Digesting Recipes

Digesting Recipes

The Art of Culinary Notation

Chapters become courses in this curious feast, exploring the form of the recipe from post-war to today.


Digesting Recipes: The Art of Culinary Notation scrutinises the form of the recipe, using it as a means to explore a multitude of subjects in post-war Western art and culture, including industrial mass-production, consumerism, hidden labour, and art engaged with the everyday.
Each chapter is presented as a dish in a nine-course meal, drawing on examples from published cookbooks and the work of artists such as Alison Knowles, Yoko Ono, Annette Messager, Martha Rosler, Barbara T. Smith, Bobby Baker and Mika Rottenberg.
A recipe is an instruction, the imperative tone of the expert, but this constraint can offer its own kind of potential. A recipe need not be a domestic trap but might instead offer escape – something to fantasise about or aspire to. It can hold a promise of transformation both actual and metaphorical. It can be a proposal for action, or envision a possible future.


Digesting Recipes switches beautifully between questions of genre, language, art and meaning. Susannah Worth thinks carefully and fruitfully about feminist arguments relating to art history and domesticity in particular, with sensitivity and great insight. Her sparkling prose is smooth and engaging, with fresh readings of some by-now classic feminist artworks as well as more recent and obscure pieces. Her focus is acute and laser-like, moving with ease between politics, history and aesthetics. The format of the piece – presented as courses of a meal – is ingenious and highly successful, allowing the inclusion of an interview, short critical entries, readings of specific artworks, an excellent cookbook bibliography, and so on. ~ Nina Power, author of One-Dimensional Woman

This is a wonderful book. As with the most seemingly casual of chefs, such acute intuition comes as the result of a great deal of work and a complete understanding of materials. The range of sources is expansive, and across many disciplines, and they are handled with confidence and an easy familiarity. As with many dishes, the simple things are the most difficult to achieve well, as there is no means of hiding bad ingredients or poor method. Neither is found here; indeed, good ideas, well presented are to be found on every page. This is a work that somehow manages to be both well done and rare. ~ Jeremy Millar, artist and writer

Food and hunger have long been recurrent themes in my own work. But I am not the only one! We are all hungry for guidance and recipes and instructions which make it easier for us to get out of bed in the morning, easier for us to swallow the media’s news, National Enquirer’s fibs, easier for us to face our aging faces and IT-ed minds. Thankfully, Susannah Worth’s book, Digesting Recipes, helps to get us to the truth of ART+LIFE. ~ Linda Mary Montano, performance artist and author

Susannah Worth sifts and pares the familiar genre of the recipe so that we might better appreciate how politically calorific this bearer of cultural codes really is. The manifold approach of Digesting Recipes to an apparently singular subject is invigorating, its visual art and literary leanings enriching. At a time when competitive leisure cooking, not to mention eating, saturates the television, the high street and the more prosaic channels of the brain, the book performs the important job of re-establishing critical and historical perspectives onto a quotidian authoritarian form. ~ Sally O'Reilly, writer of The Body in Contemporary Art (World of Art)

Digesting Recipes takes an off-beat and highly refreshing post-modern look at cookbooks as markers of cultural identity. Recipes, it makes clear, are far more than cooking directions. After reading this, I have a whole new appreciation for what recipes can tell us about the deeper meanings of modern society. ~ Marion Nestle, Professor of nutrition, food studies, and public health at New York University and author of What to Eat

Digesting Recipes by Susannah Worth is lively, evocative and diverse. It gives a generous helping of the sense of the recipe's power and cultural significance. ~ Laurel Forster, co-editor of The Recipe Reader: Narratives, Contex

Susannah Worth
Susannah Worth Susannah Worth was born in London in 1984. She collaborated as cook and facilitator for The Political Pop-Up Restaurant (2011), a project...
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