If you’ve read the “About Us” section of this blog, you already know that K & E are both anthropologists (an archaeologist and ethnomusicologist respectively) and as such, are very interested in historic and contemporary people and their cultures. We’re also avid foodies, and while we dream about opening our own restaurant, for now our interactions with food and cooking are primarily as hobbyists.
Last semester, however, K had the opportunity to teach a class on food cultures of the world. In addition to learning new information and discovering great new recipes, we also learned a lot about how the students approached and understood food within their own cultures. As part of the course, students were asked to write a paper about an important family recipe. They were required to write the recipe, describe its preparation, and also explain its larger importance within the family. Many wrote about holiday traditions or special occasion meals (recipes ranging from Italian-American lasagna to Mexican tamales and Vietnamese banh mi), and either about how and when they learned to prepare the recipe, or fond memories they have surrounding eating the final product.
The recipes they contributed and their stories resulted in a lengthy conversation between K & E. The students themselves came from a wide variety of backgrounds, but their experiences were incredibly similar. The majority of the women, for example, wrote about when they learned to make a recipe, while the men were more likely to describe when they ate the food or the events surrounding the preparation of the food. We also noticed that none of the students connected their special family recipe with their father or a male relative, even though we could both think of examples of important family recipes that we personally attributed to our fathers.
These are just general observations about a few student papers, of course, but it got us thinking. When speaking in large-scale generalities, in the United States the professional food industry (chef) has historically been dominated by men, whereas the home kitchen has been dominated by women. But just because women have been culturally associated with home kitchens, does not mean men were not, and are not, just as active in them. We can both think of a number of recipes our fathers or grandfather’s cooked, stories surrounding the preparation of food, and memories that were grounded largely in family food traditions. And just as more and more women are becoming professional chefs, so too are more men entering the home kitchen – and often with their children in tow. We know many dads who cook with their kids.
Our conversation inspired us to start this blog in hopes of inspiring other people to share cooking and food stories about their fathers, grandfathers, and male relatives. We know the stories are out there, and we think they deserve to be heard.
Can you think of a food story, food memory, or recipe that you associate with your father, grandfather, or other male relative? If so, click the “Submit” tab above to send us your story.