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Cedar Lewisohn is an artist, writer, and curator exploring the intersections between art and gastronomy. Cedar was the guest for our podcast episode discussing what happens when artists make cookbooks.

For me, art and food will always be connected. The more I research the subjects, the more links I find. The number of renowned figures of the art world who were fascinated with food in some way and, equally, the many chefs I speak to who have a passion for visual art continues to grow. The research leads me in many directions. One of these avenues is cookery books made by artists. I started collecting these artist cookery books just as a bit of fun really. I’m always interested in things artists do outside of their main work, which they may or may not consider art.

The sheer number of visual artists who have made cookery books is surprising. Salvador DalíJoseph Beuys and Andy Warhol all produced cookery books of some sort, and they definitely offer an interesting insight into the artists' work. Aside from the big hitter superstar artists, I’m also interested in the often very modestly produced books being made by young and emerging artists today.

Bourn Cookery Book by Giles Round and contributors

Bourncookery_book_484_665

Bourn Cookery Book by Giles Round and contributors

The story behind the Bourn Cookery Book is great. It was produced by Giles Round while he was an artist-in-residence at Wysing Art Centre, and includes meals and recipes by artists that have worked with Wysing, as well as contributions from those living in and around Bourn. It is a remake of an earlier book by local residents of the village of Bourn, which is near to Wysing Art Centre in Cambridge. Recipes by the original contributors are included in the updated version of the book.

Critical Theory Cocktails vols. 1–3 by Aggie Toppins

Critical Theory Cocktails vols. 1–3 by Aggie Toppins

Similarly, the concept behind The Critical Theory Cocktail Books by Aggie Toppins is also as interesting as the book 'object' itself. As the title suggests, the books use alcoholic cocktails as a way of explaining various forms of critical theory. There are three in the series and the books could be described as zines or pamphlets. The blurb on the back of the first volume reads 'Themes such as madness, reality, and desire are paired with 20 new and classic cocktails that will take your mind to new places.'

Another cocktail book I’m a fan of is Artists' Cocktails by Ryan Gander. This is what you might call a curated list of artists invited by Ryan to submit cocktail recipes. The project started with an actual bar (Ryan’s Bar) at The Sunday Art Fair in London in 2010 which eventually made its way to Documenta in Kassel in 2013 and resulted in the book. Recipes range from the provocative and probably highly illegal 'Molotov Cocktail' by Jeremy Deller, to the slightly more niche 'Drink your own piss/Someone else’s piss' from David Shrigley. David helpfully gives the serving suggestion 'as you wish'.

The Folly Acres Cook Book by Sue Webster

The Folly Acres Cook Book by Sue Webster

Another favourite cookery book in my collection is The Folly Acres Cook Book by Sue Webster (of the artist duo Noble & Webster). Sue describes the book as a 'journey of my life, through food'. In it, she describes being brought up on the traditional British diet of frozen and tinned food, 'with meat and two veg saved for Sunday'. Like many cookery books by artists, it blurs lots of boundaries.

Are the books themselves artworks? If you cook one of the recipes, are you eating an artwork? The answers to these questions may differ, depending on which artist you ask. For me personally, it does not matter. What is important is the passion for food. I often say artists cook in the same way they make art. If you are ever having dinner and an artist is cooking, do a quick comparison of the food on the plate to their art, and you’ll see what I mean. The point is true for everyone, in fact. The food you make is a reflection of you.

The last book I’ll mention is the most recent addition to my library, The How Not To Cookbook by Aleksandra Mir. The book is completely filled with examples of meals that went wrong. It goes against everything that cookery books traditionally stand for. It’s a cookery book and not a cookery book at the same time – perhaps the perfect encapsulation of a cookery book by an artist.

Cedar Lewisohn, artist, writer and curator