Genres as Recipes or Recipes as Genres?

jrlewis's picture

Perhaps this is a stupid question…  Especially for someone who has taken almost enough literature courses to be an English minor… An avid reader of novels, graphic narratives, biographies, and texts on philosophy and science… 
WHAT IS LITERATURE?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????? 
Is it the texts of the Western Canon?  Is it global?  Is it any kind of artist writing?  What about important articles? Comics? Papers? Speeches? Films? Recipes?
I would like to present a broad definition of literature.  Literature is that, which uses words to create an effect, it manipulates the reader.  Every literary text is a template for an experience.  A canonical text, like a novel, works by means of the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief.  Suspension of disbelief can occur at several levels. The reader of a novel transforms the words on the page into images of characters and settings.  Then, the reader must take on the foundations of the fictional reality differing gravitational laws, technological advances, cultures and much more. This act of penetrating into another reality requires a conscious choice on the part of the reader.  Thus, the willing suspension of disbelief is the reader’s acceptance of the rules of the fictional world created by the author.  The reader’s belief in the text results in an abstract, imagined, personal experience. 
In a particular sort of non-canonical text, the reader can translate the text into a concrete, material experience.  Such is the case with cake baking from a recipe; it is the instantiation of the text. The literary text is the recipe and the cake is its own interpretation.  The baker brings together the disparate ingredients described in the recipe, makes preparations, and places them together like so many pieces of a puzzle.  The cacophony of flavors is coaxed into rich thick text for the palate.  Baking is the act of constructing a coherent sensory experience.  All five senses are engaged in the tasting of a recipe: the sight of the dish , the smell enhancing the taste , the temperature and texture on the tongue , and the sound of the mastication .  It is a multifaceted experience compared to the focus of the eyes on the page of a traditional text. 
Literary criticism is the study of words, members of an English department perceive, understand, and translate the world through words.  Therefore, any words or groups of words are appropriate pieces for literary criticism.  Part of the work of literary criticism is judging the quality of the texts under analysis .  A value is assigned and a hierarchy of texts is created.  The same practice occurs amongst a variety of cooks.  A recipe is translated from words to ingredients.  There is a certain literacy or expertise required .  For example, the ability of the translator to construct a proper distillation apparatus for producing a pure liquor.  This process occurs in both culinary and chemical literature.  Reading a recipe is more than gathering together a group of ingredients, just as a work of literature is more than a list of words .  Sometimes the individual ingredients of a recipe are not even tasty .  Both recipes and literature are emergent systems; they are more than the sum of their parts.  Reading a recipe is immersing the reader in the text.  Chefs and literary critics alike evaluate and give a value relative to other texts. 
Pmla article on the joy of cooking
The style of recipes shares elements with a variety of other literary kinds.  Cake recipes are similar to the materials and methods of synthetic organic chemistry papers.  Both texts provide the reader with precise directions for replicating the desired chemical compounds.  Sometimes there is even an overlap in ingredients and instruments such as ethanol, ice baths, and microwave ovens .  Recipes are the culinary equivalents of screenplays.  Each directs the actions of the character/chef through the words of the absent author.  Alternatively, the recipe can serve as a set of guidelines for the creation of a physical representation of the text as early draft of a graphic narrative does.  Generally, the words of a graphic novel are written, then the images are created by the artists based on the text.  Cakes come into existence in the same order of events. 
If the recipe is the work of literature, then the cake is an interpretation of the work .  Baking cakes is akin to the activity of literary criticism.  There is a one-to-many relationship between texts and interpretations .  Or to be more philosophical, there are multiple admissible interpretations of an art object, either a text or a recipe .  This theory explains why a single art object can lead to so many subtle varieties in what the senses experience . Cooking ability can be measured by the facility with which one translates recipes.  Neither recipes nor the resulting cakes are deterministic.  So, is it the cake or the recipe that is the work of literature?  If the cake is the work of literature, then the recipe is the genre.  The recipe creates boundaries on what an acceptable combination of ingredients is in order for the culinary creation to qualify as a cake. Consider a Jewish apple cake, which contains apples yet is not generally recognized as belonging to the genre of fruitcake.  Of course there are cakes, like texts, that can not be confined in a single genre.  Cakes are rich layered creations; a cake is more than it’s icing , just as a book is more than its cover .  Cakes are read with the consumer’s senses. 
