Link to Article: http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2014/09/03/home_cooked_family_dinners_a_major_burden_for_working_mothers.html

This article takes a cynical approach to the traditional family dinner.  The author claims that home cooked meals may not actually be as wonderful and pleasant as they are idealized.  The article is accompanied by a study by sociologists from North Carolina State University which observed 150 families and concluded that the benefits of a home cooked meal could easily be outweighed by the stress and inconvenience of producing it in a modern environment.  The article also mentions that the cost associated with fresh foods can be a barrier to lower income families and make the theoretically healthy home cooked meal unachievable.

One of the most interesting things to me is that the research used a sample population of 150 mothers.  It seems to me that men should make up at least some percentage of the population who cooks for their family.  I tried to do some quick research to see what percentage of men do the cooking for their family and the initial results were pretty inconclusive.  I found a statistic claiming “a full 14 percent more men cook now than did in 1965” on Esquire’s website, but this does not provide useful comparative information.  A very confusingly worded article on thinkprogress.org suggests that 20-25% of men are responsible for the cooking in their household.  These numbers seem reasonable but there is also a strong incentive for a website like thinkprogress.org to spin the statistics in this manner.  In class we have read many documents, such as “The Compleat Housewife”, which have stated that women are the ones who are responsible for the domestics.  This is especially interesting to note since the percentage of women who enroll in college out of high school is now 71% whereas men enrolling in college is only 61% (source: Pew Research).  Even as women are becoming much more prominent and prevalent in the work force, they are still the ones associated with domestic responsibility.  This is gradually changing, I believe, and this viewpoint is substantiated by the Esquire article which seems to indicate more sharing of domestic responsibility among the genders.  This shift provides an interesting conflict with Eliza Smith’s claim that women are innately responsible for cooking meals.

The article is not about the gender inequality of cooking, however.  This article provides a wonderful non-romanticized viewpoint of the home cooked meal.  The general consensus in my family is that cooking meals is painful and takes an incredible amount of time that might render the efforts fruitless.  It is really easy to idealize the home cooked meal as a way to get close to one’s food source and bring the family together, but in reality this is rarely true.  In American society today we are very concerned with productivity and doing things efficiently and home cooked meals are an affront to these values.  Home cooked meals take a great deal of effort and planning to make and also can take a decent amount of money if one wants to buy the freshest or best ingredients.  It is also extremely easy to forget just how frustrating or infuriating making a meal can be since we have engrained into our society this idea that “home-cooked meals [are] the hallmark of good mothering, stable families, and the ideal of the healthy, productive citizen”.  I believe it is true that Americans have grown distant from their food and might not respect the process nearly as much as civilizations or people have in the past, but I am not of the opinion that everyone needs to return to spending hours laboring over every meal they eat.  I believe this is part of societal evolution and the romanticized idea of a home cooked meal will be an idea of the past.  Also, as the article states and as my memory recalls, there is rarely a meal that goes without criticism.  The researchers stated that they “rarely observed a meal in which at least one family member didn’t complain about the food they were served”.

You must be logged in to leave a reply.