Happy objects is an Australian Design Centre exhibition exploring the value of objects in our lives. We asked Kate Gaul to share with us a 'happy object' and tell us a story about this object.
I have a small collection of hand-written and newspaper-clipping pasted recipe books that belonged to my mother. The pages are now barely held together. They are the sum total of the cooking life of a woman who fed five people every day for a long time. The worn pages have a unique ability to drill into a place where food memory mixes with love and loss. As our kitchen adventures increasingly get recorded in sleek digital files or even the fleeting history of a recipe search, well used and stained cookbooks become more valuable, both personally and historically.
These precious objects connect me to a moment when my mother, Marjorie, was alive and occupying the same space as these objects.
These aren’t a brilliant, well-ordered trove of culinary instruction. Marjorie’s recipes have few method instructions. She assumed anyone would know that you sift your flour before measuring, sift the dry ingredients together, cream the butter and sugar first, beat a cake batter but barely mix biscuits and muffins. Vanilla measure is half a capful and there is enough salt in the margarine so don’t add extra. Tucked inside one book I found a recipe taken down by a junior cook – for chocolate balls.
Kate Gaul is a Sydney-based theatre and opera director, creative producer, festival director and designer.