A new study published by researchers at North Carolina State University tackles the challenge of shopping for, preparing and sharing healthful family meals. In “The Joy of Cooking?,” Sarah Bowen, Sinikka Elliott and Joslyn Brenton describe women in particular as struggling to enact cultural ideals associated with home-cooked meals. Expensive ingredients, time pressures and picky eaters seem to conspire against them, with poor, working-class and middle-class mothers all feeling the pinch.
The study’s findings were hotly debated in recent weeks, with coverage and commentary in outlets such as Slate, PBS and The New York Times focusing almost exclusively on values and priorities. Some praised the study for questioning the idealization of burdensome family dinners. Others called for increased commitment to home-cooked family meals, citing the rewards of time spent together and noting how easy and rewarding meal preparation can be.
Because the debate’s participants have primarily viewed the issues through lenses of family and food rather than work, very little of the debate has broached the root causes of families’ mealtime struggles: deteriorating employment opportunities, stagnant wages, and changing expectations of workers. Read More