Why Food and Gender Has Become so Intertwined in the Modern Age

Women love salads and yogurt and men love red meat and carbs! You know it, the difference in the Instagram handles of male and female influencers. According to author Paul Freedman, the relation between food and gender did not appear overnight, in fact, it has been growing over the years since the 19th century. In his book, ‘American Cuisine: And How It Got This Way’, he tracks the trail of how food has become gendered.

Chain restaurants have changed the way men and women eat

Going back to the late 19th century, there has been a piece of steady advice in magazines and in advertising as to what men and women can and cannot eat. From dinner plans to the design of menus, there is a big difference in the way men and women eat and even cookbooks have indicated that husbands have different tastes and their wives should indulge them. However, things changed when women joined the workforce, which gave both women and men opportunities to dine out alone both alone and with the company of others. As chain restaurants opened all over the US, they were geared more towards women, since they weren’t pubs where mostly men used to frequent because they served alcohol. It was also this era that categized some foods as “female” like cottage, cheese, sweets, and desserts. Moreover, these foods were regarded and dainty, rather than filling, while foods for men were quite the opposite.

Kale and Quinoa have long been branded as feminine foods

Leone. B. Moates, a writer, once scolded women for serving their men marshmallows because men need hearty food like red meat, chili, and eggs. ‘The central thread running through these titles was that if women failed to satisfy their husbands’ appetites, their men would stray. The pressure to please was increased through advertising. You could see this in midcentury ads, like the one showing an irritated husband saying “Mother never ran out of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes.”’ Today, thanks to social and the trend of veganism, and various other food choices, foods like Kale and Quinoa have been branded as feminine and adventurous foods has been branded as male. In 2007, a New York Times article revealed how more women were choosing steak on a first date and how this was bucking the trend of women choosing only a salad. “It was meant to signal that women weren’t obsessed with their health or their diet — a way to reassure men that, should a relationship flower, their girlfriends won’t start lecturing them about what they should eat.” The truth is that the way to anyone’s heart is through their stomach, not just men.

Image credit: Vox Magazine

Related Articles