Do you have a favorite family recipe? Have you ever noticed how that recipe is documented? Was it orally passed down or written down? Recently, I’ve been reading a book titled Eat My Words: Reading Women’s Lives through the Cookbooks They Wrote by Janet Theophano. This book is inspiring in countless ways including but not limited to the idea of family, community, and identity.

The author proclaims herself a “folklorist trained in an appreciation of aesthetic forms” (pg. 5) and uses this skill to find, collect, and analyze cookbooks. Not just any cookbooks, but ones that might be centuries old. And not just to analyze them but “to consider them worthy objects of serious textual analysis” (pg. 5). Read “textual analysis” as discourse analysis and I find a worthy subject for this blog. Here, I’m not necessarily interested in the role women play in recipe writing and collecting but more in heirloom recipes and how they’re passed on and transformed.

Historically, paper was hard to come by and often expensive. Even if people, women in particular, could obtain paper they had to be literate in order to record recipes. Slaves, for example, often passed down recipes orally due to the fact that many slaves were not afforded advancement in literacy skills. Today, many of us are literate and have access to paper but we still utilize the oral tradition to communicate recipes.

Years ago I asked my mom about a certain recipe for a soup we had growing up. I learned it was my great-grandmother who taught the recipe to my mother who then taught it to me. I wrote down every step as my mom and I cooked the soup together. Towards the end she told me “that’s probably the first time that recipe’s been written down.”











Notes of how a recipe is transformed are often documented once a recipe is written out. I’m unsure if Uncle Albert wrote the entire strudel recipe himself but you can see where he made notes and started making the recipe truly his own. I especially like ½ cup raisins optional ½ cup chopped nuts not optional. Theophano writes in her book that people “began to experiment with their formulas, altering some proportions, deleting ingredients, and frequently commenting on their contributions as if it were an ongoing conversation among friends” (pg. 12). I like the thought that written text, especially recipes that seem so stable, are being transformed and interpreted “among friends” through time and place.

My point is this: Think about your favorite family recipes and where they came from. How have they been passed on to you? How, if at all, have they changed over time? Recipes are a snapshot of a particular time, place, culture, and identity of their author. Recipes and cookbooks deserve to be considered valuable texts and analyzed as such even if analysis is just a personal reflection kept to oneself.





Last week (Feb 26 – March 1) the 8th Annual ScienceOnline Together Conference took place in North Carolina.  Thanks to the support of TERRA Research Magazine and OSU’s Environmental Health Sciences Center, a watch party was held on the OSU campus allowing for virtual attendance and participation (no need to wait in a TSA screening line!).  The focus of the conference was to explore how the World Wide Web is changing the way science is shared, communicated, and interpreted.  There were an incredible number of sessions of interest to science communicators that use a variety of web formats including outreach, blogging, and social media.  Participants spanned scientists, students, journalists, and educators.  A sampling of the session topics included:  Communicating the Process of Science, Healthy Online Promotion, How Psych Research Can Inform Effective Communication, and The Role of Social Media in Science News Reporting.  Tips, tricks, insights, stories, best practices – all were shared in efforts of helping others build new skills and effectively communicate their research or science program on the web.  As the conference progressed, there was a flurry of activity on Twitter.  I believe at one point the conference was trending as people live-tweeted the sessions with #scio14 or #sciox.  It was hard to keep up with everything coming in on TweetDeck!

My role with the watch party included support during the session on “Social Media as a Scientific Research Tool”.  David Shiffman, graduate student and blogger for Southern Fried Science, led the discussion from Raleigh, and presented ways that social media could be used in research on topics such as disease outbreaks, natural disasters, and public policy.  The discussion evolved into questions about ethics, privacy, and accurate interpretations of qualitative content.  As someone studying social science and qualitative research methods, I appreciated hearing comments about the increased access to social media data (such as status updates or tweets on a particular topic) and presuming “expertise” in human behavior and perceptions based on brief content analysis.  It was suggested that if you are trained in the natural or physical sciences, it is useful to collaborate with a social scientist to reach a more accurate interpretation.

It is great to these conversations are happening and to see a community that is eager to organize and push forward on the evolution of science communication.  Watching these sessions made me reflect on the power of language and the theorists we reference in the Free-Choice Learning Lab.  Frequently we cite the work of psychologist Vygotsky with regards to cognitive development coupled with social interaction and language as a semiotic tool.  If he were alive today, I sure he would be interested in the science of science communication and how we as humans use social engagement and tools like social media as a method of increasing the numbers participating in discussion.

I’m looking forward to seeing how SciOnline Together Conference evolves for the 2015 session in Georgia.

This was not my intended topic for today’s post, but with so much history this week I thought it was a necessary post. A couple of months ago I wrote about creating and using Twitter and what it means to us in the free-choice learning field. With the 24-hour news cycle, social media, and even blogs we get news quickly. We are constantly connected through our computers and smart phones. How were people connected to news 150 years ago? 50 years ago? In those years two significant events happened that changed our nation’s history: the Gettysburg Address and President Kennedy’s assassination.

This past week PBS aired a program about Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address. The focus was on how he used the telegraph to connect to the country, how the telegraph allowed him to “feel the pulse” of the country and ultimately shape the words he used at Gettysburg. Lincoln used the telegraph as a tool for taking in information and for sending information out. Lincoln used the newest, quickest way of communication in his day just as we all use Facebook and Twitter for news and information today. One of the speakers on the show even said, “Lincoln would have been big time on Twitter”.

And what if Twitter existed 50 years ago? NPR drew me in this morning using the Twitter handle @todayin1963 to live tweet the events of the day President Kennedy was pronounced dead. The tweets, however, are ongoing as news continues to develop as though we’re using Twitter in 1963. Would this media source have changed the facts (accurate or not) people heard that day or would it just be a different media source to hear it through?

How we receive our news and how we share it is ever-changing. We’ll always have a new technology that lets us get that much closer to what’s happening in our world. For Lincoln’s generation is was the telegraph and for my generation it’s Twitter.

As a side note, you can follow the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum on Twitter @ALPLM, where they often post Lincoln quotes.