Women still do most of the cooking while it’s a fun activity for men, study finds
Safefood says some men lack planning and organising skills for food shopping
“Women’s familial role is mostly characterised by their task as the main food provider, and cooking rather occurs as an obligation than as a pleasure.”
Food and cooking skills are still largely the preserve of women, according to a new report by Safefood, the all-island healthy eating and food safety body. The study,which reviewed more than 100 pieces of research, found that more than twice as many women as men were responsible for cooking meals while many women also did the food shopping.
“Food and cooking skills seem to be strongly gendered household tasks,” the report stated, adding that women on average show a higher level of skill and are more confident in their abilities. “No other household task seems to be as strongly gendered as cooking.”
It said men were more likely to have higher cooking skills when cooking was constructed as a fun activity. “It is possible that men’s motivation for domestic cooking may be constructed as cooking when they are in the right mood rather than as an everyday responsibility, while women’s familial role is mostly characterised by their task as the main food provider, and cooking rather occurs as an obligation than as a pleasure.”
The Food Skills: Definitions, Influences and Relationship with Health study said some men seemed to lack the planning and organising skills necessary for food shopping. Many women took responsibility for food shopping “because they claimed their spouse did not plan ahead for meals, wasted time and spent more money, with the end result of still not having the necessary food to create a meal, as well as lacking familiarity with their family’s food preferences”.
It said the easy availability of convenience foods meant that people’s cooking skills could no longer be taken for granted and “it is time to reassess . . . how these skills might affect our diet and consequently our health” .
The study also found conflicting evidence on the links between poverty and food skills, with some studies showing that poorer people lacked the knowledge and funds to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, while others found that poorer people were more resourceful when preparing meals from scratch.
Safefood’s director of human health and nutrition Dr Cliodhna Foley-Nolan said knowledge of healthy eating was not enough on its own to improve dietary quality. “When we’re not comfortable with preparing meals for ourselves, and this is a common scenario today, we are more inclined to consume ready-made or takeaway meals, which are generally more expensive and less nutritious than meals cooked from scratch.
“There is clear evidence that developing our food skills can influence healthy eating behaviours. What we all need are the food skills to plan tasty, quick meals and these skills can range from preparing a shopping list within budget, to being able to chop an onion or cook a tasty stir fry.”
While 90 per cent of parents surveyed said it was important for children to learn how to cook, and 83 per cent of children said they would like to improve their cooking skills, Dr Nolan said only half the children surveyed cooked a maximum of twice a year at school.
However, she noted “a welcome trend towards increased interest in home cooking, with 42 per cent of consumers reporting that they cook their evening meal from scratch most evenings”.