open sauces reader p7

Stoemp or Stamppot, a dish traditionally served in the low countries during wintertime is named after it's mode rather than after it's ingredients. There exist as many variations as there are vegetables you could imagine mixing with potatoes, but they all have one thing in common: the cadential 'stoempen' needed to pulverize the ingredients into an unctuous mush.

Peel and roughly chop potatoes. Wash the vegetables carefully, then slice fairly finely. Place all ingredients in a large stock pot, and add water to barely cover. Cover with lid, bring to the boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender. Drain well, then mash. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with gravy or butter.

Transforming the act of cooking into a recipe requires digitization, making physical gestures discrete from the continuous. The assumed reproducibility of such an instructive text relies on a reference system of pre-defined processes, moulded into predictable grammar and self-explanatory structures.

Peel, chop, wash, slice, place, add, cover, boil, simmer, drain, mash, season, serve.

Luce Giard reminds us of the meaningful monotony of housework, conforming to expectation while carefully avoiding boredom: “under the silent and repetitive system of everyday servitudes that one carries out by habit, the mind elsewhere, in a series of mechanically executed operations whose sequence follows a traditional design dissimulated under the mask of the obvious, there piles up a subtle montage of gestures, rites, and codes, of rhythms and choices, of received usage and practiced customs.” Does she like kale, carrots, endives? Did we eat this already, yesterday? How can I make it fit his diet? What is available at this time of year? What is left over from yesterday?

In software production, the use of conventions is encouraged so that programmers can 'enjoy' the benefits of automated behavior. Valorizing convention over configurability, is only one of the techniques applied to make software writing more efficient. Duplication of information increases the difficulty to change, may decrease clarity, and leads to opportunities for inconsistency. But the act of producing a redundancy-free program invariably involves highly repetitive, iterative attempts and alterations.

They might share many more imagined similarities, but it is the accumulations of repetition that define the practice of cooking as much as coding. Both rely on mixing familiar gestures with yet unfamiliar ones, and through experience we learn that some forms of repetition might be less redundant than others.

Luce Giard, Michel de Certeau, Pierre Mayol. The Practice of Everyday Life: living and cooking. University of Minnesota Press, 1998

Femke Snelting

Artist and designer, developing projects at the intersection of design, feminism and free software. Together with Renée Turner and Riek Sijbring she forms De Geuzen (a foundation for multi-visual research). She is member of Constant, a Brussels based association for art and media and with Pierre Huyghebaert and Harrisson she initiated the design- and research team Open Source Publishing (OSP). Femke is an amateur of cooking and coding for the way it allows her to think constructively about the practice of everyday life.