The National Museum of Women in the Arts Wants You to Submit Your Family Recipes for a New Exhibition

Dec 11, 2020

What we cook—and how we cook it—speaks volumes about who we are. Coded in every elaborate dinner party spread and humble Monday night meal for one is a picture of where we’re born, where our ancestors come from, and how we live now.  

What does your favorite meal say about you? For “RECLAMATION: Recipes, Remedies, and Rituals,” an upcoming virtual exhibition at the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in Washington, DC, curator Melani N. Douglass wants to know. 

Douglass is inviting anyone and everyone to share their favorite recipes through an online form. You’ll be asked to share the ingredient list, a picture, and the directions, as well as some behind-the-scenes fare: from where did this dish come? From whom? How and when do you eat it? 

Submissions will be collated into an interactive portal set to go live January 18.

Rirkrit Tiravanija, Untitled (running out of time), 2013, featuring performance by Mai Ueda. Photo courtesy of MONA Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia/Rémi Chauvin.

Fewer sites of communion are more universal than the kitchen table, says Douglass, and so the show takes that dependable pillar of domesticity as its starting point. In addition to the crowdsourced recipes, the curator has also tasked nine interdisciplinary artists (including herself) to share their own food-based creations—and to document every step of the way.    

“I wanted them to give us a snapshot of what nurtures them,” explains the curator. “So if what nurtures you is a quick meal after the gym, then give me that. If what nurtures you is a more layered and textured meal with friends, or a food that’s tied to a spiritual or wellness practice, then give me that.” 

“What,” Douglass continues, “is the art that takes care of the artist? That’s what I want to see.”

Daphne Wright, Kitchen Table (2014). Courtesy of the artist and Frith Street Gallery.

Though the table is the central metaphor, the exhibition itself will look more like a cookbook. Recipes will be sorted into a catalogue, searchable by keyword. The idea is to bridge both ingredients and cultural experiences: search for a stranger’s recipe to use that zucchini in your fridge and you may just come away with a we’re-not-so-different-you-and-I epiphany, too.

“The goal of the show is to create spaces where you both see yourself and see yourself in others’ work,” Douglass says. For those who come from non-white cultures, the process might also involve reclaiming a cuisine that’s been appropriated and gentrified. 

“Having to stop and document the process has people saying, ‘I never thought about why I used this olive oil over that olive oil, or why I combined this ingredient with that,'” Douglass says. “I want us to reclaim how these spaces connect us.”

“RECLAMATION: Recipes, Remedies, and Rituals” will be on view through the National Museum of Women in the Arts, January 18 to December 31, 2021.