The concept:

This project is an implementation of the cut-up method for text synthesis, where two bodies of texts are used to produce a new one through the rearrangement of text units from both. The text unit I opted to use is the word, namely nouns.

The basic premise of this project is that wars, too, can follow a “recipe.” The concept is far from realistic, but it can do for an exploratory exercise in the juxtaposition of the completely mundane as in a simple, archaic cookbook, and the dramatic framework of, um, a world war.

To implement the above, I opted to find a cookbook whose recipes are standalone, strongly defined units. In terms of the text related to war, I went with the simple option of a copied, text-only version of the Wikipedia page on WWII.

Using Python’s NLTK package, nouns from both sources were extracted, and a new dictionary was created that matches nouns from the recipe with a random noun in the WWII text. The dictionary was used so that, if a noun is repeated in the recipe text, it is always replaced by the same noun from the WWII text.

Each time the program is run, a random original recipe is chosen and rewritten.

While the noun tagging procedures provided by NLTK are acceptable, they are not always accurate (i.e. verbs can sometimes be tagged as nouns), which results in some occasionally nonsensical results.

The data:

The Italian Cook Book: The Art of Eating Well — Practical Recipes of the Italian Cuisine Pastries, Sweets, Frozen Delicacies And Syrups. Compiled by Mrs. Maria Gentile.

The Wikipedia page on WWII

The output:

I collected some of my favorite resultant “recipes” and made a tiny cookbook of them in Illustrator, as shown below.

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The code:

 

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