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 here as I go. I'll publish one or two recipes each week, pulled randomly from the enormous box where I'm keeping all the letters. And in case you'd like to try them for yourself but find some people's handwriting tricky to read on a screen, I'll also type out each recipe and make it available as a printable download.
If you'd like to follow along or be part of this project, thank you! There are loads of ways you can take part or help out.
1. Subscribe to email updates whenever I post a new recipe or have news about this project. Sign up here, or use the sign-up box at the bottom of every post.
2. Help spread the word about Meals in the Mail by telling all your food- or mail-loving friends about this fun project, and inviting them to subscribe for updates too (just send them to naomiloves.com/meals-in-the-mail).
3. Give these recipes a go! Each one of them holds a special place in the heart of the person who sent it, and I know they will be over the moon if you try their food. If you do try any of these recipes, please tell us all about it! Use the hashtag #mealsinthemail and tag me on Instagram (I'm @naomibulger) so we can see what you create.
4. If your recipe is published here and I've misread your handwriting or otherwise gotten something wrong, let me know in the comments so I can get it right in the book.
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.
ps. The envelope-artwork at the top of this post is by Katherine Scott in Australia