Thinking about cakes and recipes in terms of figurative language could help clarify their relationship.  For example, metaphor is a type of figurative language in which two unlike concepts or things are made equivalent.  Cakes and recipes are two superficially different groups, a collection of words and a composition of ingredients .  Yet like the quadratic equation in algebra; there is equivalence.  (ax2+bx+c=0) On one side of the equality is the vehicle, on the other side, the tenor.  The known and concrete quantity is the vehicle, which “carries” over onto the tenor, the unknown and abstract quantity. A metaphor identifies the tenor in terms of the vehicle. The cake is the vehicle, and the recipe is the tenor .  A simile is a comparison between the tenor and the vehicle. 
The work of a metaphor consists of creating a well-characterized environment for gaining understanding of the tenor.  A well-equipped kitchen is the ideal environment for learning about a new recipe .  New knowledge is generated by obtaining sensory experiences of the tenor.  A metaphor is a summary of observations about a previously unknown entity, the tenor, or recipe.  The next step in understanding the tenor is to test the story; testing is the generation of new observations.  Either the observations are consistent with the present narrative or not.  For example, following the recipe’s directions precisely might not yield the most aesthetically pleasing cake .  Or a modification to the instructions might result in a more efficient preparation.  A conflict between the baker’s experience and recipe occurs where the metaphor breaks down .  Unanticipated observations demonstrate the different properties of the tenor and vehicle.  These observations by the chef are the specific places where the metaphor begins to break down.  The process of differentiating between the recipe and the cake begins . 
It is possible to make an argument for reversing the assignment and identifying the cake as the tenor.  This interpretation is especially suited to the case in which the cake precedes the recipe.  The chef tastes a delicious cake and decides to recreate it in their own kitchen.  The resulting set of directions for producing the desired cake is a simple material characterization of the complex flavors of the particular dessert .  The shared traits are carried over from the recipe onto the culinary creation, the cake or tenor .  From this perspective, the function of literary criticism is to translate the cake into words.  The problem of matching the tenor and the vehicle with the cake and recipe could be summarized as an attempt to have one’s cake and eat it too for literary critics. 
I would like to move from more abstract theories about recipes and cakes as literature to two concrete examples.  
My chocolate cake pushes back against the traditional boundaries of that genre
    Contains fruit and cloves
The combination of chocolate and cinnamon was inspired by an ancient Mexican drink
    Looking at a culinary allusion
Cakes as a work of art
    What about mixes or mass produced cakes?
    A culinary choose your own adventure?
Cakes as symbols of something greater
There is another medium for reading and interpreting recipes; the visual arts.  Photography is particular has a history of documenting culinary creations.  Often time photographs of the finished product are included in the recipes of cookbooks.  This week an article in the New York Times appeared describing the practice of photographing the food one is about to consume.  Whether to document dieting, diary the acts of a life, or remembering a particularly delicious experience, mealtime photography is a popular practice .  I count my self as a member of this group at least one-half the pictures in my blackberry are images of food.  My phone’s background is a picture of the mother of all omelets .  A memorable breakfast prepared by my friend on a vacation.  Is this an example of trying to have one’s cake and eat it too?  Are photographs replacements or supplements to recipes?  The combination of text and images is reminiscent of graphic narratives. 
Isn’t that a ridiculous thought? That cake recipes could be considered literature and studied in an English class. I recognize that this essay raises more questions than it answers…  As a result of the page limit on the assignment, this paper is supposed to be more provocative than polished.  Readers are strongly encouraged to think further about the nature of literature, cake recipes, and everything in between.   

