This week, my CFHS colleague Jacqui reflects on the social aspects of cooking and eating.
‘Who will you eat Christmas dinner with this year? Will you or someone else do the cooking? Me, I’ll be at home with my partner and his learning disabled sister. She will be peeling the spuds, carrots and parsnips, while I bung our four or five bird roast in the oven with a few other things to roast. (I like potato coquettes & stuffing balls but they are Yorkshire pud & pigs in blanket fans so suspect a compromise is ahead.) And after we have cleared our plates and pulled our crackers, my partner’s job – the washing up of course!
The importance of the social aspect of cooking and eating food together really came home to me in our recent community-led research into food security. For two quite different reasons.
The first was the role cooking and eating together had in the community researchers’ process. One group of community researchers always prepared and shared a meal together before working together, while another group made a point of eating together at the end of every session.
The second was the value the research respondents placed on being able to cook and share food with others. Many parents compromised on the quality and quantity of their own food to ensure their partners and children ate well. Most saw eating together as important for learning about social etiquette and socialisation. Others commented on how they felt they were missing out on an important social activity as the costs of getting enough ingredients together to make a meal for others would mean going without on other days. Some commented on how extended family members had helped them through tough times by cooking and sharing their meals with them.
I’ve also seen the importance of social aspects reflected in our cooking skills study group’s experience and you may have seen examples like these in your cooking classes too. For example participants that:
- Want to contribute, e.g. by offering to do the washing up or bringing things into the class to share.
- Have cooked food for others and tell you how surprised they were by the reactions to the recipes, such as sweet potato wedges or having to spice up the fajitas for one pal.
- Tried cooking recipes at home with their kids and tell you about the fun and mess involved, and how this has changed what and how much their children are prepared to try and eat.
So, to me the social aspects are important, and should not be forgotten or undervalued in our cooking classes. Alongside our work to build peoples’ cooking skills and food literacy we do lots of things that foster teamwork, enabling positive relationships and social interactions. So lets’ get in the kitchen together and sit down to eat together more.’
Our cooking skills blog will be back in January. Happy Christmas and New Year!