ABOUT THE ARTIST
SUZANNE ZOE JOSKOW
I am an artist, curator, and writer living and working in Los Angeles, California. I have a BA in American Studies from Yale University and an MFA in Fine Art from Otis College of Art and Design.
In my artwork, I focus on the interplay between materials and social history, and Los Angeles is a backdrop I return to often. Most recently, I have been making a series of “vertical maps” of LA. While a traditional map records a landscape at one point in time, my ”vertical maps” pick a single site and map that site over time. This mapping takes many forms, including the Community Cookbook Archive.
I did not learn to cook from my mother - who once described breastfeeding as her favorite cooking memory ("ready to serve and no clean-up!"). However, she did teach me the value of mealtime and the joy of eating, cooking, and celebrating with my extended family. Gathering around the table and sharing food continues to inspire me today. This evolving Archive would not be possible without the help of many people, most especially my husband and daughter.
WHAT IS A COMMUNITY COOKBOOK?
For the purposes of the Community Cookbook Archive: LA, I have adhered (very loosely) to books that fulfill the following guidelines:
Contains recipes from a collective group or organization, rather than an individual author
Primarily features home cooks (with some exceptions)
Currently out of print or not available in large number
Produced by or featuring a community based within LA County
I've focused on Los Angeles because this is where I live and it is the place I frequently document through my work. These cookbooks offer unique snapshots of LA County - an infinitely complex region made up of 88 cities and unincorporated communities. I am particularly interested in archiving and sharing older books that are in danger of being lost; the ones that live on dusty kitchen shelves and in cardboard boxes at yard sales. Following the landmark ruling in favor of the Google Books project, I have scanned portions of these books for free, public, digital access through this Archive.
The books in this archive document how people gather - around food, around faith, to celebrate or to survive. At its core, this project is meant to be communal, and I hope people will find many and varied ways to engage with the collection.
As such, The Community Cookbook Archive: LA is enthusiastically accepting donations of books for digitization that meet the above listed criteria. I have found most of these cookbooks at rummage sales, thrift stores, and online. However, I'm excited to connect one-on-one and would particularly like to grow the number of non-English language books and books that document communities where written recipes are not the norm.
If you are interested in donating a book, have personal stories related to something in the collection, or have any other questions or feedback, please reach out via the Contact Page.
In addition, everyone is invited to cook from this Archive and their own community cookbooks!! These are not dusty encyclopedias - these cookbooks are designed to be used and come to life through the creations of those who continue to make food from them.
If you would like to share pictures of your process or finished dishes on Instagram, you can find the Archive's page here.
Full scans of cookbooks in the Archive are currently available upon request. I'd love to hear from you!
HOW TO PARTICIPATE
A NOTE ON FOOD & COMMUNITY
It is hard to celebrate Los Angeles kitchens without also acknowledging the County's ongoing crisis of homelessness and food scarcity - particularly in this moment of global pandemic. While this project is one of visibility, it also has palpable absences.
The root of most of the cookbooks in this collection is a desire to share food. Here are two LA-based organizations that are doing important work to combat food inequality in LA County. I hope you will join me in supporting them.