Word of Mouth: Asian American Artists Sharing Recipes features original recipes and stories from 23 Asian American and Asian diasporic artists from across the United States with contributions ranging from Los Angeles-based performance artist Kristina Wong’s “Recipe for Political Action: The Auntie Sewing Squad” to New Orleans-based painter Francis Wong’s family’s Chinese restaurant recipe for stir fry Szechuan alligator. Conceived during the twin pressures of spring 2020 COVID-19 lockdown and in response to the rise in anti-Asian bigotry, this cookbook features original recipe illustrations by Laura Kina and Jave Yoshimoto as well as by contributing artists HyeGyeong Choi, heather c. lou, and Mia Matlock. Nathan Kawanishi is the cookbook graphic designer. Yvonne Fang is the web designer and programmer for the VAAAM special exhibition.
Each recipe comes with a backstory from the artist reflecting how their Asian American cuisine has been impacted by histories of war, migration, relocation, labor, and mixing and how we have used food to care, connect, build, and sustain diverse communities in our personal lives and artistic practices. Along with each recipe, is a featured artwork and the artist’s bio. The artists included in this book represent a diverse range of emerging, mid-career, and established artists.
Taking inspiration from community cookbooks many of us grew up with, this artists’ cookbook archives a specific moment of uncertainty during the pandemic when some of us, with the luxury of working remotely, found ourselves finding solace in food and spending inordinate amounts of time in the kitchen to keep our hands and minds busy. Others faced economic and food insecurity and yet still found the capacity to use their creativity to feed others in need and provide mutual aid. This pandemic cookbook project was a way to stay in touch, meet new artists, and build community during a time of isolation, grief, and loss.
About the authors: Laura Kina and Jave Yoshimoto were summer 2019 Artists-In-Residence at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans during Hurricane Barry but the real storm would come during summer 2020 when they both experienced major health and personal traumas. They share a love of painting, cooking, and eating with other artists to get through tough times.
This project was funded by an Art Matters Foundation 2020 grant awarded to Laura Kina as well as by DePaul University Society of Vincent de Paul Professors. The curators would like to thank the cookbook graphic designer Nathan Kawanishi and VAAAM web designer and programmer Yvonne Fang. Laura also thanks her studio assistant Young Sun Choi for image documentation and Marke Werle and Helen McElroy for accessibility consultation. Special thanks to Jave Yoshimoto’s studio assistant, Elisa Wolcott, for her moral support, timely jokes, wonderful dedication, and hard work throughout the process of this project. Thank you to all of the participating artists for sticking with us as this project slowly simmered along.