When convenience is inconvenient: ‘healthy’ family foodways and the persistent intersectionalities of gender and class.
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This article draws on findings from an auto/biographical study about relationships with food to demonstrate how everyday foodways continue to be influenced by the intersectionalities of gender and class. Following Bourdieu [1984. Distinction, a social critique of the judgement of taste. London: Routledge] how ‘foodies’ use food and foodways (the production, preparation, serving and eating of food) as a material and cultural display of capital (Johnston, J., & Baumann, S. 2010. Foodies, democracy and distinction in the gourmet kitchen. London: Routledge) or even ‘culinary capital’ (Naccarato, P., & LeBesco, K. 2012. Culinary capital. London: Berg) has been demonstrated. There has been less work exploring how mothers use ‘feeding the family’ (DeVault, M. I. 1991. Feeding the family. London: University of Chicago Press) as a source of cultural capital for themselves. Three-quarters of the 75 respondents in my UK study were parents and all mothers with dependant children fed their family ‘healthy’ food as a means of performing a particular middle-class habitus. I therefore examine how mothers engaged in ‘healthy’ foodwork as a means of positioning themselves as ‘good’ mothers or ‘yummy mummies’ (Allen, K., & Osgood, J. 2009. Studies in the Maternal, 1). Indeed, despite decades of gender equality in the public sphere and neo-liberal assertions regarding individualism, ‘feeding the family’ (DeVault, 1991) continues to be a highly gendered activity, with the added pressure of now having to provide ‘healthy’ food cooked from scratch. In these accounts, convenience foods and/or ‘unhealthy’ family foodways were vilified and viewed with disgust, with an adherence to ‘healthy’ family foodways used as a means of drawing boundaries within fields of ‘organised striving’ (Martin, J. 2011. On the explanation of social action, Chicago: University of Chicago Press; Savage, M., & Silva, E. B. 2013. Cultural Sociology, 7, 111–126). This article considers ‘healthy’ foodwork as a significant aspect of ‘good’ middle-class mothering, whereby ‘healthy’ family foodways become significant in the performance and display of ‘proper’ middle-class femininity that pathologises alternative family foodways and ‘other’ femininities. This serves to illuminate continuities within the intersectionalities of gender and class, with a commitment to ‘healthy’ family foodways central to ‘future oriented’ (middle classed) maternal identity.
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