┐ Kathleen Robbins └

© Kathleen Robbins, Untitled, from The Hostess Project

“In an effort to further inhabit my grandmother’s memories as a young wife, I began an autobiographical, photographic record of my experiences with her recipe journal. This ongoing project is as much a social experiment as a nostalgic experience. I dress in her clothing, prepare meals based on her hand-written recipes, serve invited guests, and perform the role of hostess. I prepare dishes based on her hand-written instruction: her recipes. Aspics, croquettes, meatloaf with pickle and egg garnish . . . And I photograph the results.


In all of my work, I am interested in trying to create larger units of meaning through editing. With The Hostess Project, the photographs and the handwritten recipes are interwoven into sequences and pairs, which illustrate a more complex experience, divided in time and space. Tiny’s recipe journal includes details about intimate family gatherings. I prepare the recipes, not to recreate their associated events. (To recreate any of these gatherings, a deceased family member’s birthday celebration for instance, seems oddly irreverent; see Figure 2.) Rather, the performance of the meal is about inhabiting certain aspects of my grandmother’s memory. The recipe book reveals something compelling about Tiny’s friendships, her marriage, my grandfather’s suicide, and her subsequent years spent alone on the farm. Lists of ingredients are scrawled on the backs of envelopes and scraps of yellowed paper. The book is stained with drips of grease and drops of cream. If my grandfather enjoyed a dish, this is noted in the margin. Recipes are revisited and journal entries revealed first, the details of dinner parties and holidays and, later, why it was too unbearably sad to prepare my grandfather’s favorite dishes. In this respect, the food becomes almost beside the point.”

excerpt from Kathleen’s article on The Hostess Project

More of Kathleen’s work here

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