The style of the writing parallels the style of cooking presented in the blog Syllabub.  Both are carefully crafted artworks, the result of time and craftsmanship.  
    Both span a significant amount of time
Closer cousin to films in terms of appealing to multiple senses:
I suspect that my particular experience with texts has provided me with a distinct perspective from most literary critics.  I began my academic career as a scientist considering biological and chemical literature.  Here the past tense and passive voice are valued for the objective voice they imply.  Accuracy and precision are prized where as ambiguity is despised.  Such ideals come in sharp contrast to canonical literature studied in English classes.  Consider Henry James text, “The Turn of the Screw,” which is esteemed for its carefully constructed and impossible to resolve ambiguity.  Critical debate continues about the nature of the ghosts who may or may not inhabit the house of Bly.  It was only in the penultimate year of my college education that I took a literature course.  This class served as a bridge between my knowledge of biology and my love of reading.  It was the Stories of Evolution Evolution of Stories course that was cross-listed in the English and Biology departments at Bryn Mawr College.  Co-taught by an English Professor and a Biology Professor. 
So I come from experience with a group of texts traditionally marginalized by literary critics.  This perspective is probably responsible for my desire to bring non-canonical texts to literary criticism.  
 
Darwin's Birthday Cake Recipe:

cake batter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cups dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour (a little little more)
3/4 cups cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1-1 1/2 tsp ground cloves
1-1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 cup boiling water
inter-layer icing
on medium-low heat combine
1 stick butter, 1 small jar marmalade, and cocoa powder
allow to cool before applying to cake
outer-layer icing
in a standing mixer combine
1 stick butter
approximately 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
Ghirardelli ground chocolate
(I prefer Girhadelli's cocoa powder too)
Lastly, bake at 350 for 30-50 min, my oven is a senior citizen and behaves strangely.

Special thanks to my wonderful chef, photographer, and provider of kitchen space, Gracie Lewis.
 

Comments

jrlewis's picture

further reading

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0036S4BVM/ref=pd_lpo_k2_dp_sr_1?pf_rd_p=486539851&pf_rd_s=lpo-top-stripe-1&pf_rd_t=201&pf_rd_i=0385501129&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=1WQ03ZTJ203PCXN4R8WY

This is a link to the Amazon page for a novel that addresses the complex nature of the relationship between the cook, the food, and the person consuming the food.  It is a delicious read!

jrlewis's picture

The Natural Sequel

The natural sequel to a paper about literary criticism and chocolate cakes is a paper about literature and a vanilla cake recipe…

In this paper, I am chronicling my experience creating a recipe for a vanilla cake.  An important part of the process were my tasters, fellow classmates, consulting chefs, and Serendip who allowed me to blog about this.  So what happened?

The first tasting of the cake recipe was a special sort of experience.  For me, the baker, it is the penultimate pleasure, the first opportunity to evaluate the finished product instead of the process.  In that moment, the cake is either the material realization of my abstract aesthetic hopes or not.  More specific concerns might be the runniness of the white chocolate ganashe, lightness of the cake, amount of lemon zest.  The pleasure of tasting is rapidly replaced by a detailed analysis, interpreting the relationship between the ingredients and the cake, or the part and the whole.  In my head, I begin calculating modifications to the recipe, improvements for future baking.  For example, supplanting all-purpose flour with cake flour to create a fluffier consistency.  Such work is a distraction from the pure pleasure of the experience.  I find that I cannot enjoy the cake for the diversion that the process of recipe revision necessitates. I have too intimate a knowledge of the food, the individual ingredients, the preparation, and the failures. 

I feel the same intense familiarity with my writing as my cooking.  I wonder if professional writers feel the same sense of closeness, being myopic about their literary creations.  Rereading old papers brings a flood of criticisms to my mind.  The urge to rewrite is almost overpowering. Papers that have been printed and stapled are less alluring; they have the superficial appearance of finality.  They are analogous to an iced cake sitting on the counter.  The greatest temptation to revision are my blog entries on Serendip, the edit button is just a click away.  Yet after multiple edits of my senior paper for the Bryn Mawr College Biology major, I am finally able to turn away.  The paper was revised multiple times by myself and in response to criticism from other senior seminar students and my advisor.  After months of subtle revisions, it felt tired, to familiar, to close to touch.  That was when I felt finished.  That is also how I know that I have perfected a cake recipe, when I cease to analyze it.

