Who's that Cooking Dinner?: The Gendering of Cooking and the Home Cook's Identity in Mid-Twentieth Century America

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Citation

Silverberg, Jillian, “Who's that Cooking Dinner?: The Gendering of Cooking and the Home Cook's Identity in Mid-Twentieth Century America,” Scholar@Simmons, accessed January 16, 2021, http://beatleyweb.simmons.edu/scholar/items/show/100.

Title

Who's that Cooking Dinner?: The Gendering of Cooking and the Home Cook's Identity in Mid-Twentieth Century America

Creator

Silverberg, Jillian

Date

2016

Description

Through the use of food advertisements, letters, and cookbooks, my paper explores the progression of the home cook’s identity and the gendering of cooking and the kitchen space in America between 1950 and 1995. Following the rise of American consumer culture at the end of the nineteenth century, commercial forces utilized marketing strategies that not only transformed love and femininity into commodities but also encouraged American society to perceive the task of home cooking as a female-exclusive activity. Through gendered imagery and language, food advertisements in women’s magazines like Family Circle and Better Homes and Gardens from the mid-twentieth century emphasized that only women could fill the role of the home cook, linking her gender identity with the home cook’s ability to spread love through food. Women’s relationship with food was one that stressed themes of motherhood, wifely subordination, and domesticity while men’s relationship with underlined themes of masculinity and power. As a contrast to the rhetoric found in food advertisements 1950s and 1960s, personal narratives in the form of letters written to the authors of the Joy of Cooking and community produced cookbooks from the 1970s offer insight into how real home cook's perceived the identity of the home cook and the gendered state of the cooking. Finally, commercial cookbooks produced in the 1980s and early 1990s such as The Working Family’s Cookbook (1990) and Now You’re Cooking: Everything A Beginner Needs to Know to Start Cooking Today (1994) serve as food culture’s response to society’s changing attitudes towards gender roles and expectations following the rise of gender equality in the 1970s.

Analyzing commercial and personal representations of food culture from the 1950s through the early 1990s, allows ones to trace the evolution of American society’s perception of the home cook’s identity and cooking’s gender state. At the same time, one can also see how these changes have shaped the relationship between food and gender into the present day.

Publisher

Simmons College (Boston, Mass.)

Format

1 PDF (87 Pages)

Language

English

Type

Masters Theses