PhD Candidate Merin Oleschuk on “Gender, Cultural Schemas and Learning to Cook”.

Ph.D. Candidate Merin Oleschuk has published an article in Gender and Society, entitled “Gender, Cultural Schemas and Learning to Cook.” The article looks to the experience of learning to cook to understand persistent gender inequalities in family cooking.

Merin Oleschuk’s research and teaching areas involve the sociology of food; consumption and consumer culture; sociology of health; sociology of gender; the environment; qualitative and quantitative research methods.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available here.

Oleschuk, Merin. 2019. “Gender, Cultural Schemas and Learning to Cook.” Gender & Society 33(4): 607-628.

While public health researchers stress the importance of home-cooked meals, feminist scholars investigate inequalities in family cooking, including why women still cook much more than men. Key to understanding these inequalities is attention to how people learn to cook, a relatively understudied topic by social scientists. To address this gap, this study employs the concept of cultural schemas. Drawing from qualitative interviews and observations of 34 primary cooks in families, I identify the ubiquity of a “cooking by our mother’s side” schema. This schema privileges culinary knowledge acquired during childhood through the social reproductive work of mothers. I argue, first, that this schema reproduces gendered inequalities over generations by reinforcing women as primary transmitters of cooking knowledge. Second, it presents an overly uniform picture of food learning that obscures diversity, especially by overemphasizing the importance of childhood and masking the learning that occurs later in life. Identifying and analyzing this schema offers opportunities to reconsider predominant approaches to food learning to challenge gendered inequalities in domestic foodwork.