The article compares recipes to make food with recipes to make color, specifically recipes to make natural dyes and paints before the era of synthetic industrial color. After reviewing conceptual definitions of recipes from food writers and scholars, the article discusses common ingredients for natural color-making, as well as “cooks” or creators of color, the preparations, and the desired results of these preparations. Ingredients include the cochineal beetle to make red, lapis lazuli for ultramarine blue, murex snails to make purple, as well as lesser-known ingredients and preparations. The article also reprises key historical texts in the history of making color. Unlike the present day, natural color-making was an often costly, difficult, uncertain exercise, much like food preparation on a nonindustrial scale. The author argues the results of recipes, whether food or color, may be more deeply appreciated according to that heightened difficulty.

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