Cookbook anxiety

Robinson, Sally ORCID logoORCID: (2019) Cookbook anxiety. Leeds Arts University.


The output is a creative project that responds to the Cookery Collection, one of the special collections in Leeds University library, which contains printed and archival material relating to food and cooking that dates from the late 15th Century until the present day. Research process: The project responds to selected cookbooks and printed material through still photography and moving image, especially mid 20th Century cookbooks containing early examples of colour photography. The work is inspired by mainstream images of food in cookbooks, particularly visual depictions of idealised lifestyles which conjures shared social fantasies, perpetuated by mainstream images and our own internalisation of them. In my response, still photographs and moving image sequences explore staged scenarios and table sets which parody the lifestyles depicted in the books, to explore the social and domestic anxieties subtly generated and communicated. Research insights: Cookbooks are utilitarian - they have an instructional purpose, but are also aspirational, and filled with social-class anxieties. They not only tell one how to do a thing, but also imply value judgements, sometimes directly through words, and sometimes indirectly through photographs. The reality of preparing to entertain is hugely influenced by visual culture – we try to attain the mythical ideal, and in doing so perpetuate the visual myth. The output was exhibited and presented at; MAKE GOOD (group exhibition), Leeds Arts University, Sept 2019; PEERS (group exhibition), Vrij Paleis, Amsterdam, Sept 2019.

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