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Creativity and cooking: Motherhood, agency and social change in everyday life



Creativity in the kitchen is a normal part of everyday life in US homes. This article explores improvisation by mothers in home cooking as exemplary of the creative process. Western analyses of creativity have typically examined innovation after-the-fact, and showed how something innovative constitutes something novel that is discontinuous with the past. This is reading creativity “backward” in terms of outcomes. We provide a “forward” reading of creativity that examines the conditions and constraints which give rise to improvisation. This offers insight into cooking as a form of personal and social creativity that is grounded in the familiar, and infused with cultural values of self-expression and pleasing the family. This article thus discusses how improvisation is shaped by individual agency and social structure. Creative behavior is limited yet inspired by the material, social and symbolic constraints of the context in which it occurs, including in this case the broader context of the politics of food. Our forward reading of creative cooking practices indicates how cultural production leads to social change through the mediation of agency and structure.
Journal of Consumer Culture
2015, Vol. 15(1) 48–65
! The Author(s) 2013
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/1469540513493202
Creativity and cooking:
Motherhood, agency
and social change in
everyday life
Maryann McCabe
University of Rochester, USA
Timothy de Waal Malefyt
Fordham University, USA
Creativity in the kitchen is a normal part of everyday life in US homes. This article
explores improvisation by mothers in home cooking as exemplary of the creative pro-
cess. Western analyses of creativity have typically examined innovation after-the-fact,
and showed how something innovative constitutes something novel that is discontinu-
ous with the past. This is reading creativity ‘‘backward’’ in terms of outcomes. We
provide a ‘‘forward’’ reading of creativity that examines the conditions and constraints
which give rise to improvisation. This offers insight into cooking as a form of personal
and social creativity that is grounded in the familiar, and infused with cultural values of
self-expression and pleasing the family. This article thus discusses how improvisation is
shaped by individual agency and social structure. Creative behavior is limited yet
inspired by the material, social and symbolic constraints of the context in which it
occurs, including in this case the broader context of the politics of food. Our forward
reading of creative cooking practices indicates how cultural production leads to social
change through the mediation of agency and structure.
creativity, cooking, personal agency, constraints, social change
Home cooking is alive and well in the United States. This statement challenges the
alternative that home cooking is on the wane and moribund, a claim reinforced in
Corresponding author:
Timothy de Waal Malefyt, Fordham University, 113 West 60th Street, New York, NY 10023, USA.
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media and scholarly work. Well-known food critic Michael Pollan decries ‘‘the
decline and fall of everyday home cooking’’ due to the rising number of women
working outside the home, the proliferation of fast food restaurants, and increased
prepared and packaged food sold in supermarkets from the industrial agricultural
world (Pollan, 2009: 28). Some critics argue that changes in the meal supply chain
result in deskilling or loss of cooking skills among home cooks (Caraher et al.,
1999; Ritzer, 2004), while others suggest the family dinner has all but disappeared,
loosening family bonds and moral order in ‘‘the anomie of the post industrialized
society’’ (Fernandez-Armesto, 2001: 23). Home cooking also appears in retreat
through the cultural lens of celebrity chefs, gourmet food, and television cooking
shows as entertainment (Ashley et al., 2004). From our anthropological perspec-
tive, however, based on ethnographic research among middle-class mothers,
home cooking, although different from the past, is alive and well, and essentially
a creative act that identifies a key dimension of motherhood.
This article explores home cooking practices as a form of personal and
social creativity. Recent work in anthropology has unpacked the concept of
creativity (Hallam and Ingold, 2007; Lavie et al., 1993; Liep, 2001). Our focus
on creativity emanates from concern with personal agency and social structure,
and the theoretical pursuit of explaining social change. Several ideas enhance our
understanding of social life through the mediation of agency and structure: the idea
of hegemony from the Italian Marxist Gramsci and the notion of habitus from the
French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (Ashley et al., 2004). We consider creativity
another concept that bridges personal agency and social structure because creative
behavior is constrained individually and yet enabled by its social and historical
Brian Moeran (2006, 2011) elucidates how structural processes constrain and
enable creativity. We expand this perspective by including agency as a cultural
force that limits creativity yet makes it possible. In the West, creativity has been
defined by the Romantic notions of uniqueness and individuality (Wilf, 2010),
suggesting that creativity springs from a bountiful source of agency residing
within the individual. In other words, the boundaries of improvisation are
shaped by agency as well as structure. From this view, social change involves
creative behavior. We examine cultural forms and social relations of creativity
that arise in home cooking to show how creativity influences social change.
