Cooking with Artists: Shaun Leonardo
This holiday season, the artist shares some favorite childhood Dominican recipes, passed down by his grandparents.
Nov 30, 2020
“I find myself, while navigating very difficult subject matter, having to remind myself of my purpose and in a belief that this work can provide or offer a different space of contemplation, a different type of existing and slowness that leads to healing.” –Shaun Leonardo
“I’ve been to the Dominican Republic numerous times. Especially in my adult life, there’s a way in which, when I’m there, a type of deja vu occurs. I’ll enter these spaces and logically understand that I have never been physically present there before. But there’s something deeply soulful that makes it feel familiar and gives me a sense of belonging. I often believe that food is the thing that leads to that sense of connection because you quite literally ingest the flavors of the place. It becomes familiar even before going there.”
In the spiritual realm, our identities are inextricably linked to the flavors of our lives—a relationship that can be complicated, incomplete, and fraught with history.
“Lineage is a difficult thing for peoples from the African diaspora. I don’t know anything beyond my grandparents in terms of historical legacy. I have received pieces of those narratives as have been told through oral histories, but I know very little about those individuals because they migrated from other places.”
Recipes are the markers of nurturing attention that reflect one’s identity—a way of communicating from one generation to the next through flavor. Being connected to our families and our grandparents is a privilege. Being a part of a family means exploring, remembering, and nurturing. It takes the work of passing down life stories, family history, and recipes (my favorite).
Shaun shared two recipes, one for bacalao guisado his grandmother would make, and another for aromatic orange tea his grandfather made and Shaun makes all the time.
As we head into the holiday season, I want to leave you with something Shaun said about family:
“Your sense of purpose and anything that you create and produce must be connected to who you are in life and how you act with the people you love. And if it’s shown me anything, it is that you cannot be anything for anyone else if you don’t start with your own family, if you’re not prioritizing that space of healing and joy.
My abuela, my grandmother on the Dominican side, used to make bacalao guisado, cod fish stew. It is a very complex dish in terms of flavors. It’s salted codfish that is stewed with peppers, onions, garlic, tomato, and then simmered for a long time in order for that richness to come out. I can remember as a small child, it was baffling the older members of my family that I would eat and love bacalao guisado as if it was mac and cheese.”
Shaun’s exhibition The Breath of Empty Space is currently on view at MASS MoCA, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Cooking with Artists: Jannis Varelas
The artist shares a lamb recipe from a northern region of Greece, in MoMA PS1’s ongoing series with chef Mina Stone.
Sep 16, 2020
Cooking with Artists: Lyle Ashton Harris
The artist shares a flexible family recipe in MoMA PS1’s ongoing series with chef Mina Stone.
Jul 7, 2020