This generative poem folds in two distinctly different activities— cooking and coding— to create a mélange that harmoniously foregrounds their similarities. For example, declaring variables and establishing a data set in a program is conceptually equivalent to listing ingredients and measurements in a recipe. Both recipes and code are executed sequentially: one by a cook, and another by the computer to produce output. From this perspective, the food produced from a recipe is much like the poem generated by the execution of its source code.
Any cook who has prepared the same recipe multiple times knows that the results are somewhat different, due to deliberate variation or unavoidable variables. Cooks also change recipes, customizing them to meet their taste, needs, and available ingredients. I sense that Kathi Inman Berens has successfully run, and remixed, many a Julia Child recipe in her kitchen, just as she has done with Nick Montfort’s “Taroko Gorge” code to produce “Tournedo Gorge.”
Like the remixers before me, I copied Nick Monfort’s Taroko Gorge code and substituted my own words. Hanging out with artists one week ago at ELO12 inspired me; this is my first work of elit. Parsing Nick’s script as it rendered my words opened a window into how js works. I’m a code novice and intuitive cook. It delights me to mash the procedural with the domestic, female and tactile. Remixed June 29-July 1, 2012 by Kathi Inman Berens (quoted from the source code).
Just as Nick Montfort’s code has been modified by others, consider how many times Julia Child’s recipe “Tournedos Sautés Chasseur” has been cooked and modified. Consider also how well the title’s structure (noun + transitive verb + noun) fits the “Taroko Gorge” pattern in which inanimate objects are personified by their actions. Thus, a more literal and poetic translation for the recipe is “Filets jump [over the] hunter” rather than the original “Filet Steaks with Mushroom and Madeira Sauce.” By choosing “Tournedo” for the title of her poem and referencing Julia Child, Kathi Inman Berens more than satisfies the “Taroko Gorge” titular convention, she makes a reference that resonates powerfully with the poem.
Part of the resonance is found in the parallels between the narrative of Julia Child making a space for women in a male-dominated culinary world, and how women appropriate and inscribe themselves in coding spaces. The other part is the power of matrilineal culinary traditions, evoked by using “firstChild” and an image of herself and her daughter in the poem. This is reinforced in Berens’ statement for her poem published in Alimentum, in which she discusses an event that shows how cooking knowledge is passed from parent to child, and how her daughter learns by doing, just as she learns to cook and code, by doing it herself.
Berens reminds us that “Taroko Gorge” and its remixes aren’t just generative: they’re generational.