Feeding Families: Class Inequalities in the Embodied Experience of Home Cooking

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Merin OLESCHUK, University of Toronto, Canada
Family feeding situates embodied experiences of taste, emotion and physicality at the intersection of paid work, intensive parenting, and normative health and beauty ideologies. Within North American neoliberal health ideology (i.e. healthism (Crawford 1980; 2006)), home cooking is a lifestyle practice that parents deploy to “achieve health”, both for themselves and their children, and its enactment signifies individual characteristics deemed important for healthy social citizenship such as control, attention and care (for both bodies and families) (Bowen, Elliot and Brenton 2014). Yet research indicates that class inequalities shape food work such that it is differentially experienced across classed groups (Brenton 2017; Daniel 2016; Naccarato and LeBesco 2012). While cooking can be enjoyable, it can also encompass time pressures, moral trade-offs, and the burden of pleasing others. These pressures are especially strong for low-income parents, who face financial constraints limiting their ability to manage them. This paper draws on interviews and cooking observations with 30 parents in Toronto, Canada to examine differences in the embodied experience of family food work across classes. It shows how class-based lifestyles and practices fashion emotional relationships to cooking that, in turn, impact the tendency to cook and the experience of cooking and eating. For example, how individuals perceive of the cooking act, encounter it corporeally, and come to prefer particular foods, cooking environments, or smells are all shaped by classed-based cooking habitus. At the same time, this classed habitus does not necessarily predict the pleasure derived from cooking or eating. This research contributes to scholarly research on how economic and cultural capital structure embodied tastes and practices, yet, through its attention to emotions, also allows for insight into how actors create social worlds beyond those determined by their class status.