinary guides can reinforce gender identities and socialise women into feminine practices.
The second field of practice within this project developed from the similarities observed between the derogatory language used to describe women, and the language used to describe the natural world. Likewise, the “Technostrategic” language Carol Cohn identified within the world of nuclear defence also utilises domestic language in order to undermine the power of the action they represent. In response, I have created seven bacon sandwich recipes which work to display the domestic identity women are subjugated to within the kitchen. I have used the recipe a vessel, extracting feminised and sexually dominating language from a range of contexts, and implementing them back it into the recipe of a bacon sandwich.
My most recent area of work developed from further attempts to deconstruct and reshape the possible forms a recipe can take. My plan was to create a collective cookbook, one which works to bring back the personal elements of cooking. Commercial cookbooks can often lose their collective nature because a cookbook is always a collection, but they often feel like a singular perspective on cooking and food. Often times, the history or emotion behind the recipe is lost. What is the context that surrounds the meal? What do you feel when you are cooking it, who are you cooking it for? What if the recipes in a cookbook focus on the conversations and language that surround cooking, rather than the dish itself.
I have decided to plunge into a community-based practice and open the process up to others, during a time where communal eating may not be as common as a result of Covid-19. The recipe submissions may be written in the style of a love letter, break up text or a quick note on a scrap piece of paper at the end of a dinner party. These dishes, desserts, drinks do not have to be strictly followed like a traditional ‘recipe’, but what I do hope is that I am able to create a collection of recipes for every feeling or situation.