Web We Want

Cookbook Revolutionaries 100 Years Ago — And Now!

Cookbook revolutionaries
Collage of photos by @jenskarberg @webwewant and the cover of The Woman Suffrage Cook Book (1886) by Michigan State University Library.
Solana Larsen
Written by Solana Larsen

We had no idea we were following a longstanding tradition of activist cookbooks when we published our Recipes for a Digital Revolution from Latin America. NPR has a story this week about how American suffragists used cookbooks to fight for women’s’ rights to vote in the late 1800s.

Today, some might ask: What were feminists doing printing cookbooks? Wasn’t their whole movement aimed at empowering women beyond home and hearth?

The reply to this question from culinary archivist Jan Longone is that women used the tools they knew to get their message into the hands of other women. She says the recipes were also a kind of rebuttal to negative stereotypes of suffragists as unwilling mothers and cooks.

There were both real recipes and some infused with irony and political quotes. A 1915 Suffrage Cook Book from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania archived at the Michigan State University Library includes dishes such as “Hymen Cake”, “Mother’s Election Cake” and “Suffrage Salad Dressing”.

Easy to Follow

It makes sense. When Renata and I came up with the idea for a digital activism cookbook at my dining room table in Berlin, it began as a joke about how to encourage the involvement of women in digital rights work.

The reason we stuck with the idea is that it’s an easy to read format that everyone is familiar with. Our recipes aren’t actually edible, but if you follow them, you will definitely stir up trouble. We wanted people to feel inspired to try new things in a field of activism that has grown a little repetitive with countless hashtags and petitions. And we wanted to share ideas across borders, which is something cookbooks are great at.

Ahead of the Stockholm Internet Forum in October, we tested the cookbook concept and the ability of people in the global digital activism space to invent new recipes on the spot.

In our workshop, we divided participants into groups (“salad group”, “cocktail group”, etc) and had them brainstorm new recipes that they wrote on poster boards and presented to the rest of the participants.

Wouldn’t you just love to taste “Bloody Hate Speech on the Beach”, “Jollof Rights” and “Spicy SIM Cato Chips”? Delicious!

The results of the workshop were super creative and fun, and made us look forward even more to the next editions of the cookbook.

Aprons and all, we want to remind people that even at its most serious, digital activism anywhere in the world can be humorous and surprising.

About the author

Solana Larsen

Solana Larsen

Solana Larsen is co-author of the cookbook "Recipes for a Digital Revolution". She writes a newsletter for Web We Want and helped create this website. Formerly, she was the managing editor of Global Voices Online. Solana is a Danish-Puerto Rican journalist and digital activist.

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