Recipes for Life by Natale Rudland-Wood

G’day and welcome to this presentation on ‘Recipes for Life’! Building upon other collective narrative methodologies (Tree of Life, Team of Life, Kite of Life), Natale shares here a way of working based on food metaphors involving healthy products you can find at Adelaide vending machines.

Recipes for life is a narrative approach to telling our experiences and stories through the metaphor of a recipe. It involves exploring memories, connections, histories and journeys through food.

This is just a ‘taste’ of ‘Recipes for Life’. To learn more, you might like to read Natale’s paper that is to be published next week (see below).



Further reading about folk cultural methodologies:

Stories of the Tree of Life from different parts of the world

More information about the Team of Life

The Rhythm of Life by Adriana Müller (Brazil)

Denborough, D. (2008). Collective Narrative Practice: responding to individuals, groups, and communities who have experienced trauma. Adelaide, South Australia: Dulwich Centre Publications.

Facebook group

We’d welcome your participation on the Recipes for Life Facebook group!

Published on January 24, 2013

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Kassandra Pedersen

    Hi Natalie,

    thank you for this thoughtful and creative narrative methodology you shared with us. Watching the video and the different parts that the recipe for life includes I was drawn to the richness of this practice and the realms of agency it honors.

    This concept inspired the work in my private practice with a young woman, called Vicky, (this is not her real name) who loves to cook. Vicky and I would love to share with you the ways that your metaphor influenced our work together. So here is our story…

    Vicky came in my office with a feeling of “inertia” as she was having a difficult time to make a significant decision for her life: whether continue to work in her dad’s office ensuring an economic stability and the satisfaction of her parents, or pursue her dream and work as a chef in a social organization that travels around the world. This second option contradicted her parents wishes and it would result to much more daily economic challenges.

    I invited her to imagine the project of her life as a recipe and I asked her about the different ingredients (values and hopes) she would like to add. So, Vicky spoke about her values: freedom, multiculturalism, hippie lifestyle. Could she imagine a particular food based on these valuable ingredients of her life? Noodles, she said!

    Then I asked her if she would be interested instead of making our next meeting in the office, to find ourselves in the kitchen and cook her “recipe of life”. My intention was to invite her in a familiar place that would facilitate the re-emergence of her “local” knowledges of cooking and life, while in the same time my “professional knowledge” would be deconstructed. After all her “insider knowledges” had been disqualified for so long as inadequate to the norms of a “serious” lifestyle.

    This special day Vicky learned me how to cook noodles and her recipe had something of the sacrosanct, as it reflected her preferred life project.

    While cooking I asked some “re-mebering questions”: who introduced her to cooking, who would be delighted that we are making this food today, who do we honor with this recipe? Vicky spoke about the motto of cooking and life that her grandmother bequeathed to her: “Do not be afraid to experiment. If you are missing of olive oil, then try butter or whatever else you want.” I continued to ask her about the history of this motto in her family for some meetings.

    As it turned out, the enlightenment of this advise played a significant role in her final decision to abandon her office work and follow her dream of becoming a multi-travelled chef.

    At the end of the meeting we ate together the noodles, and I responded to her as an external witness about the things I learned from her this evening and the importance of this for my own personal life.

    She is still very happy with her decision and she told me that this special meeting has been crucial for these preferred changes in her life.

    Thank you Natalie for enabling the development of this experience for Vicky and me.


  2. Avatar

    Susan Lord

    Thankyou Natale for a wonderfully rich yet clear video.

    In our reading group, after watching your video, we interviewed each other along outsider witnessing lines.

    I loved especially the ‘sourcing’ which really took my imagination.With every ingredient one could do a statement of position map with wonderful storying.One could also have a remembering conversation as to whom had introduced you to each ingredient.There are so many possibilities!

    For me, I was reminded, just what an enormous effect food has had upon my life. After quite a lot of past negatives about food and cooking, I am now in the most wonderful position of being able to cook for myself; and provide my version of caring for myself and others through delicious food. I discovered after watching your video, that I had been providing food for others in this way, not realising that doing this was very healing for me.

    Last night in the group, we had some wonderful discussions around ways of talking through doing, alongside another or others; the depth of the conversations, and the opportunities cooking and washing up offers towards real communication between family members is something that often these days is lost through lack of time and dishwashers.

    We talked about ‘Dishes of life’ and the value of this. J

    One question we were very curious to deconstruct was: What ideas, were held in the expectation that went along with preparing the space, for cooking, eating and the cleaning up? What are those expectations? –Joy, hope, connectedness, valuing, love?

    One member suggested the preparation was like “clearing a space for people to come into your life” -a very hopeful and uplifting thought to my mind.

    We were most drawn to the clear picture you presented Natale, of your love of cooking! That small pinch of love doesn’t quite say it all. Ie What an enormous absent but implicit in your presentation, is how we felt your love made it all happen!!!

    Thankyou so much Natale J

    Thanks also to our reading group, Dulwich and Bouverie.

    Susan & nrg team

  3. Avatar

    Audrey de Witte

    Hello Natale and anyone else out there reading this.

    What a lovely and refreshing way of working with people. Mind you from the subject line I was expecting some real cooking to happen, I guess that is the way my mind works.

    I think kitchens are wonderful story-telling places, places of sharing, and even places of healing. Along with the garden, the kitchen is quite special in my life.

    One of the most memorable meals that my husband and I have ever attended was when a friend invited us around for dinner one day. This particular friend was dying. We were instructed to come mid afternoon. Well what a time we had. Our friend’s wife taught me how to make pasta from scratch and we made it there and then on the kitchen table. We also made a number of different sauces to go with it. While this was all going on the four of us spoke about many, many things. We had many laughs and some really deep discussions.

    Then when all the food preparations and cooking was done, we sat around the Dining room and ate this meal. It was about 7pm by then. I found the whole experience quite spiritual.

    About 6 weeks later our friend died and I had the privilege of conducting his funeral service.

    I have had many wonderful experiences around food preparations and sharing a meal together with others, it is really quite a very therapeutic experience.

    I will be interested to learn more about ‘Recipes for Life’.

    Cheers, or should I say bon appetit,


Leave a Reply