Action Recipes

Paper Cooking for Embodied Recipes

Abstract

This contribution describes the motivation for ‘Paper Cooking,’ a design workshop that took place during the Food Friction conference.[1] We reflect on its outcomes, with a view to future directions for work by creating ‘Action Recipes,’ a video repository that presents people’s favourite cooking actions. The repository aims to draw attention to unrecognised aspects of embodied knowledge.


Introduction

Text accompanied by images is still arguably the predominant format for creating and sharing recipes, whether published in books or online. Digital technologies, however, have offered new ways to share information around food. The growing use of mobile photo-sharing services, such as Instagram,[2] has led to an increase in everyday amateur food photography.[3] These images are often a highly aestheticised element of a ‘foodie’-oriented trend, which can be seen as the ultimate personalised extension of, and engagement with, lifestyle media and culture.[4] They are, then, distinct from recipes per se, in the sense that they are not explicitly instructional but embody and express individual lifestyles and associated modes of consumerism.

This visual aestheticisation of food builds upon and reinforces a postmodern privileging of the ‘higher’ senses (visual and auditory), which excludes senses such as taste, smell, touch and proprioception from the ways we interact with and talk about the material world.[5] Cooking, though, is an embodied practice that mobilises both the mind and the body in an ecology of places, tools, ingredients, people, and so on. Images and text represent someone’s explicit knowledge (e.g., measurements) of how a dish is made, excluding the things that happen in-between the lines of a recipe. Skills, tricks and rules of thumb are sensory and situated practices that have traditionally contributed to culinary creativity but escape textual articulation and visual capture.

The absence of embodied knowledge in recipes has further personal and social implications. Part of our embodied knowledge, for example, concerns memory. Embodied cooking skills connect us perhaps to the moments when we learned and used these techniques, who we learned from, or who we cooked with.[6] Formalistic approaches to cooking and accompanying media representations can thus obscure their role as an act of collaboration and sharing.

In this piece, we are interested in taking cooking actions, and the embodied knowledge contained within them, as the focus of recipe conceptualisation. Video, either on YouTube or TV shows, is a medium that can go some way in demonstrating actions in the cooking process, even though these are often a means to an end (e.g., food competitions). In our case, we made a start by creating video recipes from and around instances of embodied knowledge. With this, we hope to draw attention to the role of embodiment in cooking, currently underexplored in ethnography,[7] anthropology,[8] material experience,[9] and human-computer interaction,[10] and suggest practical ways of doing so.

Method

We asked people to work in groups of four-five people, with each member thinking of one favourite cooking action (and associated tools and ingredients) that they especially like to perform. Each group was then tasked with assembling individual actions together to create a dish. Throughout the process, we used paper tools and ingredients (see image one), rather than real food. There are, of course, practical considerations for this, such as food waste, hygiene, food handling, allergies and dietary requirements. However, another aim of the workshop was to test accessible methods for eliciting embodied cooking knowledge. Using paper puts the activity more in line with a form of ‘sketching,’[11] where specific elements of the process can be focussed on, and peripheral, minor details can be ignored. From an embodied cognition perspective, Kirsh tells us that, ‘An imperfect model may be more flexible, simple and adaptable than the real thing. A better form to think with.’[12]

The paper cooking process, then, is our attempt to provide a sketch model of cooking—a form that that will better allow the cooks to think through, and reflect on, a particular aspect of the cooking actions. While we cannot perform the exact cooking action with paper, nor have the same embodied experience, this material affords a playful and flexible way to develop an approximation of cooking actions that allows us to express important elements of the action.

In the next section, we present the findings. During the workshop, we video-recorded participants performing their favourite actions individually and in groups. We then grouped similar videos together to create a classification of cooking actions. We also took photos of the dishes that were assembled per group. We briefly describe each action category and present some of the resulting dishes.

Comments on Video

Cut

A variety of cutting actions were chosen during the workshop. Cutting allowed people to customise the dish by preparing ingredients the way they like them, whether it was to ‘get all the herbs in the same size’ (see Cut1_Table1), or because ‘I like to cut the cheese. I am very into symmetrical pieces’ (see Cut5_Table2). For others, cutting also offered an opportunity to get to indulge in the tactile qualities of the food. Unable to find an appropriate term to communicate the feeling of cutting a cake to their group, one participant used a combination of words, tools, and gestures to describe how the cake shrinks under the pressure of the knife, and then bounces back once the blade slices through the surface of the cake (see Cut4_Table2). Another participant disliked using the knife, preferring instead to tear the salad by hand in order to ‘feel it’ (see Cut5_Table2).