Our use of the term creativity follows the insightful distinction made by Ingold
and Hallam (2007) of reading creativity ‘‘backwards’’ or ‘‘forwards.’’ They write,
‘‘To read creativity as innovation is, if you will, to read it backwards, in terms of its
results, instead of forwards, in terms of the movements that gave rise to them’’
(2007: 2–3). Reading creativity backward evokes the association of creativity with
novelty and genius as if anything creative were singular and unrepeatable with its
source in the individual. Here, we take a forward reading of home cooking as an
act of improvisation to expand an understanding of creative processes in everyday
life and broaden the concept of creativity as a cultural category and an aspect of
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What is creativity?
Creativity in art, literature and science has been discussed as a process that begins
with restructuring something common or familiar, such as an existing artistic
medium, and ends with a whole new structure without precedent (Hausman,
1979; Hospers, 1985; May, 1975). In breaking from its past, creativity is said to
be discontinuous with other existing forms, and is described as an emergent form
that appears with a whole new identity and coherence all its own (Hallam and
Ingold, 2007; Hausman, 1979). These descriptions of the creative process, however,
focus on successful end results, the product of reading creativity ‘‘backward,’’
recasting the effort that went into bringing something into fruition as a narrative.
Such reflections say little about the improvisational, indeterminate or ‘‘forward’’
processes and conditions that bring creative works into being in the first place. We
describe the creative act in cooking as an improvisational act that is motivated and
challenged by constraints and by associations with other people that guide and
shape the individual process. We hold creativity as relational and a key aspect of
defining motherhood.
A backward reading makes home cooking for mothers sound dull and repetitive.
It reflects the sense of just putting another meal on the table, a meal not totally
different from preceding meals. Because novelty and personal agency appear lack-
ing in this backwards reading, home cooking seems humdrum. A backward reading
discounts cooking practices and a mother’s work as deskilled. Reading creativity
backwards is symptomatic of modernity because it celebrates the freedom of the
human imagination (Liep, 2001) and characterizes invention in terms of products
and outcomes. Reading creativity backward also situates knowledge and experi-
ence within a narrative. By narrative we imply that cooking experiences structure
thoughts, feelings, actions and consequences into a frame by which women inter-
pret the present (Bruner, 1986: 142). Narratives construct a guide for ‘‘living
through’’ and ‘‘thinking back’’ to make sense of what people do, as well as
‘‘wishing forward’’ to establish goals and models for future experience (Turner,
1982: 18). Yet, when mothers employ narratives to describe how they cook, they
often look ‘‘backwards’’ and gloss over improvisational adjustments they make
along the way, such as adding spices or modifying cooking sequences. This is
why ethnographic attention to practices, or ‘‘doing’’ ethnography (Sunderland
and Denny, 2007), is critical to revealing creative processes. Thus, instead of
asking mothers to recall what and how they cooked for their family, ethnography
that re-creates the experience can reveal improvisational creativity that is novel,
unfamiliar and unanticipated. Indeed, a ‘‘forward’’ read of creativity, which we
show here, reveals that unpredictability and indeterminacy are important dimen-
sions to mastering cooking improvisation.
Reading creativity forward focuses on movements, conditions around cooking,
people involved, and ever-increasing constraints of time, resources, and money that
shape results. A forward reading of home cooking illuminates creative aspects of
everyday life that are important to mothers and show that cooking manifests itself
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as an emergent orientation to adjustments in daily living, personal self-expression,
and recreation of the family. Women who cook for their families actively display
creativity when they demonstrate an ability to transform material, social and tem-
poral constraints presented daily in their task of cooking the family meal. No
mother starts out with a blank slate, without prior knowledge of family, spouse
or children’s preferences and dislikes, without some knowledge of available
resources on hand (meats, spices, vegetables), cooking utensils available in the
kitchen, and so forth. While a mother might receive a request from her family to
‘‘make something interesting tonight for dinner,’’ she knows that foods are part of
a greater repertoire of knowledge and skills she has about preferences, taste pro-
files, combinations of foods, and so forth. Thus, creativity in the kitchen does not
occur in a vacuum by a lone cook, but rather taps into a larger network of people
and established conventions. These conventions (Bugge, 2006) on what makes a
good meal, eating utensils, table manners, dinner time, and so forth, are part of the
larger criteria of creativity that help mothers regularly assemble a meal, even as
they improvise along the way (Moeran, 2006: 89; cf. Becker, 1982).
