The paper aims to offer information regarding the degree of homogenization of eating times in the UK and Spain. The objective is to compare two societies by the ways their respective members organize the time spent on eating. Eating time organization is examined via two parameters: eating rhythms and their duration. The authors study the former by comparing daily meals timetables. Duration is studied via the time spent on eating and cooking.
Data from time-use surveys in Spain and the UK have been used for this work and various specific aspects of eating have been analyzed. First we consider the time devoted to eating; second, the timetables of the main intakes: third, the time spent cooking. Since in these sections it is noted that eating out is the behavior that most differentiates Spaniards and Britons, another section is given specifically to analyzing this behavior. Four categories were established by using a scaled variable to collect the time when the main activity is eating out: Home consumption, which shows are those that do not spend time eating or drinking out. Short time eating out: those who spend half an hour at most eating or drinking out. Average time eating out: those who spend between half an hour and one hour eating or drinking out. Long time eating out: those who spend more than an hour eating or drinking out. The comparison was made using respective sub-samples limited by age, between 16 and 65, as this is the potentially active population, integrated into the labor market in both countries.
British and Spanish timetables do not coincide. The British spread their important meals through the day, while Spaniards concentrate them between 1.30 and 4 o'clock in the afternoon (lunch) and between 8.30 and 11 o'clock in the evening (dinner). In the Spanish case this makes for important peaks of individuals eating at the same time: in the periods 2:20/2:30 and 21:10/21:20. In the UK they are spread more throughout the day and do not reach comparable maximums. In Spain an average of 20 minutes (23.2 minutes) more is spent on the main meals than in the UK. This difference is found mainly among those who eat at home. Differences in eating out are quite smaller for Britain and Spaniards. They make a greater collective effort to synchronize this activity and, therefore, to a greater extent the day's structure. In both societies an eating norm shared by their members that reproduces cultural aspects characteristic of each one is maintained. The evaluation of eating is in the time and place of meals. In the British case, compared with the Spanish one, there is a greater tendency to eat out and spend little time, without taking into account comparison with time spent going home to eat. This tendency points to a lesser value being given to the practice. If to this factor we add the differences in time both societies devote to cooking, longer in the Spanish one, the different nature of the social act of eating has in each society is highlighted.
Time analysis offers a new dimension to the exploration of the homogenization of food consumption. Other types of data used to establish international comparisons on food, especially data on food consumption, show a homogeneous image of food consumption among countries. Conversely, time analysis reveals a more heterogeneous image on this issue.
It offers the possibility to do multivariate analysis, which allows us to assess which variables are the most relevant to understand the amount of time devoted to the preparation of food.
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