Add

Adding ingredients together, or transferring them to a pan, was also a popular category of actions. Some of them were associated with the sense of smell that comes with it. One participant said she likes to smell and add herbs, and in the video, she uses her hands to convey the olfactory experience (see Add2_Table1). Another participant tempered seeds in oil and explained that he normally waits for the smell to come out, signifying that they are ready (see Add5_Table4). In one case, a preferable action occurred as an interaction between two participants. One participant was stirring tomato soup, and the other one dropped herbs in it, expressing her enthusiasm: ‘She is stirring… ooo… haha!’ (see Add1_Table1).

Stir/Mix

Stirring and mixing ingredients were associated with movements and feelings of relaxation. By turning the spoon around, one participant said, ‘I like the smell. I like how you can create movements… So you can feel the texture of the soup’ (see Stir1_Table1). Another one said that she enjoys mixing and beating her ingredients: ‘They are separated, and I can make them together, transformed into another thing. I like it’ (see Stir2_Table2).

Mash

One participant talked about mashing and that she likes it ‘because the soft vegetables are becoming pure… and… and… underneath I go slow, there’s a lot, it takes time, it takes at least twenty minutes for everything’ (see Mash1_Table2).

Another person said she enjoys squashing garlic. She used a knife with its flat surface on the garlic, and then applied pressure on it with her fist. She then used a fork to mash it while adding salt. For this action, there was a consideration for the quality of the dish (‘it has more flavour for making the sauce’), but also an inability to verbally articulate the reason for its selection (‘I don’t know… I like the… the sensation…’) (see Mash2_Table3).

Transform

Two people said they enjoy the transformations that ingredients go though during the cooking process. One person fermented carrots, for which ‘you have to wait’ (see Transform1_Table4), while another one melted butter, which is a process he enjoys watching (see Transform2_Table5).

Flip

One participant spent quite a while flipping her paper pancake with the pan. Asked why she likes this action, she responded: ‘The excitement or adrenaline to see if it’s gonna flip and fall into the pan’ (see Flipping1_Table1).

Final Dishes

In the last part of the workshop, people in each of the six tables put their individual actions together to create a dish and extract a recipe from that. In turn, some of the dishes were unexpected, with a twist of humour. The team Smooth Operators made a veggie cake by chopping and mashing vegetables and mixing them with other ingredients, such as milk and flour. They then baked it and cut it with a knife to get the nice sensation one of the team members described before. Some dishes took into consideration the cultural differences in the group (‘too spicy… for a Dutch person’) (see image five), while other dishes were more elaborate (see image six).

Conclusion

By concentrating on cooking actions to create recipes, we saw glimpses of how the conversations during cooking could expand beyond practically making a dish to include the sensations and associated memories that are important elements of cooking and eating. These express and share pleasurable and memorable moments in the making of the food, and often identify fine details of sensory engagement with the ingredients.

Many actions were seen as pleasurable because they offered a way to engage the sensory. They require different levels of participation, expertise and time, varying from passive and quick (such as watching the butter melt) to time and skill-demanding (such as fermentation).

The videos show how people used the paper tools and ingredients to express and communicate the things that are difficult to articulate through one mode alone. This is reflected in the ways that body and language were combined to describe an action, or when actions came into language through names of dishes, such as in the case of the ‘flying pancake’ (see image five). Inventing more recipe titles and instructions that refer to or suggest bodily actions might be a way of bringing closer verbal language and embodied knowledge.

Importantly, throughout the process of cooking together, these sensations and experiences are shared with others and, in some cases, inspired by them. In order to create a dish, cooks had to describe their actions, often telling the story of why they like them. The resulting dish is not only an unexpected combination of ingredients but also a shared record of the interests, skills and memories of the cooks.

We see Action Recipes as a start in creating a repository of cooking actions that can reveal the role and nuances of embodied cooking knowledge in design research, and as a playful process with real food for creating novel recipes and collective cooking experiences at home.


