A couple weeks ago we had the pleasure of meeting Stacy Stanley, an illustrator and interactive art project designer. She was the first winner in our pie raffle and as requested, she got a blueberry pie. We sat down at The Nash Gallery and had a meandering chat about recipes, oral traditions and her work on the Visual Recipes Project. During the 2013 harvest she created the project in an effort to creatively catalogue and share people’s recipes at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market. She recorded shoppers’ recipes, then beautifully illustrated a selection of them. Stacy shared the completed visual recipes at the farmer’s market, printed on 5 x 7 cards.
Here, Stacy talks about the inspiration for the project:
“The Visual Recipes Project is designed to share recipes with our community. Its mission is to encourage and generate new experiences with food. Eavesdropping at the Market inspired the Visual Recipe Project. While doing my own grocery shopping, I would overhear the sharing of recipes. I had already begun illustrating what I was cooking at home, but hearing these recipes sparked a new idea. I could learn a new recipe, illustrate it, and then share the creation! Hence, the ‘Visual Recipe’ idea was born.”
During our chat over pie we talked in depth about the oral tradition of passing down recipes and the tweaks and transformations those recipes embody. As family recipes modernize a couple cans of tomatoes replaces a bumper crop from the garden or a store bought bag of frozen bread dough replaces scratch baking.
Decades later we attempt those beloved recipes, fooling ourselves into believing that we’re recreating dishes exactly like our grandmothers did. But we are also aware that the oral tradition is not an exact science. As recipes are shared over the phone with noisy kids in the background, at the kitchen table in the middle of dinner or on our way out the door, details get missed. Precise measurements are skipped, ingredients are jumbled, extra steps get left out.
In the end we are left with the nearest approximations of what we thought our grandmothers made a thousand times by heart. And, according to Stacy, that’s pretty good.