The Comfort Food Project

Screen Shot 2015-07-12 at 4.02.22 PMInstallation View


Project Overview
The Comfort Food Project investigates handwritten recipes and their relationship to memory, tradition, ritual, and family. This project grew into various iterations, beginning with a small interactive installation. The installation inspired the creation of a submission-based blog and archive. Both versions address my ongoing interest in hand-written recipe cards as artifacts.

Part One: Visitor Experience
The initial installation consisted of a capture application displayed with directions on a laptop, a stack of cards with pens, a stand with a webcam, and a display projected onto the wall. Participants were asked to write, illustrate, or map their recipe for a grilled cheese sandwich on one of the cards provided. Visitors were then directed to place their card under the camera and capture it by pressing any key.

The system adds each capture image to a larger projected display. Participants’ recipes are transformed from memory, to visual representation, and then to artifact. The prompt was restricted to grilled cheese in order to simply direct visitors to create a visual interpretations of this simple comfort food.

Users challenged the system throughout the course of the show. Participants began responding to the entries on the looping display. In one case, a participant read one entry and responded to it specifically, creating a dialogue.

Visitors  wrote in their native languages, used diagrams and poetry and explained why their version of this simple food was special. Visitor age, professional background and language created  intriguing variations from card to card. The responses were inspiring and the meaning of the archive transformed with each new addition to the system. At the end of the show, an unique and diverse archive of recipe cards had been created from memory. Some were images, some maps, and some just words. Over the course of the show’s opening many different languages were recorded including; Farsi, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and English.

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Part Two: Overview and Visitor Experience
After the show I decided to create a blog to display the responses and expand the collection. The blog became a location to document hand written recipes cards and the stories and memories connected to each. The blog format allows participants to add an image and to write a description. Users are asked to photograph the card itself or the food in which they made and post this image along with a description. Participants can tag their submission with the terms provided or add their own and comment on other peoples’ submissions.


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