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Recipe keeping is inherently human, but what are the different styles?

At Jikoni Studios, we believe that it is inherently human to practice recipe keeping. Our ancestors kept recipes based on the food they had access to and what they could grow on their land. Now, we have access to a far greater breadth of ingredients, but the core values of recipe keeping are the same. In the same way they bring communities and families together, they also give people a sense of belonging and identity.


The oral tradition of recipe keeping is both the earliest form of recipe keeping and historically the hardest to trace back. However, the influence of spoken recipes can still be seen in many of today’s practices, like online video recipes providing visual aids that written recipes might not be able to show.

Fun fact: oral recipes are still an integral form of recipe keeping in the cultures of the African Diaspora. Chef Ashleigh Shanti spoke in an interview: “[...] the oral history of African Americans is so powerful. [...] I don't have many written recipes of my family's, but I can call my aunt and she'll orate this amazing barbecue hash that she's been making for years.”


Humans have written down recipes for 1000s of years, and they can be anything from a structured text to a few drawings describing the process and ingredients. Whether on paper or online, writing a recipe is a great way of preserving it, as it becomes a historical document that can be used in the future to show how you or like-minded people might cook!

Fun fact: Some of the earliest known written recipes date back to 1730 BC and were recorded on 3 cuneiform tablets found in Mesopotamia. The recipes are very basic and involve meats, vegetables like onions and shallots, and stew-like sauces.


Food is intrinsically linked to memories, and this is particularly true for family recipe keeping. Whether it’s your most cherished recipe or a new one you want to pass down to your future children, family recipe keeping can look different from family to family. It can be calling your auntie to dictate her special marinade, to curating a family cookbook, recipe box, or virtual collection of recipes.

Fun fact: During the 1970s, a survey was taken about herbal remedies still in use in rural Wales. It found that many of the long-term family recipes provided could also be found in early modern texts for herbal remedies!


This form of recipe keeping is perhaps the most impactful, as community recipes and cookbooks bring together individuals on a common ground, which gives them a sense of identity no matter where in the world they are. This is particularly applicable to the migration of individuals and communities, as demonstrated by the surge of interest-based digital communities on social platforms.

Fun fact: Bunny Chow, a popular South African dish most commonly served in Durban, actually originated in the Indian South African community whose ancestors were Indian indentured laborers brought to South Africa in the nineteenth century.



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