So what is left for interpretation?  The texts, recipes, and cakes of others.  It is my ultimate culinary pleasure is, tasting the food of other chefs.  Conversely, my ultimate pleasure as a chef is observing the pleasure of others tasting my cake.  The expressions on the faces, the sounds they make, and the manner in which they eat.  The act of consuming a cake is quite sensuous; chewing, licking, lips, slurping, and swallowing. There is a sensual side of cooking, consuming and consummating; it is a little erotic.  The pornography of the palate?  I am only a voyeur, observing the pleasurable experience of others.  My sympathy and empathy are simultaneously engaged.  Thank you to all my tasters for sharing!!!
 

jrlewis's picture

Not So Vanilla Cake Take 5

Don't judge a book by its cover or a cake by its icing...actually please judge this cake by its exterior!  I think you've already had sufficient time to judge this cake by its other merits.  The recipe is identical to take 4.  So devour these images!!!  Their planning, creation, and revision was an additional project. 

injury
boom in

 

jrlewis's picture

Not So Vanilla Cake Take 4

 Does the cake look like breasts or an open book? 

What about these twins?

twin hazelnuts

jrlewis's picture

Not So Vanilla Cake Take 2

Not So Vanilla Cake Take 2

Serves: 10 to 15 servings

Cake Ingredients

•    3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
•    2 cup sugar
•    5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
•    1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•    3 teaspoons lemon extract
•    3.5 cups cake flour
•    1 teaspoon baking powder
•    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
•    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
•    1 cup milk
•    juice and zest of 2 lemons

For the interlayer frosting

•    22 oz Ghiradelli white chocolate chips
•    3/4 - 1 cup heavy cream
•    2 cups very finely chopped hazelnuts

For the external frosting

•    1 pt heavy cream
•    1 fl oz anise extract
•    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
•    ¼ pound butter
•    powdered sugar

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and a 9x13 inch cake pan with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned or a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

Interlayer Frosting

Place whole hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and bake in oven at 350o until toasted.  Then, in a microwave safe container, microwave heavy cream until boiling.  Pour hot cream over white chocolate chips and begin mixing with a fork.  Continue mixing until bowl has lost all warmth.  If chunks of chocolate are still present, microwave the mixture for NO more than 20 sec and resume stirring.  When a smooth consistency is achieved, mix in hazelnuts.  Pour over cake and allow to cool before adding cake on top. 

External Frosting

Mix together powdered sugar and butter in a standing mixer.  Continue mixing alternately adding powdered sugar and heavy cream.  When a sufficient volume of icing has been created, mix vanilla and anise extracts into the icing.  Spread on cake.

Thanks to my mother, Marjorie Lewis for providing the kitchen, photography, and the suggestion that the hazelnuts could use a tan...
 

Herbie's picture

"Vanilla" Cake, take 2

Again, these are all personal opinions, but that's much like reading a book, yes?

I'm afraid I just didn't like this cake as much as the first two.  First, I thought there was too much going on.  Two different icings, plus the cake, just made a lot of flavor, all competing for top billing.  Like the lemon cake, I thought the cake itself was a little dense, but otherwise delicious.  And again, the white chocolate hazelnut filling was delicious.  Again, some concerns with the combination of nut and citrus, but that's a personal problem.  Another personal problem of mine is a dislike for licorice, but that was a much subtler flavor, thankfully.  I look forward to seeing what you bring to class next!

jrlewis's picture

Continuing Thoughts

I got a lot of compliments about the licorce flavored icing, however even more after I added the caramel to tone down the flavor.  Maybe I will continue with that trend and see what the audience thinks?

jrlewis's picture

Half a Revision

Not So Vanilla Cake

Serves: 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/8 pound (1.5 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2.5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon

For the frosting:

  • 11 oz Ghiradelli white chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups very finely chopped hazelnuts

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 9-inch round cake pans, then line them parchment paper.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned or a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

Frosting

In a microwave safe container, microwave heavy cream until boiling.  Pour hot cream over white chocolate chips and begin mixing with a fork.  Continue mixing until bowl has lost all warmth.  If chunks of chocolate are still present, microwave the mixture for NO more than 20 sec and resume stirring.  When a smooth consistency is achieved, mix in hazelnuts.  Pour over cake and allow to cool before serving. 

Thanks to my mother, Marjorie Lewis for providing the kitchen, photography, and moral support when the hazelnuts went wild!

Herbie's picture

Lemon Cake

These may be problems with my own personal preferences, but here is feedback nonetheless!

