lizw: photo of pie crust filled with berries (cooking)
[personal profile] lizw
This was my choice for the Kitchen Reader bookclub this month. It starts by noting that food and food preparation are strongly coded as feminine, and then examines how this developed over the course of the 20th century, while also looking at the effects of that gendering (e.g. in fostering envy and competition between women) and the way in which food writing also encoded ethnic norms and stereotypes. Much of this was familiar to me, but I hadn't really considered how outdoor cooking such as barbecuing is often more strongly male-gendered. Coincidentally, just after I finished reading this book, I found my son and his friend watching a MythBusters episode that included a male/female contest on exactly that point - and they did declare the myth busted, but the fact that they felt the need to do it shows it's still current.

Inness also briefly mentions her childhood memories of food and cooking, which were primarily associated with her mother. That made me think about how food and cooking worked in my birth family. My mother used to say proudly that she never left prepared meals for my Dad if she had to go away, because he was a grown man and could look after himself - but I clearly remember that the first time she ever went away overnight, with a friend from her gymnastics club, the cooking was left to me at nine years old rather than to my father. When she was in hospital when I was thirteen, I cooked, too, and washed and ironed my father's clothes; she took over the laundry again when she got better, but I did the family cooking from then until I left school, and it caused quite a lot of disruption to my teenage social life. So whatever looking after himself my father did, it actually didn't happen until after I left home. Some of what Inness says about the class implications of fashions for "dainty" foods also resonated with me; a lot of the food preferences of my working-class grandmother could certainly be explained by her (often outdated) perceptions of what the middle-class ate.

I have only a few criticisms of the book. Firstly, I think Inness is guilty of gay erasure in the passages on male cooking, where in discussing men who do carry out the majority of the cooking for their households, she identifies these as "divorced men who live by themselves and men who have no girlfriends or wives" and goes on to say the men in question frequently presume this to be "a temporary state of affairs, lasting only until a woman comes along". Secondly, the book obviously began life as an academic publication, and it shows. It would have been nice to have some illustrations for this popularised version, especially considering how often the text refers to magazines and adverts. 

Date: 30 Apr 2012 10:28 (UTC)
chickenfeet: (Default)
From: [personal profile] chickenfeet
I'm a heterosexual male who has cooked for himself since leaving home for university and has been responsible for the cooking whenever I've been home during two marriages. My brother, also married, is similar in that regard.

Date: 30 Apr 2012 11:03 (UTC)
chickenfeet: (srscat)
From: [personal profile] chickenfeet
I'm pretty sure it's still a highly gendered activity. I just bristled a bit at the idea that the only men who cook are partnerless saddos.

Date: 1 May 2012 21:59 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
As I was reading I wondered what would be different if the book was updated for this decade. As for my personal experience, I am a traditional wife and very content to do most of the cooking. Similar to other parts of marriage, any arrangement works as long as both people are happy with it. Thanks for picking this book, Liz, it was a throughout-provoking read.

Date: 1 May 2012 22:00 (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Oops, I meant to lave my name - It's Sarah from Simply Cooked. :)

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