Bibliography

Buxton, Bill, Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design. Burlington, Massachusetts: Morgan Kaufmann, 2010.

De Solier, Isabelle, Food and the Self: Consumption, Production and Material Culture. London and New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.

Ferran, Altarriba Bertran, Samvid Jhaveri, Rosa Lutz, Katherine Isbister, and Danielle Wilde, ‘Making Sense of Human-Food Interaction.’ CHI ’19: Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2019). Accessed September 5, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3290605.3300908.

Giaccardi, Elisa and Elvin Karana, ‘Foundations of Materials Experience: An Approach for HCI.’ CHI ’15: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2015). Accessed September 5, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702337.

Hu, Yuheng, Lydia Manikonda, and Subbarao Kambhampati, ‘What we Instagram: A First Analysis of Instagram Photo Content and User Types.’ Eighth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (2014).

Ingold, Tim, Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Kirsh, David, ‘Embodied Cognition and the Magical Future of Interaction Design.’ ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) 20, no. 1 (2013).

Lewis, Tania, ‘Digital Food: From Paddock to Platform.’ Communication Research and Practice 4, no. 3 (2018): 212-228.

Sutton, David, ‘Cooking Skills, the Senses and the Memory: The Fate of Practical Knowledge.’ In Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture, edited by Elizabeth Edwards, Chris Gosden, and Ruth Phillips, 87-118. London and New York: Bloomsbury: 2006.

Majid, Asifa and Stephen C. Levinson, ‘The Senses in Language and Culture.’ The Senses and Society 6, no. 1 (2011): 5-18.

Titcomb, James, ‘Instagram Reaches 400 Million Users to Surpass Twitter.’ The Telegraph. September 23, 2015. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/11885738/Instagram-reaches-400-million-users-to-surpass-Twitter.html.


Footnotes

[1] The Food Friction conference, organised by ArtEZ University of the Arts, was held on 30 November, 2018, in Arnhem. You can find read more about the conference here.

[2] James Titcomb, ‘Instagram Reaches 400 Million Users to Surpass Twitter,’ The Telegraph, September 23, 2015, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/11885738/Instagram-reaches-400-million-users-to-surpass-Twitter.html.

[3] Yuheng Hu, Lydia Manikonda, and Subbarao Kambhampati, ‘What we Instagram: A First Analysis of Instagram Photo Content and User Types.’ Eighth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (2014).

[4] Isabelle De Solier, Food and the Self: Consumption, Production and Material Culture (London and New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013).

[5] Asifa Majid and Stephen C. Levinson, ‘The Senses in Language and Culture,’ The Senses and Society 6, no. 1 (2011): 5-18.

[6] David Sutton, ‘Cooking Skills, the Senses and the Memory: The Fate of Practical Knowledge,’ in Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture, eds. Elizabeth Edwards, Chris Gosden, and Ruth Phillips (London and New York: Bloomsbury: 2006), 87-118.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Tim Ingold, Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture (New York: Routledge, 2013).

[9] Elisa Giaccardi and Elvin Karana, ‘Foundations of Materials Experience: An Approach for HCI,’ CHI ’15: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2015), accessed September 5, 2020, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702337.

[10] Altarriba Bertran Ferran, Samvid Jhaveri, Rosa Lutz, Katherine Isbister, and Danielle Wilde, ‘Making Sense of Human-Food Interaction,’ CHI ’19: Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2019), accessed September 5, 2020, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3290605.3300908.

[11] Bill Buxton, Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design (Burlington, Massachusetts: Morgan Kaufmann, 2010).

[12] David Kirsh, ‘Embodied Cognition and the Magical Future of Interaction Design,’ ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) 20, no. 1 (2013).

Mark Selby

Mark Selby is a designer and researcher interested in the ways that interactions with physical and digital materials can shape our experiences to create new values in complex contexts. He works with academic and commercial research labs, artists and design studios. He is also a Practice Tutor in Situated Design at AKV St. Joost School of Fine Art and Design, and a visiting Tutor in Industrial Design at TU Eindhoven. 

