Last Sunday for Father’s Day, the LA Times published 10 recipes to celebrate fathers. The recipes included: three types of steak, two gourmet hamburgers, “Man-sized turkey wings,” “Naked ribs,” two desserts, and a gin cocktail. After spending the past year researching and writing a thesis on the relationship between gender and food (The Gendering of Food: History, Culture, Family), I was immediately struck by this article. One section of my thesis was on the construction of gendered food preferences – something the LA Times recipes clearly illustrate. Apparently, the recipes are suitable only for men: naming dishes “man-sized” and “naked” perpetuate the stereotype of men as voracious eaters as well as the connection between food and sex.
The problem is not the recipes themselves, many of which look delicious, but the fact that they are intended only to please men. Trying to imagine 10 Mother’s Day recipes clearly illustrates the persistence of gendered food preferences.
The introduction to the recipes is equally upsetting: “It’s so hard to buy a gift for dear old dad. That’s why he always ends up with unwanted ties, golf-themed coffee mugs and Old Spice after-shave. So this year, we offer up a different suggestion for Father’s Day: Treat him to a meal fit for a king — a carnivore king.” The author compares these meat dishes to other manly items such as ties, sports, coffee and after-shave. Do we even have to ask who is supposed to prepare this meal for the “carnivore king?”
Why do we continue to insist that certain foods are pleasing and suitable only to one gender? Why do we continue to associate men with meat? Can we not acknowledge that men also enjoy other foods and that women like meat, too? Most men I know enjoy meat but eat it only occasionally due to concerns over the environment, health and animal rights.
I was happy to see other comments on the article that expressed disappointment with the stereotypical image of men communicated through these recipes. Even if the media continues to portray men in strict gendered terms, it gives me hope that others feel my discontent and long for a new depiction of men’s relationship to food.