Recipes are not only part of today's cooking culture, they are also part of the Swedish syllabus of home economics. The aim of this study was to investigate what kinds of difficulties students with mild intellectual disabilities have using recipes during cooking lessons in home economics. We conducted an ethnographically inspired approach, with a total of 44 h of accompanying observations. Three compulsory schools for students with intellectual disabilities were enrolled in the study, and 37 students and three teachers were included. The socio-cultural theory of learning has been used as a theoretical framework. The findings reveal both that recipes are central artefacts during the cooking lessons and that the students have various difficulties using the recipes. The difficulties vary, and they concern both how the recipes are designed and the purport of the recipes. Difficulties in relation to the design included, for example, the separation of ingredients and instructions in the text and the large amount of information given in both the whole and the parts of the recipes. The difficulties in relation to the purport – that is, the meaning or sense of the recipe – were the ingredients, the kitchen utensils and the knowledge of how to perform a specific task. These difficulties can be considered special in relation to the use of the recipes. We suggest the concept of ‘recipe literacy’ to capture the complex knowledge of using recipes.
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