Paris Selinas

Paris Selinas is an interaction designer and researcher. He has worked on projects that explore the ways we interact with and through technology in complex socioeconomic systems, such as open innovation in food and circular economy models for textiles, both at the Royal College of Art. He is currently a PhD student at the University of Bristol and a visiting lecturer in design at Brunel University. His work has been presented at the Venice Architecture Biennale, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the London Design Museum and elsewhere.  

Bibliography

Buxton, Bill, Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design. Burlington, Massachusetts: Morgan Kaufmann, 2010.

De Solier, Isabelle, Food and the Self: Consumption, Production and Material Culture. London and New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.

Ferran, Altarriba Bertran, Samvid Jhaveri, Rosa Lutz, Katherine Isbister, and Danielle Wilde, ‘Making Sense of Human-Food Interaction.’ CHI ’19: Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2019). Accessed September 5, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3290605.3300908.

Giaccardi, Elisa and Elvin Karana, ‘Foundations of Materials Experience: An Approach for HCI.’ CHI ’15: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2015). Accessed September 5, 2020. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702337.

Hu, Yuheng, Lydia Manikonda, and Subbarao Kambhampati, ‘What we Instagram: A First Analysis of Instagram Photo Content and User Types.’ Eighth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (2014).

Ingold, Tim, Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture. New York: Routledge, 2013.

Kirsh, David, ‘Embodied Cognition and the Magical Future of Interaction Design.’ ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) 20, no. 1 (2013).

Lewis, Tania, ‘Digital Food: From Paddock to Platform.’ Communication Research and Practice 4, no. 3 (2018): 212-228.

Sutton, David, ‘Cooking Skills, the Senses and the Memory: The Fate of Practical Knowledge.’ In Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture, edited by Elizabeth Edwards, Chris Gosden, and Ruth Phillips, 87-118. London and New York: Bloomsbury: 2006.

Majid, Asifa and Stephen C. Levinson, ‘The Senses in Language and Culture.’ The Senses and Society 6, no. 1 (2011): 5-18.

Titcomb, James, ‘Instagram Reaches 400 Million Users to Surpass Twitter.’ The Telegraph. September 23, 2015. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/11885738/Instagram-reaches-400-million-users-to-surpass-Twitter.html.


Footnotes

[1] The Food Friction conference, organised by ArtEZ University of the Arts, was held on 30 November, 2018, in Arnhem. You can find read more about the conference here.

[2] James Titcomb, ‘Instagram Reaches 400 Million Users to Surpass Twitter,’ The Telegraph, September 23, 2015, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/social-media/11885738/Instagram-reaches-400-million-users-to-surpass-Twitter.html.

[3] Yuheng Hu, Lydia Manikonda, and Subbarao Kambhampati, ‘What we Instagram: A First Analysis of Instagram Photo Content and User Types.’ Eighth International AAAI Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (2014).

[4] Isabelle De Solier, Food and the Self: Consumption, Production and Material Culture (London and New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013).

[5] Asifa Majid and Stephen C. Levinson, ‘The Senses in Language and Culture,’ The Senses and Society 6, no. 1 (2011): 5-18.

[6] David Sutton, ‘Cooking Skills, the Senses and the Memory: The Fate of Practical Knowledge,’ in Sensible Objects: Colonialism, Museums and Material Culture, eds. Elizabeth Edwards, Chris Gosden, and Ruth Phillips (London and New York: Bloomsbury: 2006), 87-118.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Tim Ingold, Making: Anthropology, Archaeology, Art and Architecture (New York: Routledge, 2013).

[9] Elisa Giaccardi and Elvin Karana, ‘Foundations of Materials Experience: An Approach for HCI,’ CHI ’15: Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2015), accessed September 5, 2020, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/2702123.2702337.

[10] Altarriba Bertran Ferran, Samvid Jhaveri, Rosa Lutz, Katherine Isbister, and Danielle Wilde, ‘Making Sense of Human-Food Interaction,’ CHI ’19: Proceedings of the 2019 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (2019), accessed September 5, 2020, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3290605.3300908.

[11] Bill Buxton, Sketching User Experiences: Getting the Design Right and the Right Design (Burlington, Massachusetts: Morgan Kaufmann, 2010).

[12] David Kirsh, ‘Embodied Cognition and the Magical Future of Interaction Design,’ ACM Transactions on Computer-Human Interaction (TOCHI) 20, no. 1 (2013).