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open sauces reader p7

Stoemp or Stamppot, a dish traditionally served in the low countries during wintertime, is named after a mode rather than it's ingredients. There exist as many variations as there are vegetables you could think of mixing with potatoes, but they have one thing in common: the cadential 'stoempen' that is needed to pulverize ingredients into an unctuous mush. Transforming the act of cooking into a recipe requires digitization, making physical gestures discrete from the continuous, that is, digital rather than analogue. It's assumed reproducibility results in a predictable grammar:

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.

Luce Giard writes: “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.” She reminds us of the meaningful monotony of housework, carefully conforming to expectation while avoiding boredom. 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, conventions are implemented so that programmers can 'enjoy' the benefits of automated behavior. Valorizing convention over configuration 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. In achieving a redundancy-free program, it is inevitable that many iterative alterations are necessary to produce truly efficient code.

Peel, chop, slice, cover, boil, drain, mash, season, serve.

They might share many more imagined similarities, but it is the piling up of rhythms that define the practice of cooking as much as coding. Both rely on mixing familiar gestures with unfamiliar ones, where some forms of repetition are more redundant than others.


  • H.M.S.J. De Hol. Ik kan koken. Geillustreerd handboek voor allen die willen leeren koken. Sijthof uitgeverij, 1931
  • Isabelle Beeton. The Book of Household Management, 1836.
  • Allen Downey, Jeffrey Elkner and Chris Meyers. How to Think Like a Computer Scientist. Green Tea Press, 2002
  • Frederick P. Brooks. The Mythical Man-Month: Essays on Software Engineering. Addison-Wesley, 1995.
  • Henri Lefevbre. Rhythmanalysis: Space, Time and Everyday Life. London: Continuum, 2004.
  • 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.

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