Creative cooking, then, is explored here as a dynamic within the framework of
cooking conventions (time frame, budgets, family wishes and preferences) but also
involving individual agency to build on or reinvent existing materials. Everyday
cooking operates within and against a given set of materials, aesthetic choices and
existing experiences of knowledge that form a framework from which cooks make
creative decisions. Conventions (Becker, 1982) such as cooking mediums, available
food and utensil resources, economic budgets, and so forth, provide the experien-
tial framework, social network and knowledge base from which creative ideas arise.
Thus, we discuss creativity, not in terms of necessary criteria (Hausman, 1979), but
rather by inverting this question and exploring the conditions and constraints that
give rise to improvisation. Brian Moeran writes that any discussion of creativity
begins by looking first at the actual constraints that surround the creative act (2011:
18). We ask how do certain types of conditions and constraints aid in cultural
production (Bourdieu, 1993), especially in how they shape creative cooking
Similarly, we consider the emotional constraints on personal agency in cooking
practices. Agency is not infinite or unfettered, but references the ‘‘socioculturally
mediated capacity to act’’ (Ahern, 2001: 112). Boredom with an existing repertoire
and desire to become more accomplished inspire women to try something different
in the kitchen, even as willingness to undertake a creative endeavor depends on
their perceived level of cooking skill. Looking at new recipes with specific numbers
of ingredients, steps and procedures, women make decisions on whether or not they
will make the recipe based on their cooking ability. In this sense, agency is not
boundless as in the cultural image of a ‘‘good cook’’ going into the kitchen and
‘‘whipping up something’’ out of thin air. Rather, the capacity to act is circum-
scribed by skill, knowledge and level of confidence. We explore this framework of
cooking conventions and examine how the personal and social nature of agency
enables and constrains the creativity of home cooks.
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Since creativity is a cultural idea that varies in time and space, we should rightly
speak in the plural of creativities (Hirsch and Macdonald, 2007). As Leach (2007)
points out, we cannot objectify creativity, but only identify how it is realized in the
material world at particular moments and places. We look at the conditions around
which cooking is situated and gives shape to the current state of home cooking
practices to understand the context in which creative cooking arises in the United
States today. From this context we draw out the cultural values that drive this
creative process in everyday life.
Historically, ‘‘feeding the family’’ is an activity of women that both demonstrates
a specific household labor and the unpaid work of caring for others (DeVault,
1991: 1; Parker, 2007). Women’s activities of care go largely unrecognized
(Oakley, 1974; Waring, 1988). For countless generations, the caring work at
home has sustained family life and community as it has also constrained and
oppressed women, suppressing other capacities and desires (DeVault, 1991: 2). In
western industrial countries, recent attention is centered on women’s work of
care, as middle-class women assume more public activities typically reserved
for men. Increased activity of women in labor markets has brought new aware-
ness of issues, as many women attempt to combine their labor with household
responsibilities. Workplace changes, such as working from home, commuting
rotations, corporate drop-off and daycare facilities, have facilitated women’s
labor efforts, and allowed women to achieve more success in the public world.
But women still shoulder the brunt of household work at home, such as cleaning,
family care and cooking. As assumed cultural ‘‘care givers’’ women must deal
with the realities of the ‘‘double day’’ (Glazer, 1980) or ‘‘second shift’’
(Hochschild, 1989); their work is never done. Nevertheless, we situate our current
research on middle-class women within this issue of work/home dualities to
explore the resourceful ways that mothers mitigate restrictions of time limits,
budgets and care for others, while being creative with cooking in what they
produce food that nourishes and pleases others. In this, they identify themselves
as cooks in how they manage time, energy, and receive recognition and reward
for their efforts. This creative process, we claim, indexes a key aspect of
As anthropologists we have conducted numerous market research projects on food
and cooking over the years. For this essay we highlight one qualitative research
project conducted for a food corporation because it was specifically oriented to
creativity in cooking.