I'm not a huge fan of the combination of the hazelnut/white chocolate ganache with the lemon.  There's just something slightly off with the combined flavors of nut and citrus, at least in my mind.  However, I did enjoy each of them separately.

I also wonder about why the lemon cake did not turn out quite as light and fluffy as the original.  Perhaps the lemon juice made it too heavy?  I've looked at the two recipes to see where the change could have occurred, and that's the best I have.  The zest would be akin to the coconut, and switching the lemon extract for the almond shouldn't make a different.  I'm not really sure, but the flavor was delicious, the texture for the cake just wasn't the same as the recipe it's based on :(

jrlewis's picture

Starting with a Traditional Recipe

Coconut Cake

2006, Barefoot Contessa at Home, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:
35 min
Inactive Prep Time:
30 min
Cook Time:
50 min
Level:
Intermediate
Serves:
10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure almond extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pans
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

For the frosting:

  • 1 pound cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
  • 1 pound confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 6 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 (9-inch) round cake pans, then line them parchment paper. Grease them again and dust lightly with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the 2 pans and smooth the top with a knife. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned and a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

For the frosting, in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and almond extract on low speed. Add the confectioners' sugar and mix until just smooth (don't whip!).

To assemble, place 1 layer on a flat serving plate, top side down, and spread with frosting. Place the second layer on top, top side up, and frost the top and sides. To decorate the cake, sprinkle the top with coconut and lightly press more coconut onto the sides. Serve at room temperature.

Thanks to my mother, Marjorie Lewis for the kitchen and photography.

Herbie's picture

Coconut cake

Though I'm not usually a huge fan of the coconut texture, I did really enjoy this cake.  I would have to say it's my favorite of the three we've tried so far!  But I liked that the cake was light and fluffy, though perhaps a little heavy on the icing for my tastes.

jrlewis's picture

Thanks for the Feedback

The increasing density of the cake was actually intentional.  For the final baking/presentation of the cake, I want to make it in the 3D shape of a book.  This will require some carving work after the cake is baked.  A denser cake is better able to maintain structural integrity than a softer/fluffer one.  So sacrifices must be made.  If you ever want to bake this cake, substitute all purpose flour for cake flour to get a significantly lighter cake. 

jrlewis's picture

Continuing Conversation

jrlewis-

So, I still can't get my project on recipes and cakes as works of literature out of my head.  Was wondering if you would accept the extension of my recipe paper and the creation of a new cake recipe as a final project for the emerging genres course?  I would like to try a vanilla cake.  (Not your typical vanilla cake, about as vanilla as Kate Bornstein)  Probably bake one or two cakes every week til the end of the semester to perfect the recipe.  Hopefully, you and my classmate will act as guinea pigs.  What do you think?

Anne Dalke

well of course it sounds lucious...
but help me understand where this might go:
what's the critical question/direction that
experimenting w/ the recipe will address??

In response to my project on cakes, recipes, and literary kinds you wrote:
"If I'm willing to entertain the hypothesis that a recipe could be literature, would you entertain the counter-idea, that a literary work might become a recipe for how to live our lives...What might you say to such an about-face?"
I would say that we should run an experiment, testing the philosophy of recipes and cake baking... I would like to begin with a recipe from a favorite chef, the Barefoot Contessa.  Then I will modify the recipe according to my own taste and hopefully feedback from others.  So there will be evolution of a culinary kind.  From my observations, I will come to some conclusions and generate a discussion of the philosophical implications of recipes and cakes.  Maybe even written in the style of scientific paper, maybe not. 
Does that answer your question?

i don't think your proposal addresses my question @ all (to do that, you'd need to start w/ something identified as literature, and run the experiment of it's working like a recipe, to be followed for life...)
but i do like the sound of your counter-proposal, so sure:
go for it and let's see what happens!

What if I used a William James essay as literature from which to create a recipe for life, of course that is a philosophical work, not a canonical literary text.  I'll keep looking for a more traditional text... 

touche!...since really that's what bharath did:
said to us, i applied the pragmatic method to my
life, and this is what i found...
but right also that wj is not a canonical literary text.
how about portrait of a lady??????

