The impetus for this project was the rediscovery of a recipe that belonged to my grandmother, a wild rice hotdish that she would cook every christmas and thanksgiving. Her brother, my great uncle Les, would collect wild rice from nearby rivers and parch it with smoke then give it to my grandmother, who used it in many of her dishes. The recipe brought back memories of holidays spent under her roof and around her table. I wanted to do something to honor her and those memories, and decided to make a vessel for cooking and serving her hotdish as a gift to my father. My hope is that one day her children can come together, share a meal, and remember her and the time we all spent together, and that my work can facilitate that experience.
The experience of rediscovering that recipe highlighted for me the value of these personal heirlooms; they are not purchasable, not replaceable, but have deeper meaning because of our connection to them. When that recipe was lost, a little piece of our family history went with it, but finding it again, preparing it like she did, and sharing it with others helped me reconnect to that tradition and those memories. I want to use this time and my work to do something for others. To that end I have been working since midterm, talking to people, collecting stories and histories in the form of recipes. In exchange for these recipes, I craft an object for them designed for these people and inspired by their stories, histories, and the recipes they share. My hope is that my work can facilitate these traditions and rituals and enhance the connections and relationships that form around them. My aim is to compile these recipes, stories, and images of objects in action into a cookbook as a way of sharing these stories with a wider audience and drawing attention to their significance.
Helen’s Wild Rice Hotdish
What is the history of the Dish?
My grandma Helen made this dish on holidays and during family gatherings. She loved to cook and to make things for her family. Every time we visited her there would be an abundance of pies, casseroles, and all sorts of other delicious things to choose from, but this recipe has always stuck out in my mind. She was a very giving person, and always brought the family together.
What does The dish mean to you?
It brings back memories of Christmases and Thanksgivings spent under her roof and around her table. It makes me think of summers spent fishing lakes and rivers lined with wild rice and time spent with my family. It makes me think of where I am from and the people I love.
Ashley's blueberry ginger pie
What is the history of this dish?
I started making pie in 2011 when I had some rhubarb and wanted to try something new. I made a pie, and it was tasty but not impressive. So I made another pie, and I kept going ad infinitum.
What does this dish mean to you?
Pie is interesting to me because it combines so many of the things I love. As a food, it combines jammy cooked fruit with a flaky, crisp texture (and I especially love it when it’s paired with very rich custard ice cream). As an activity, it offers endless explorations of technique, flavor profiles, and visual design, as well as sensory pleasure - I love the smell of custard as it cooks and the feeling of pie dough as I roll it out.
What are your thoughts in regards to tradition in food?
I feel that tradition is something I borrow from other people as a starting point. I don’t specifically try to make traditional food, but culinary traditions are amazing at developing food that works.
Could you talk about the role of exploration in cooking and art?
Curiosity is always what causes me to want to make the next pie, pot, or sculpture. The last object I made always leaves something unexplored - a technical question or an artistic choice (a baking temperature change or a new thought about form) - and the next object is my attempt to explore it. The choices I make leave all the other paths unexplored, and I accumulate more questions with each choice.
1 Cup wild rice (rinsed)
1 Can cream of mushroom soup
1 Can cream of chicken soup
1 celery tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1 cup vegetable stock
1 diced sweet onion
1 cup diced celery
1 lb sliced mushrooms
2 cups of chopped, slow cooked chicken breast
Rinse wild rice under cool running water, transfer to a bowl and pour four cups of boiling water over uncooked wild rice, let stand for 15 minutes. While rice soaks, saute celery, onions, and mushrooms in butter. Drain rise, transfer mixing bowl and add sauteed vegetables, both cans of soup, and chicken. Mix, transfer to casserole and bake at 350° for an hour-and-a-half.
3 cups fresh Blueberries
1-2 tbsp fresh lime juice
a pinch of salt
sugar to taste; less is more
2+ tbsp tapioca starch
1 small/medium knob of ginger, finely grated
1 Tsp allspice
2 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp sugar (optional)
2 sticks (1 c.) butter, cold
Additional flour for rolling out the crust
1 Egg for egg wash
To prepare the filling
Rinse the blueberries and mix them with sugar and salt in a large bowl and mix in the grated ginger. Cover and let it rest while the juice comes out and the berries soften.
To prepare the crust:
Combine flour, salt, and sugar (either in a bowl if you’re using a pastry cutter, or in a food processor). Cut in the butter, and allow some large pieces to remain. Add water and mix lightly (pulse a few times in a food processor). It's ok if it's a little crumbly; it'll come together more later. Divide into two uneven pieces, wrap, and let rest for about 20 minutes in the fridge.
Preheat the oven to 375*. Beat an egg to use as an egg wash.
To finish the filling:
Add the lime juice, followed by enough tapioca starch to coat the fruit and opacify the juice at the bottom of the bowl. Blueberries thicken themselves pretty well so don’t overdo it.
To finish the crust:
Take the smaller piece out of the fridge and roll it out slightly into a thick rectangle. Fold it over to make layers. Roll and fold 4 more times.
Assembling the Pie :
Roll out your dough to fit your pie pan (around ⅛” thick), and then gently ease it in; try not to stretch it.
Add blueberry filling. If there's too much liquid, leave some of it behind. (can be reduced with brandy to make a sauce)
Repeat the folding process with the other half of the dough then roll it out. Cut into strips to form a lattice, or use a solid top crust with a couple holes for venting. Brush the egg wash around the edge of the bottom crust to attach, and put the top crust or lattice strips on. Crimp the edge, egg wash over the entire surface of the crust, and sprinkle with coarse sugar. During this process, if it’s warm in your kitchen you might want to keep part of the dough in the refrigerator while you work with the other part for a lattice, and you can put the whole pie in the freezer for a minute or two before you egg wash the top if it’s too warm and soft to hold up to a pastry brush.
Bake until the crust is brown and the filling is bubbling, 40-60 minutes. Let cool and serve with ice cream.