Our ethnographic fieldwork involved interviewing women who were mothers
of children living at home and who regularly carried out home cooking
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responsibilities. We interviewed 48 middle-class women who ranged in ages and
cooking abilities from their early 20s to their mid 60s. Some mothers were quite
experienced and familiar with preparing meals. Others were new and inexperienced.
Interviews were conducted in the US cities of Milwaukee, WI; Raleigh, NC;
Minneapolis, MN; and Denver, CO as markets selected by the food corporation
for representing significant sales volumes of their products. The corporation
wanted to investigate consumers familiar with their brand. After the project termi-
nated, the corporation released the data to the authors.
Two anthropologists (the authors) visited the homes of families in each market,
spoke with informants about food choices, watched them select and combine cook-
ing ingredients, read from recipe books or from online cooking sites, and prepare a
meal for the family. Each interview lasted three hours and consisted of discussions
on cooking habits, preferences, brand perceptions and so forth. In addition, in-
home observations included a tour of the kitchen to examine pantries, cabinets,
food storage areas, and the refrigerator and freezer. We viewed the brand and food
products in the context of household use (Coupland, 2005). Oftentimes, consumers
may not recall or simply forget the range of products and brands they possess.
A thorough look inside kitchen pantries and refrigerators brought to mind avail-
able products and stimulated further creative considerations of meal ideas and
favorite recipes. Prior to interviews, we asked informants to keep an in-depth
journal of their daily thoughts and feelings around meal planning over the
course of a week. Informants were also asked to create a visual collage of their
favorite meals and depict why this was important to them. We asked them to select
pictures from magazines, online, or newspapers to represent how they felt about
making a meal. The research methodology included a brief shopping excursion to
understand how respondents navigated the real world context of consumable
goods. These combined methodological approaches helped develop a fuller picture
about the way US women thought about meal preparation and constructed meals
on a daily basis for their families.
Both anthropologists followed a loosely structured discussion guide, which let
the interviews evolve (Thompson and Haytko, 1997). More important in the par-
ticipant observation process was to listen and observe for moments of opportunity
in the conversation. As women discussed their daily routine of cooking, we listened
for descriptions of boredom, frustration, excitement, anticipation, and so forth.
These emotional cues signaled to the interviewer how to follow the questions, and
when to probe further or when to move on to another topic.
After interviewing women in the living room or around the kitchen table, we set
off for the kitchen to observe them prepare a meal. The kitchen was another valu-
able context in which to observe the unspoken actions of meal preparation.
Mothers comfortable with cooking moved with ease in finding the right spices in
the cabinet, adjusting cooking temperatures on the stovetop, using oils, sauces and
so forth to prepare the meal. Mothers familiar with cooking also rarely looked at
recipes directly or used measuring cups, but instead would use familiarity and their
own judgment as a guide. Creativity was evident in the embodied practices of these
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women, particularly how the commingling of food and ingredients with experience
of cooking was simply natural to their ‘‘body hexis’’ (Bourdieu, 1977: 87).
Dinner rituals orienting everyday life
In most middle-class households the question of what the household will do for
dinner, in part, orients the day. It typically marks the time when household mem-
bers reconvene after spending the day at work, school or day care. Magia, a 39
year-old former teacher who lives with her husband and three children, aged three,
nine and 11 years old, says that she ponders over supper during her morning
shower. When she cooks, approximately four times a week, she considers what
her family might like, what ingredients she has on hand, and whether or not she
needs to shop. Conversations with family members often center on meal prefer-
ences. Thus, dinner provides a framework for living in terms of how the cook will
carry out dinner preparations during the day and how the family will gather for
commensality at the end of the day. This allows everyone in the family to partici-
pate and imagine the return home, the meal and the interaction that will take place.
Through imagining the supper event, family members construct the other with
thoughts, emotions and images of each other in the same way that Miller (1998)
describes food shopping. Like shopping, cooking is more than routine provision-
ing. It is a ritual that constitutes and affirms social relationships.