What about another Henry James text?  I'd rather read something new... Maybe the Bostonians?

do you pick that text knowing it will say nothing about your life,
or because you think it may speak to it? (am just thinking
how to best select the object for this experiment: something
that is likely to fit or resist your hypothesis...? and what
is your hypothesis?)

What about "oranges are not the only fruit?" It is cute bc it has food in it a bit...

but i thought you wanted to read something new....?                                                                                                            you're already totally cathected w/ winterson....
Well, what do you suggest? Sometimes I suspect you know me better than I know myself?!?
this is less about knowing you than structuring an experiment:
do you want to run one where you have a particular investment in an outcome?

My argument is that recipes are literary texts. So the converse is that literary texts are recipes for experiences. Particularly true of genre fiction in the worst sense. In order to make my argument I need not prove the converse, however I would love to have the symmetry if possible. This seems to reduce recipes and texts to lens or tools. Is that what I want to do?!?
I have the crazy idea of looking at romance novels, something I haven't previously analyzed and a guilty pleasure. Not quite sure where all this going anymore. Maybe writing the parts I do know will help. In the mean time don't hesitate to offer suggestions...

let's keep on breaking this down a bit. you argued, in the last paper, that recipes = literary texts because they are variously interpretable, because (contra jonanthan culler, but in line w/ william james) they have an effect in the world, can be materialized in it.
the question on the table now is whether the converse might also be true, whether literary texts might operate as recipes. what would it mean, to make that claim? that we can work our way back, from text to (the author's?) experience? forward, to (the reader's?) experience? does that reverse the process of interpretation, or just play it forward? (i'm getting a little lost here...)
20 years ago, janice radway wrote a book called Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature; her argument then--based on quite a bit of empirical evidence w/ a midwestern book group--was that when women read romances, they identify w/ the characters in these fictions, and thereby experience vicariously what they are missing in their lives.
but that's not a recipe, i don't think...
would be interesting to know more about what the women of your generation are looking for when you read this-a-way.
in the gender and technology class last spring, i had a student who wrote EVERY ONE of her papers on this topic(!)--
(and i think is writing her senior thesis on it now also); see
http://gandt.blogs.brynmawr.edu/web-papers/writing-groups/reconstructing-gender-with-the-romance-novel/
http://gandt.blogs.brynmawr.edu/web-papers/web-papers-2/recreating-readership/
http://gandt.blogs.brynmawr.edu/web-papers/web-papers-3/ripped-bodices/
http://gandt.blogs.brynmawr.edu/web-papers/web-papers-4-multimedia-projects/representing-romance/
http://gandt.blogs.brynmawr.edu/web-papers/final-papersprojects/renovating-romance/
okay: really need to take a break from this line of thinking!

jrlewis's picture

Creating a text in at least

Creating a text in at least three layers… a reflective essay about the baking experience, a new recipe, and cake that is designed to look like a cookbook or other text to be determined.

Anne Dalke's picture

"Lucious Words"

jrlewis--
I'll begin by matching  your beautifully crafted cake w/ a disaster of my own: a recipe I've made to perfection dozens of time, but once failed with miserably; testimony to the varieties of ways in which recipes are not formulaic, not predictable in their outcomes:



So: this particular "recipe collection" you've crafted still has some traces of your notes-to-yourself, which are as yet unincorporated into the final text...is that intentional? Part of the not-quite-polished nature of this ambitious exercise?

It is not only "latecomers" to literary study, like yourself, who "desire to bring non-canonical texts to literary criticism"; witness our current class, including the in-person visit of Wai Chee Dimock and the on-line presence of the author of Syllabub: the first interested in science fiction, the second as interested as you are in the "literary form" that is the recipe, which she both literalizes and creates.

You also have some very good company further afield, in space and time. I have long been fond, for example, of an essay published twenty years ago in the flagship journal of literary studies (Publications of the Modern Language Association): Susan Leonard's "Recipes for Reading: Summar Pasta, Lobster a la Riseholme, and Key Lime Pie," PMLA 104, 3 (May 1989): 340-347. I think you would very much enjoy this piece on cooking and narrative; it includes (for instance) the terms that make up the title of my post here; a query from the author of The Joy of Cooking--"whether it is worth while to bake anything but chocolate cake"; an extended meditation on the "embedded discourse," the social context, of the recipe ("Readers like their recipes embedded"); and the analysis of a text (again, prototypical for our class!) that "refuses to decide if it is cookbook or narrative, or autobiography, or novel, or journalism --or mudslinging." 

