The cookbook is 23 cm x 17 cm and weighs 332 grams. It is made up of two notebooks bound with tape. It contains 208 pages with 157 recipes, 24 pages of calligraphy exercises, and 5 pages of knitting instructions. It was handwritten by my great grandmother Mamá Pina (b. Guadalajara, Mexico 1885–1976) and by two other generations of women in my family. My grandmother, Gabriela (1918–1997), and her twin sister, Teresa (1918–1990), who continued to hand write recipes, and then it was passed on to my mother, María Concepción Gabriela (b.1944), who continued the process.
The recipes along knitting instructions, marginalia and calligraphy exercises (possibly done by a child in the household), provide glimpses of domestic life. The recipes themselves contain traces of domestic habits and economies, as well as material remains of lived experiences. Some recipes call for ingredients that no longer exist, such as
Tortuga en Lata (Turtle in a Can), or list quantities that are no longer calculable, such as
2 centavos de azúcar de la tiendita
(two cents of sugar from the corner store). Some pages are smeared with grease or leftovers from food.
How can these affective and material traces of domestic life form the digital archive?
In 2015, I sent out e-mails to 40 people inviting them to respond to a selection of 25 recipes from Mama Pina’s Cookbook without transcription or translation. The responses included digital images, audio recordings, videos, documentation of family gatherings and conversations. The responses were edited together in a single channel of video as part of a four channel video installation entitled Remediating Mama Pina’s Cookbook. The other videos in the installation show my attempts at learning the different handwriting styles recorded in the cookbook, my hand turning the pages of the cookbook, the process of cooking one of the recipes as it is read out loud by my mother via Skype, and, lastly the fourth video fed live responses from the audience by drawing into it via a Wacom tablet. The viewer was invited to interact by responding to the videos or a description of the recipe book placed beside the tablet. The viewer’s responses were not archived. They were only available in real time and were programmed to disappear after 10 seconds. Through this process, the installation attempted to mimic the absences of the archived record and the instability of digital technologies — or its anti-archival disposition.