How creativity arises from indeterminacy
The daily dinner ritual is a meaningful focal point of the day for the family and a
creative moment for the cook. Recent anthropological work considers ritual not
only a specialized occasion set apart from ordinary life but a meaningful or poetic
aspect of all experience (Sutton, 2001). In other words, creativity occurs in liminal
space (Turner, 1967) and in everyday life (Pope, 2005; Rosaldo et al., 1993). Home
cooked meals are creative even if the cook attempts to follow a recipe exactly,
because the circumstances surrounding any repeated activity alter the process
and outcome. People recognize indeterminacy in creativity when they say things
like ‘‘this is better than last time,’’ or ‘‘this is the best you’ve ever made it.’’ In other
words, improvisation belongs to time, not history, because consciousness may be
guided by the past but not determined by it (Ingold and Hallam, 2007).
Indeterminacy also arises from mothers electing to cook a dish they have never
served. This occurs in response to clamor from family members for something
different or from the cook’s own desire to prepare something new. Here, we see
the cultural role of boredom as an emotion (Sunderland and Denny, 2007) in
relation to food and family meals. Since the US family palette becomes bored
with repetition, boredom is an impetus for creativity that is framed in terms of
the senses, especially taste. When trying out new recipes, mothers typically change
the recipe to suit the tastes of family members. Magia says she tweaks every recipe
based on what she knows each member of the family enjoys. For example, she
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recently bought pork tenderloin for the first time, went online to find a recipe, and
made substitutions for ingredients her family does not like. Substituting cinnamon
for cumin met with success. The modified recipe is now a family favorite. Of course,
improvising may not meet with success because family members may not enjoy the
dish, but this is judging the result and taking a backward look at creativity. Our
point is that a mother’s knowledge of family taste preferences inspires as well as
frames the way she incorporates new recipes into her repertoire. If recipes are
cultural prescriptions for cooking (Brownlie et al., 2005), then tweaking a new
recipe reflects how creativity is enabled and constrained.
Anthropologists point out that creativity thrives on indeterminacy. The open
spaces and indeterminacies in social life lead people to reach for meaning and
therefore to construct themselves and their society (Bruner, 1993: 332).
Responding to the unexpected promotes the human capacity for improvisation,
and improvisation can be celebrated as a cultural value of creativity (Rosaldo,
1993: 256). This aspect of creativity is akin to the habitus as a system of dispositions
that allow strategy and improvisation (Bourdieu, 1977). Moeran writes:
Habitus was designed to account for the obvious creativity and inventiveness shown
by individual actors in their everyday lives, while at the same time recognizing that
their behaviour was to some degree regulated and orchestrated by the social environ-
ment in which they had been brought up and were living (2005: 152).
Social practices and things are not created ex nihilo. As Rosaldo and his col-
leagues point out, ‘‘Invention takes place within a field of culturally available
possibilities, rather than being without precedent’’ (1993: 5). Home cooking prac-
tices show how the field is not completely open-ended. The creativity of the home
cooked dinner is shaped by what the cook knows or imagines will please her family.
The meal is not completely novel or original because it accommodates her percep-
tions and experiences of family tastes. Thus, creativity addresses the relation
between agency and structure because preparing something new for dinner is moti-
vated by boredom, a wish for change and willingness to expand the limits of one’s
cooking abilities. Yet, it is also bounded by family preferences and the cook’s desire
to prepare food the family will enjoy.
Cooking as self-expression
Home cooks are craft consumers who engage in creative acts of self-expression
(Campbell, 2005). According to Campbell, the growth of craft consumption in
contemporary western societies goes hand-in-hand with commodification. He
writes that craft consumption is ‘‘an oasis of personal self-expression and authen-
ticity in what is an ever-widening ‘desert’ of commodification and marketization’’
(2005: 37). He attributes the rise in craft consumption to deprofessionalization of
the middle class, a current trend that does to the middle class what industrialization
did to the working class, i.e. divert creative human energies from the workplace to
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leisure time activities. Home cooking exemplifies the creativity of craft consump-
tion because the cook engages in designing and making as well as consuming a
meal. Of course, the design of family meals today occurs within the broader context
of a globalized industrial food system and the counter-trend of using fresh local
food to create dishes that are more healthy, attractive and colorful.