Leonard's essay also has one thesis which I think is the identical of yours: "Like a narrative, a recipe is reproducible, and further, its hearers-readers-receivers are encouraged to reproduce it and, in reproducing it, to revise it and make it their own" (though your language here -- "If the recipe is the work of literature, then the cake is an interpretation of the work"... and there are "multiple admissible interpretations" -- is actually more theoretically sophisticated than that of the literary critic!).

You might also enjoy some of Leonard's stylistic decisions; whereas you conclude your piece w/ a recipe, she opens hers with one, explaining latter that she did so in order to get her readers to "willingly suspend their belief" in academic scepticism, to believe instead both in her as a writer, and in the value of her topic. She also turns the tables @ the very end, imagining that a "narrative itself becomes a kind of recipe," since turning disaster into a story allows the author "to control the version" that is told.

What might you say to such an about-face? If I'm willing to entertain the hypothesis that a recipe could be literature, would you entertain the counter-idea, that a literary work might become a recipe for how to live our lives?

 

 

 

 

jrlewis's picture

Take 4 Ends in Tragedy

Not So Vanilla Cake Take 4

Serves: 10 to 15 servings

Cake Ingredients

  • 3/4 pound (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pans
  • 2 cup sugar
  • 5 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 6 teaspoons lemon extract
  • 3.5 cups cake flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • juice and zest of 2 lemons

For the interlayer frosting

  • 22 oz Ghiradelli white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 - 1 cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups very finely chopped hazelnuts

For the external frosting

  • 1 pt heavy cream
  • 1 fl oz anise extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ pound butter
  • powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons caramel flavored syrup (coffee shops sell huge bottles very cheap)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and a 9x13 inch cake pan with parchment paper.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar on medium-high speed for 3 to 5 minutes, until light yellow and fluffy. Crack the eggs into a small bowl. With the mixer on medium speed, add the eggs 1 at a time, scraping down the bowl once during mixing. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and mix well. The mixture might look curdled; don't be concerned.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. With the mixer on low speed, alternately add the dry ingredients and the milk to the batter in 3 parts, beginning and ending with dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Fold in the 4 ounces of coconut with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter evenly into the pan. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 to 55 minutes, until the tops are browned or a cake tester comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 30 minutes, then turn the cakes out onto a baking rack to finish cooling.

Interlayer Frosting

Place whole hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and bake in oven at 350o until toasted.  Then, in a microwave safe container, microwave heavy cream until boiling.  Pour hot cream over white chocolate chips and begin mixing with a fork.  Continue mixing until bowl has lost all warmth.  If chunks of chocolate are still present, microwave the mixture for NO more than 20 sec and resume stirring.  When a smooth consistency is achieved, mix in hazelnuts.  Pour over cake and allow to cool before adding cake on top. 

External Frosting

Mix together powdered sugar and butter in a standing mixer.  Continue mixing alternately adding powdered sugar and heavy cream.  When a sufficient volume of icing has been created, mix vanilla and anise extracts into the icing.  Spread on cake.

Thanks to my mother, Marjorie Lewis for providing the kitchen, photography, and the muscle to force those hazelnuts back into the ganash...

tragedy 2

 

jrlewis's picture

Oops, This is Actually Take 3!

Oops, This is Actually Take 3!

jrlewis's picture

Putting on My Engineering Hat...

Still trying to figure out what went wrong.  There is not a significant difference between the recipe for cakes 3 and 4.  Current possibilities under consideration:

  • cake was so moist that it couldn't maintain structural integrity
  • cake was too warm when layered/iced
  • cake rose too much in the center and not enough in the corners, which created a problem when stacking
  • ???

->

 

autopsy

 

jrlewis's picture

Still Incomplete...

When I began this paper/project I expected to have trouble finding sources and enough examples to meet the minimum page requirement.  The opposite situation has occured.  There are so many elements of the argument that I have hardly scratched the surface.  I would like to conitnue adding to the paper.  Consider my cookbook of recipes for literature or literary criticism for recipes...

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