During the years that I have been writing letters, making mail-art and hosting mail-projects, I've noticed that there is a beautiful synergy between old-fashioned letter-writing, and the sharing of recipes.
This makes sense because they are practical: recipes are flat, lightweight, easy to share as a little gift in a letter, and ultimately give the reader something tasty to eat. But I think there is much more to it than that.
Sharing a recipe is a wonderfully personal act, because food is all about community. Families bond around the kitchen table, love blossoms across a restaurant table, and friendships are forged around the dining table (or the barbecue).
Sharing food with loved-ones is an essential element of the Danish concept of hygge (comfort and community), and scientific studies have found that comfort foods, because they remind us of our social ties, can help lessen feelings of isolation and loneliness. Research has also shown that the degree to which we enjoy the taste of some foods can be related to how they make us feel - the association they carry with happy memories and dearly loved friends and family.
Meals in the Mail was a project I came up with in June 2017 to try and capture some of these beautiful food associations, while also celebrating that other very personal act... of writing letters. I invited people to send me a favourite recipe by post, and asked them to share a line or two about what made that recipe special to them.
I thought I'd receive about 20 recipes, and promised to group them together into a little zine or book, and post it back to all the participants. Instead, I received close to 250 recipes, many of them lovingly hand-written, personally illustrated, and travelling to me from all over the world in joyfully decorated envelopes. Receiving all those letters in my PO box day after day during the six weeks of this project was overwhelming and humbling, in the best way. I was deeply touched by the effort and enthusiasm that people shared.
Now I'm in the process of collating all those recipes, scanning the art work, and planning how this enormous book will work. It will be an abundance - a cornucopia - of precious recipes treasured by people from across the globe, and I truly cannot wait to share it with everyone who participated, and with everyone else who has shown so much interest and support in this fun project.
Given how long it will likely take me to create the book and raise the funds to print it, I've decided to share the recipes and artwork with you in other ways in the meantime. I tried turning them into a blog, but it felt cold and just didn't do them justice. So now I'm working on a new project, and will share updates with you soon! If you have any questions about this project at all, please feel free to get in touch with me, either by leaving a comment below, or by emailing me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, here are some of the blog posts I shared during this project:
- Introducing the idea of Meals in the Mail
- Sharing some of the mail I received (when I was *only* at 50 letters)
- A list of most of the recipes I received
- Comfort food and brownies
ps. The envelope-artwork at the top of this post is by Katherine Scott in Australia