The cook combines ingredients as she sees fit to produce a meal that will satisfy
the taste preferences of family members. This creative process of selecting and
putting together items leads to a subjectivity that includes a confident, skilled,
caring and nurturing person who cooks for the family. A home cooked meal
encompasses creativity and personal accomplishment and thus represents a differ-
entiated sense of self (Moisio et al., 2004). Creativity takes the cultural form of the
cook’s identity and pride. Mothers may try a food then modify it slightly to become
something new and different. Adapting recipes within a familiar framework is both
grounds for creative expression and a mark of personal identification and pride. If
foods are ‘‘too far out,’’ such as cooking something exotic, there is not only fear of
rejection from her family, but also a cook is less likely to receive recognition for her
efforts. The tension between difference and familiarity is evident for the cook to
receive recognition for cooking a meal, since change creates value (Appadurai,
1986). Still, familiarity with a food or recipe is the base from which a new and
different meal is made. Creativity in daily cooking is most evident, then, not in wild
new dishes or experiments, but rather in small changes of appearance and new
names that signal difference from a familiar base. Improvisation occurs here as a
product of relations and interactions in a field of strategic possibilities (Bourdieu,
1993: 34). As Bourdieu explains the dynamics of fields, active changes within a
system, such as substituting or modifying ingredients, are defined in relation to
other positions within a system. From any movement of or among these positions
relative to the whole, their value is determined (1993: 30). The implication is that
slight variations on a single meal idea are powerful grounds for newness, difference
and creativity. Slight variations allow the cook to put herself into the recipe and
make it hers. She then gets recognition for it: ‘‘I did this.’’ Creative cooking prac-
tices celebrate motherhood by delivering internal rewards in terms of personal
satisfaction and self-esteem.
Cooking creatively is a transitional space that prepares for motherhood. The
tension between boredom and inspiration changes across the life cycle of women
who cook for their family. Early adult years of learning to cook are marked by trial
and error in acquiring cooking skills and discovering what ingredients and flavors
go well together. At this learning stage, a sense of adventure and fear of failure run
high while boredom remains low. Then, during the years of raising children, cre-
ativity plateaus as mothers master dishes and develop a repertoire in response to
family tastes. Boredom sets in, which women describe as ‘‘being in a rut.’’ They
repeat recipes the family likes and do not stray far from family tastes when trying
something new. Cooking at this point in life is oriented to others and the satisfac-
tion of preparing what they enjoy. Empty nesters typically revert to being more
adventurous in the kitchen. Lynn, a 50-year-old working woman who raised two
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children and has been an empty nester for three years, feels excited about cooking
for herself and her spouse. She speaks of stepping ‘‘outside the box’’ because their
palettes are different from their kids. When we visited her home, Lynn made spa-
ghetti carbonara accompanied by a fresh green salad with vegetables from their
home garden, a meal she would not have served her children. For her, creativity
reignites an adrenalin rush that comes from experimentation. The self-expressive
aspect of creativity resumes a role of importance in cooking during these later years
of life. Thus, cooking practices are differentiated across the life cycle by experience
and inexperience and by the emotional states of adventure and boredom.
The relational nature of creativity
Mothers also receive inspiration and motivation from family and friends, which
reveal the relational nature of creativity (Ingold and Hallam, 2007). This relational
aspect of creativity is what ethnographic analysis of creative arts such as storytell-
ing in small-scale societies has identified (McLean, 2009). Home cooking is oriented
to others in many ways. Cooks have favorite pots, pans and utensils in the kitchen
such as a particular frying pan or a stew pot that they love to use in cooking. Like
other commodities, these pots and pans acquire a social life (Kopytoff, 1986) and
contain memories of cooking successes and failures, and shared meal experiences.
By using these pots and pans with their social history and meaning, food commod-
ities are transformed into family meals or inalienable objects (Miller, 1998).
