Gender, Cultural Schemas, and Learning to Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)607-628
Number of pages22
JournalGender and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • foodwork
  • gender
  • gender schemas
  • motherhood
  • socialization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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