‘Everybody knows’ that women do the cooking. It was the Princess not the Prince of Wales who was asked in their eve of wedding TV interview whether she was a good cook, and it is Mrs Thatcher who is reported to cook breakfast for Mr Thatcher every morning. Even wives well enough placed to be able to leave it to someone else are still cast in the role of cook. As a result, the food industry's advertising is aimed at women, so too is much nutrition education, and studies of levels of nutritional knowledge are inclined to focus on ‘the housewife’. These rest on the supposition that if women are in charge of the cooking they also must determine the family diet. Indeed, earlier this year the Director of the US National Institute on Ageing, when describing measures increasing longevity and good health observed, ‘the biggest contribution a wife can make, if she's the one who prepares the food, is that she can have a great deal of control over food intake’. But does being responsible for cooking at home really mean that women also have control over family eating, the choice of menu, the timing of meals? My own research examining the sociological significance of food related beliefs suggests that the position is not so straightforward.
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