Favorite pots and pans provide one example of possessions that reflect the rela-
tional nature of creativity. All the things a cook keeps in the kitchen (e.g. spices,
pantry staples and dry goods) are deemed necessary elements for combining into
something suited to family tastes. Kitchen possessions show the rootedness of the
cook in the home as a producer of meals for the household. They also indicate how
creativity or change develops out of the structure or organization (possessions) of
the kitchen. Creativity flows from an organized, structured context that has social
Feeling inspired to cook also orients a world of social relationships in ways that
mothers express care and concern for the self and others. Creative inspiration
comes from emotional thoughts of others, and is not simply indifferent. Food
itself may be objectified, but cooking and preparing a meal is a personal and
social transformation of that food into something meant to please or excite
others. Meal preparation involves the creative act of constructing social relations,
personal ties, and shared emotional space with others. Food preparation is essen-
tial to how we imagine and construct relations with others (Miller, 1998). As with
devotional love in overcoming the drudgery of everyday provisional shopping,
what Miller writes could also be said about cooking, that the act is:
...dominated by your imagination of others, of what they desire of you and their
response to you; it is about relationships to those who require something of you. Often
these are relationships of devotion, mainly routine devotion, that may be deep or may
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be superficial, and are mainly taken for granted, except where the choice becomes a
sign that you have shown some care (1998: 3–4).
There is also an embodied sensibility to cooking (Sutton, 2001) that reflects the
relational nature of creativity. The sensuous experience of cooking involves the
cook and other household members. Through seeing, smelling, tasting, stirring and
mixing ingredients, a cook produces a meal and enjoys the sensuality of cooking.
At the same time, the family gains sensuous pleasure from the smell of food wafting
through the home. People are first drawn to food though their senses. The embo-
died dimension of sensory experience extends into the cognitive dimension of
thinking, planning and feeling inspired about foods and meal preparation.
Mothers in our study reported taking cooking books or magazines with them to
the market to shop, or reading magazines in the library or during free time at home.
As one mother said, ‘‘I want to taste and smell the food right off the page.’’ One
mother brought a magazine with her to her son’s soccer practice to read while
waiting. Other mothers used magazines to kick back and read slowly, describing
the activity as ‘‘my therapy.’’ Magazines created a palpable space and time for
recipes that was distinct from online experiences, where they could relax and con-
template recipes in magazines. This shows that for meal ideas, the internet was used
more as means to an end, not an end in itself. The internet was a fast tool to help
them search out meal ideas quickly, but was not creatively employed for contem-
plating or imagining family togetherness at mealtime. Magazines were the preferred
choice to imagine family meals together.
Common to both online and print experiences, women were drawn to highly
visual pictures that influence their decisions for meals. The more vivid the images
were, the more women imagined a meal possibility. In particular, pictures that
showed people eating together in the ‘‘real world,’’ such as family or friends gathered
around a table, appealed to women as more real and became more meaningful than
just pictures of food alone. Making meals ‘‘real,’’ as we recommended to the food
company, means bringing food into an everyday busy framework that orients a sense
of time pressures, familiar tastes, visual appeal and happy family gatherings.
Cooking and recreating the family
Cooking engenders sharing, a fundamental form of consumer behavior distinct
from commodity exchange and gift giving (Belk, 2010). Sharing a home cooked
meal reproduces the family and can dissolve interpersonal boundaries within the
family otherwise established through materialism and possession of objects of
material culture (e.g. my computer, your clothes). This occurs with cooking
because the meals produced incorporate the taste preferences of everyone in the
household. As a result, meals reflect family identity. The family dinner is a meto-
nym of the family itself through which people recognize themselves as families
(Ashley et al., 2004). Cooking transforms nature and links us to others in a
nexus of family relations.
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When a family has supper together, the food acts as a boundary marker encod-
ing a message about the identity of the family and their taste preferences (Douglas,
1975). The message which separates ‘‘our family’’ from other families is enacted
daily. It creates a sense of belonging among members of the household. The cooks
in our ethnographic studies always emphasized the importance of commensality, of
coming together as a family, sitting at the table, talking and sharing stories about
their everyday lives. Although family dinner discourse may vary by social class
(Southerton, 2001), the discourse and shared stories renew family bonds.
The generative nature of creativity
Cooking is a form of cultural production and embodied practice that reproduces
the family as a dynamic unit. Over time individuals develop and grow as human
beings. Their taste preferences also change during this maturation process. As a
result, the family dinner is a performance that tracks and confirms family identity.
