Be Like Teflon: A recipe book that defies and celebrates tradition
A new spin on a flooded format, Be Like Teflon is an absorbing recipe book created by Jasleen Kaur as part of a series by Glasgow Women's Library
Finding a new flavour of recipe book seems like an impossible task in the days of the Great British Bake Off and a bazillion bakery blogs, but with Be Like Teflon, the Glasgow Women's Library and artist Jasleen Kaur have managed just that.
Alongside instructions for creating a variety of dishes, the reader finds a fascinating blend of conversations, anecdotes and titbits from the women of Indian heritage who're sharing their culinary secrets.
This unusual book is part of a limited-edition series that's been selected by a curatorial practice Panel. The series, collectively titled From Glasgow Women's Library, includes batch-made souvenirs all inspired by some aspect of the Library – from its history to its archives and collections.
At first glance, it may not be obvious how Be Like Teflon fits into this idea but a quick delve into the thinking behind the book makes everything clear. Jasleen uses the format of a recipe book to foreground voices she felt were missing from the library shelves. Panel worked with Kaur to develop the framework for a new recipe book for the Library involving women, based in Glasgow and London, connected directly to her family and her particular history.
Between the pages, Kaur has transcribed a selection of conversations with women of Indian heritage living in the UK and presented them alongside the recipes. So instead of a slick introduction to the dish or the sort of strange, life stories that cooking blogs seem to encourage, you get a small slice of life.
'Whether it's around a kitchen table or from the pages of a book, hearing the voices of resilient women is like having the companionship of a sister or mother – tender and sustaining, like maha di dhal on a sodden wet day in Glasgow,' Kaur says in her opening essay.
'With that innate knowledge of measuring by eye, atta, chawal, mirch, comes the wisdom of a woman's experience, as she tells us to, "be like teflon, be like teflon, don't let anything stick."'
The book itself has a solid yet also personal feel, printed on thick, colourful paper and protected by a separate plastic cover. You can easily imagine it splattered by an errant flick of a spoon mid-stir, but it's just as easy to picture it on a shelf surrounded by art books or indie zines (thanks largely to the cool graphic design from Kajsa Ståhl of Åbäke).
Don't be fooled into thinking this is a cosy commodity, though. This is a recipe book with a much larger message. 'It is both an inherited and personal trauma that drives this book.' Kaur explains. 'An acknowledgement of the silences, what is not said and not heard, the silencing of women in my life and, as I learn, in my cultural history too. A whole heritage of mistreatment, voicelessness and disempowerment, repeated again and again by a patriarchal force that keeps us quiet.'
Alongside Kaur's work, the project has supported new commissions by artists Ruth Ewan with Joy B-C, Sally Hackett with Anna Lewandowska-Mirska, Donna Wilson, Finch & Fouracre, and Kaisa Lassinaro with Maeve Redmond. It's well worth checking out this unusual series commemorating and supporting some of the excellent work of Glasgow Women's Library.
Find out more and buy your copy.