RECIPE BOX underway now at Wisconsin Triennial

Our latest project is live at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMOCA). RECIPE BOX celebrates the humble containers many of us cram full of index cards, notes, and clippings. Beyond this sometimes nostalgic reflection, the project celebrates as well the food knowledges and cultures that are lost, displaced, undervalued, as well as the kinds of food know-how that are in daily use but not yet committed to a share-able form.

The impulse for the project was a response to the emotion-laden, chaotic pile of recipe cards that Laurie Beth and Michael inherited from two mothers and four grandmothers.

An old cardboard box surrounded by disorganized pile of handwritten recipe cards

At the museum, visitors can sort through our pile (we’ve scanned everything), contribute a handwritten recipe of their own, and take home a papercraft recipe box to store their cooking knowledge.

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Performance Research: “On Generosity”

We’ve been developing for some time an interest in “generosity” as a possible theme for a series of works. Just as the foodways series was organized around looking at food not just as an element of our projects but as an explicit area of inquiry, we’d like to look at generosity as intention, gesture, effect, culture.

But once we’d settled on the inquiry, we found ourselves short of answers to the question “what is a work of art about generosity?” We knew what it meant to be generous within our work but were less sure how to thematize it. So we pitched the idea for a thematic issue to Performance Research, an awesome journal founded by Richard Gough, in which we’ve published individually and collaboratively several times before. We hoped editing “On Generosity” would teach us a lot about this topic, by organizing thinking from scholars and artists around the world.

Cover of Performance Research Journal, with the issue Title "On Generosity" and an image of assorted foods placed on shards of white crockery
Cover image by Jeannine Shinaoda

We’re very proud of the work we did on this and so grateful to the journal staff and the fantastic contributors. You can see the contents and read our introduction here. If you’d like to read the whole issue (table of contents reproduced below) and don’t have access through a library affiliation, please write to us. We also have some print copies available.

image of table of contents

Soup:Bowl – a table to farm event



photo: Maryam Ladoni

On Saturday, 20 October 2018 Spatula&Barcode, in collaboration with ceramicist Grant Gustafson, distributed handmade ceramic bowls to vendors at the Dane County Farmers Market between 6 and 9 AM.


photo: Maryam Ladoni

From noon to 3 PM, homemade soup, sourdough rolls and artisanal apple cider were served nearby at Maiaspace, a former church owned by Chele Isaac and John Neis.


photo: Maryam Ladoni

In advance of the event, Gustafson worked for two-months creating the bowls at the Dongzhu Pottery Studio.

grant making bowls

photo: Grant Gustafson

Over the same period of time, Laurie Beth Clark and Michael Peterson promoted the event to market vendors. We talked several times with each of roughly 200 different vendors starting in late September.  On alternate weekends, we provided them with successively more detailed information in a series of  flyers.

On Friday 19 October, we prepared 200 servings (12 gallons) of butternut squash soup using squash we had grown ourselves and 200 rolls using sourdough that Spatula&Barcode have been cultivating since 2015.  We were aided in this process by Alex Donnelly, Grant Gustafson, Kel Mur (pictured below), Lars Johnson, Libby LaDue, Katelyn Palesek, and Zoe Klein.


photo Michael Peterson

On the day of the event, weather seemed fine as we were distributing the bowls.  But from 9 AM to noon, the market was inundated with gale force winds, hail, snow, sleet, and rain. By ten AM, the square was nearly emptied of vendors most of whom were too wet and cold to stick around until noon.  Nevertheless, seventy of the hardiest did come to eat soup with us!


photo: Maryam Ladoni

Our team for distribution day was Alex Donnelly (pictured below), Chele Isaac (picture above), Maryam Ladoni (photographer extraordinaire), John Nies, and Michelle Miller (picture below).


photo: Maryam Ladoni


photo: Laurie Beth Clark

Because many vendors chose not to come into town at all on the 20th due to the volatile weather, Clark and Peterson returned to the market with the remaining bowls and gifted them to vendors who had not yet received them. (Unfortunately, it was not possible to re-stage the soup party).

This followup process allowed us to talk with almost everyone on the square, many of whom expressed their enthusiasm for the event and/or their regrets at not being able to attend.  We were asked repeatedly whether we planned to make this an annual event. In addition to their pleasure at being feted, the farmers mentioned that opportunities to socialize with one another were few and far between.


We’ve been shopping at the Dane County Farmers Market for more than 30 years. We really like the idea of feeding farmers, and the image of the shared bowls, but mostly we like celebrating the people who make this unique market so special. This project is a kind of sequel to Feeding Farmers, our 2016 Foodways project in which we recruited artists to prepare bespoke meals for vendors at the Dane County Farmers Market.

We were inspired to create Soup:Bowl by a civic event we attended with Alicia Rios in 2016 in Valdepeñas, Spain, where the entire town sat down at the end of a festival and ate stew from bowls that commemorated the event.

The City of Madison supported the production of the hand-made bowls through through Blink!, the Madison Arts Commission’s temporary public art program.

The varietal apple ciders were donated by the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems.  Thanks to Jonny Hunter and Underground Food Collective for storing them for us from August to October

We are particularly grateful to Sarah Elliott of the Dane County Farmers Market for her enthusiasm and support throughout the planning and implementation of Soup:Bowl.




Foodways Archive: Melbourne

We’re preparing a publication about the Foodways series, and we are updating our documentation online to accompany that. We’ll use this post to archive the edited collection of fantastic, pithy, witty, insightful, and fun observations that folks in Melbourne shared with us during the Foodways project there. We’ll update with a full listing soon, but here are a few of our favorites.

Any food in a tourist area is pretty much crap–inauthentic and overpriced.

Australians believe in good food, good wine, and surfing.

Climate change makes me change my assumptions about the abundance of food.

Coffee is the ritual we all connect with. You can’t really say, let’s catch up for mineral water. It’s not a cozy thing.

Day eating culture is bigger than night.

Even in a dorm room, you’d have a toaster and a kettle.

Every night there’s a special on somewhere: Parma Night, Steak Night.

Everyone’s just happy because they’re having brunch.

Healthfood culture and junk food culture exist side by side here—donuts and burgers and also super-clean stuff—the same people.

I plan my day around where I will get my coffee.

In Melbourne, if a restaurant is not good, it doesn’t last.

Old school pubs are more kid friendly.

One of the most critical moments in my life is going to my daughter’s house and seeing on the table things that I had cooked for her as a child.

On days when I’m really missing mum I’ll cook her food.

To eat for free, attach a tin can to a long stick and wander through the alleys.  If fruit is over the fence, you are allowed to take it.

We’re not big into chains. Starbucks failed here. Our coffee culture is quite bespoke.

Wine and food rules are not like in Europe.  There’s lots of freedom of expression.

What does ‘modern Australian’ mean? It’s fusion.