The creativity of cooking is generative in how it defines and redefines the bounded
entity called family; however, it is constituted through a changing repertoire of
meals. Recalling dishes formerly enjoyed but no longer part of the repertoire, such
as homemade chicken nuggets, speaks mnemonically to the enduring family group.
Family meals over time narrate a history of family identity. Indeed, family identity
through food is ardent enough to be passed on generationally through hand-
written recipes of, for example, mother’s spaghetti sauce, that upon first sight
are able to immediately evoke tears of remembrances, as we have observed.
The creativity of cooking is also generative in terms of providing a focus for
family memory practices and formation of prospective memories (Sutton, 2001).
The taste of specific foods and meals become an embodied experience for future
remembrance. We tend to think of holiday meals in this regard (Wallendorf and
Arnould, 1991), but everyday dishes also generate memories for the future. For
example, a set of grandparents in our ethnographic studies were excited about
preparing lunch for their young grandchildren that included a can of plain
tomato soup to which they added elbow macaroni because that is how their son,
the father of their grandchildren, liked to eat it when he was a child. Thus, cooking
has power to create memories of family and values it represents through a shifting
sensorium (tasting, smelling, hearing, seeing food to be consumed). Memories
reflect the sharing, caring and nurturing of social bonds in the home.
Another relational aspect of generativity in cooking is the trust that family
members have in mothers to improvise and produce meals they will enjoy. The
importance of trust arises from the indeterminacy of cooking as described above.
Moeran (2011) argues that trust is a deciding factor in the creativity of cultural
production because of uncertainty surrounding the final result. Even if a particular
meal does not please the taste buds of everyone, there is a shared feeling of assur-
ance that mothers will take their reactions into consideration for future meals. In
fact, such reactions do become part of a mother’s store of knowledge about family
preferences that she uses in planning and preparing subsequent dinner foods.
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Creativity in this relational sense reflects values embedded in creative cooking
practices; namely, recreating the family with meals that satisfy the senses of
Creativity and the politics of food
Decisions about what to cook for dinner occur within a politics of food that has
sparked recent scholarly interest in food (Coleman, 2011; Counihan and Van
Esterik, 2008; Press and Arnould, 2011). The politics of food affect cooking cre-
ativity in key ways. Women today want to cook meals that are ‘‘more healthy’’ for
their families, where healthier is defined in contradistinction to industrial agricul-
ture, poor nutrition and rising rates of obesity (Ritzer, 2004; Schlosser, 2002).
Awareness of the importance of incorporating more fresh vegetables and fruits,
especially locally grown ones, has infused cooking practices. For example, a young
couple in our study cooked a meal of grilled pork, grilled yellow and green squash,
and fresh red raspberries and strawberries. They described the food on their plates
as healthy, colorful and inviting to eat. In other families, a mother made a green
salad to accompany ordered-in pizza, while another cooked a pasta dish with fresh
vegetables to accompany an entre
e bought at a supermarket. Yet this attention to
adding more fresh produce in meals takes place within the limits of family prefer-
ences. Creative use of fresh food to make meals healthier is constrained by what the
family will eat and also by other factors such as time and budgets. Some people can
afford to express their food values by purchasing local, organic and fair trade fruits
and vegetables, while others find these foods too expensive, and instead opt for
frozen vegetables.
Home cooks are comfortable combining fresh, prepared and packaged foods in
meal preparations. Since World War II, when the food industry developed tech-
nologies for preserving food, consumers have become accustomed to using frozen,
canned, instant and dehydrated foods (Shapiro, 2004). Due to their ease of use, low
cost and place within family repertoires of favorites, they are staples in many
homes. Anita, a 28 year-old hospital ER technician who has been married for
three years, assembled a dinner for herself and her husband one evening while
we conducted ethnographic research in her home. She designed a balanced meal
with foods they enjoy including grilled meat, a box of instant mashed potatoes,
frozen corn on the cob and a fresh salad. Although she is an accomplished cook,
and prepares whole meals ‘‘from scratch’’ when she has time and inclination, her
choices that evening reflected the relational and generative nature of creativity. She
prepared foods that would please herself and her spouse, yet allowed them time
together. The creative act involved designing the meal, combining specific ingredi-
ents in response to household tastes, and sharing the meal as a way to renew social
bonds. