The purpose of this paper is to describe the development of – and need for – an expanded understanding of cooking (skills and knowledge) to inform research on the connection between cooking and health.
This paper describes a concept of “food agency” and contrasts it with how cooking is commonly conceived in food and nutrition literature. A food agency-based pedagogy and proposals for using it are also introduced.
Cooking is a complex process that may be crucial for making a difference in the contemporary problems of diet-related chronic diseases. There are two interlinked problems with present research on cooking. First, cooking has yet to be adequately conceptualized for the design and evaluation of effective public health and nutrition interventions. The context within which food-related decisions and actions occur has been neglected. Instead, the major focus has been on discrete mechanical tasks. In particular, recipes are relied upon despite no clear evidence that recipes move people from knowledge to action. Second, given the incomplete theorization and definition of this vital everyday practice, intervention designs tend to rely on assumptions over theory. This creates certain forms of tautological reasoning when claims are made about how behavior changes. A comprehensive theory of food agency provides a nuanced understanding of daily food practices and clarifies how to teach cooking skills that are generalizable throughout varied life contexts.
This commentary is of value to academics studying cooking-related behavior and public health practitioners implementing and evaluating cooking interventions.
Wolfson, J.A., Bostic, S., Lahne, J., Morgan, C., Henley, S.C., Harvey, J. and Trubek, A. (2017), "A comprehensive approach to understanding cooking behavior: Implications for research and practice", British Food Journal, Vol. 119 No. 5, pp. 1147-1158. https://doi.org/10.1108/BFJ-09-2016-0438
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