Producing the family meal: News media constructions of home cooking, gender and health

Merin Oleschuk, University of Toronto

This article examines the shared cultural values surrounding home cooking, within the contemporary context where home cooking is advocated as an important health promoting practice (e.g. Pollan 2013). An examination of home cooking is inevitably a consideration of gender because it is women who still maintain primary responsibility for daily family meals, and who face gendered pressure tying femininity to food work (Beagan et al. 2014; Cairns and Johnston 2015; DeVault 1991). Women are also the focal targets of moralized discourses and interventions directed towards improving the cooking skills and health of families, and therefore bear a heightened burden stemming from that responsibility. This paper discusses findings from a discourse analysis of North American news reporting on home cooking and health in 2015 and 2016. Analysis conducted for this paper confirms that home cooking remains a ubiquitous ideal – a way to foster physically healthy, well socialized, and emotionally nurtured individuals– and its production is still presented as overwhelmingly feminine (as well as similarly achievable across class, and distinct from ethno-cultural considerations). This paper explores the implications of the discursive construction of home cooking for gendered inequalities in family food work.

This paper will be presented at the following session: