Food, Family and Women: Constructing identity through food-related discourses

Family preparing healthy lunches

Family preparing healthy lunches — Image by © Artiga Photo/Corbis

Mother’s identity construction “informed caretaker, not an imaginative chef” refers to the representation of a knowledgeable and caring mother, who strives for serving “proper” foods to her children. Findings suggest that, nowadays, apart from the concrete work that goes into preparing a meal from scratch, mothers partly convey care, love and nurture through fairly excessive mental work (e.g. pondering about what kind of nourishment children need to stay healthy). So, women seem to craft an identity of a caring and nurturing mother partly by expressing engagement in different forms of mental work.

Most of us have heard the phrases “My mum prepares better food than your mum.” We don’t solely have convenience foods “made by mums,” our supermarkets offer us also. While acknowledging the large size of the family segment and the possible rationality in a more specific segmentation, it is believed that families are united by their aspiration to eat together, one way or another.

The homemade food is utilized in strengthening certain idealized family meanings and in the construction of family identity. Homemade foods can be seen to convey things like love and care, tradition and family togetherness. Eating and sharing of food are ways of interacting with other people and through different food choices one also defines his or her relation to his/her own culture and to other cultures as well. Common foods can, for instance, strengthen the cultural cohesiveness and carry the cultural heritage.

Mothers should continuously look for ways to ground themselves in fostering values, self-worth, identity and tradition into their children, despite their busy, frantic and technology enabled life.

Family is the first socialization agent and usually the most powerful one; family plays a central role in socialization. Parents and other members of a family operate as channels of information and sources of social pressure, and also offer support for each other. Before children move away, they have countless opportunities to watch and observe their parents behavior, which leads to internalization of expressed values and preferences, and to the acceptance of these values as a natural norm. In addition, it is the mother who tends to be the main influencing agent through both supervisory and nurturing actions.

Family leisure also plays a vital role in family life. Through family leisure, family members have a chance to strengthen their relationships, bond with each other and solve problems. According to some authors, family leisure can be divided to core family leisure and balance family leisure. Core family leisure may consist of, for instance, preparing and eating a dinner together or playing games together. Core leisure usually enhances family identity, feelings of closeness and personal relatedness, and bonding. Balance family leisure, in turn, is typically something more special, like family vacations and trips. Its role is to provide families with opportunities to, for instance, develop adaptive skills, which are needed when dealing with the challenges that families are faced with in today’s society.

Permit me to draw my cotton here, eating together appears to be a vital part of the construction and reproduction of family identity. thus, dinner could be described as family time as opposed to mealtime.

Curled from Noora Pärssinen  (2012) ‘Food, Family and Women: Constructing identity through food-related discourses’, School of Economics, Aalto University.



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