Tutorial 30th March 2011

I had a constructive tutorial with John on Wednesday. The hardback version of the Sunday Lunch book had arrived from Blurb the day before so, with the Sunday Roast newspaper, I had a lot of new work to show. We started by looking at the Sunday Lunch book - I think that, compared to the earlier pamphlet version, it is much more substantial and is more successful in illustrating the idea of process and time that I was thinking about. There are things that could be improved about the book: a part of me wonders whether the cream paper really suits the content, maybe a white coated paper would work better. But, on the whole, I think the book succeeds in using the conventions of reading (left to right and top to bottom) to illustrate two timeframes: the linear progression of the timing and the top to bottom of the method.

We then talked about the Sunday Roast newspaper. I'm really pleased with the end result. I (and John) think it succeeds on many levels. It reveals, in quite an economical way the timescale involved in the process of cooking. The newspaper format links to the idea of the Sunday papers, a day of leisure and having time to read and to cook. The disposability (paradoxically, actually more expensive than the hardback book) means that it could be annotated by the owner, torn up, spilled on and is the opposite of high production value coffee table recipe books.

John wondered if the design could be made more 'newspaperish' with headlines and typography that suggests the layout of a newspaper. I'm not sure - I think the format signifies a newspaper enough and, the sparsity of the design, I think, adds to the functionality of the newspaper, both to illustrate the timescale of cooking a Sunday lunch and as a set of instructions. I've shown the newspaper to lots of people now - they all respond positively.

We talked about the idea of communal cooking and eating. John mentioned the phenomena of being invited for dinner and then being expected to help prepare the food. This reminds me of the restaurant St. John where, when they are in season, peas in their pods are served to the diners who then shell the peas at the table. I think there's something satisfying about this connection between cooking and eating - many people have lost that, eating pre-prepared food and microwaving ready made meals. In a wider sense, food is so commodified that shopping food, preparing it, cooking it and eating it are all less satisfactory experiences than they were in the recent past. I wonder how graphic design might help make eating a more holistic experience that is connected to buying, preparing and cooking food. One idea might be that the newspaper becomes a blueprint for communal cooking and eating - a meal is set out with recipes and instructions for individual dishes; the newspaper is cut up, photocopied and distributed amongst the guests; each person invited to the meal prepares a part of it.

I've started to invite people to contribute to Roastpaper, the project I am planning that will look at the relationship between food, friendship and communal eating. I am interested in how food fuels friendships, cements relationships and brings people together. There are many artists who have made work about food and communal eating - Rirkrit Tiravanija is one example, his installations often take the form of stages or rooms for sharing meals, cooking, reading and playing music, his 2002 installation Untitled (The Raw and the Cooked) is shown below.

Another good example of an artists' project looking at food and eating is the Freitagsküche (Friday Kitchen) which was an artists' project at the Atelier Frankfurt and the 'Apartment', Berlin. The project invited visiting exhibiting artists to prepare and cook a meal which was then served to an open restaurant which charged a nominal fee. There were no reservations: people turned up, queued up to be served in the kitchen - by the artist who had cooked the food - then sat, at long, communal tables, where ever places were available. Bottles of wine were placed on the tables with more available from a makeshift bar. Later there might be a reading from a book or a presentation of some sort, and towards the end of the evening, the music would be turned up and the atmosphere would be more like a bar - sometimes with dancing. But the really interesting thing was the idea of communal eating - you would never know who you would be seated next to or what conversations you would have.

I think there is more I can explore with the newspaper format. One idea is that a butcher could give it away on a weekly basis with a different roast every week along with suggestions for seasonal accompaniments. Seasonality, is, of course, a major issue - foods that were once only available for a short season are available all year round: Nigel Slater and others have addressed this issue, Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries presents recipes for seasonal meals in the format of a one year diary. I like the relationship that a newspaper has to time - there is something satisfying about the fact that a newspaper is relevant for only one day and then becomes old news, something to be thrown away. Paradoxically, many people I have spoken to collect recipes from newspapers, tearing or cutting them out and keeping them in folders or, if they are more organised, pasting them in books - potentially another line of enquiry, looking at why and how people collect recipes. This connects to something that John suggested - a recipe book that was 'pre-used' with food stains, spills, tears and burns that suggested the reader had really used the book well - the opposite of Phaidon's Noma: Time and Place in Nordic Cuisine, a book destined, because of the impracticality of the design (recipes are separated from the images, ingredients are extremely difficult to find...) to never be used as a cook book.
The other idea that John and I discussed is the project I have been thinking about for some time: I have been collecting shopping receipts and making notes about the meals that I cook. Originally, I was thinking about how supermarkets collect a huge amount of information about what customers purchase - this information is used by the marketing departments to tempt customers to try new products and buy more of products that they already buy - I wondered if this information could be used in a different way. The information on the till receipt could be used to suggest recipes based on what you've purchased - for example, if you've bought beef mince and onions, it might suggest that with a few other ingredients you could make spaghetti Bolognaise, shepherd's pie or burgers. I tend to buy more or less the same foods every week, shifting slightly with the seasons but mainly sticking to recipes that I know and which I adapt over time - I think it will be interesting to see, over the course of a month or so, what I do cook.




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