Continuity in the kitchen: how younger and older women compare in their food practices and use of cooking skills
Item TypeJournal Article
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Comparisons between younger and older women in the kitchen usually focus on the historical argument that younger women do not have the domestic cooking skills of their mothers or grandmothers. At one level, this is convincing because there is now demonstrably greater reliance on ready meals and processed foods, and less on the home production of meals from raw ingredients. Compared with the immediate post-Second World War years, not so much time is routinely spent in the kitchen, and food preparation is no longer a task central to the lives of many women. The availability of meals or meal components requiring less domestic labour and improved kitchen technology are both factors in this transformation of women's lives. However, they are not just available to the young. So, this research questions the impact of these factors across the age spectrum. Older women may have had very different domestic experiences earlier in their lives but have they now converged with the practices of younger women? How do younger and older women compare in terms of their food practices and the cooking skills they currently use in the kitchen? Using Scottish questionnaire data from a cross-national study, this paper reports on the differences and similarities for 37 younger women (25–45 years; mean 32 years) and 43 older women (60–75 years; mean 68 years) in their actual use of specific food preparation and cooking techniques, the kind of meals they made, and the extent to which they ate out or ordered in meals for home consumption. Results indicated that while there were some differences in food preparation, the use of fresh ingredients and the style of cooking undertaken in the home, these were mostly marginal. There were similar response patterns for the adequacy of their domestic facilities and equipment. There was, however, a notable divergence in their patterns of eating meals out, or phoning out for meals. These data suggest that while younger and older women – different cooking generations – do differ, the way they differ is related more to current lifestyle factors than to any highly differentiated domestic food preparation and cooking skills.