Beyond Recipes: Re-Approaching the Cookbook Genre for Historical Research with Salma Serry

What can a list of ingredients, the techniques of cooking, imagery and design, the language and ideology used or mentioned in cookbooks, tell us about the past? Traditionally, cookbooks have been overlooked as legitimate literary and research sources, despite the rich stories they carry of human movement, trade, relationship to nature, technology and science, religion and politics, class and race as well and everyday life. In this workshop, Salma Serry shares her research on the cookbook genre as a site of research that can reveal various social, economic and cultural aspects of the lives of the people who wrote, published, read, and cooked from them.

This two-hour workshop echoes the framework of Serry’s research for the Jameel Art Centre’s Library Circles, in which she examines the history of Dubai’s migrant communities through the ‘menu’ as research material. The workshop is divided into two parts: first, an examination of cookbooks and application of research methods such as those by food historian Barbara Wheaton; second, a focus on using the information from the first part to produce written work.

The workshop is in partnership with Emirates Airline Festival of Literature. To register for this event, please click here.

Salma Serry is an interdisciplinary food researcher, filmmaker and founder of @Sufra_Kitchen. She has a collection of over 400 historical cookbooks and culinary ephemera and was recently awarded the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)’s grant for her ongoing research on the modern history of food in SWANA.



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Research Project

Library Circles: Salma Serry

February 2, 2022 - August 14, 2022

Jameel Library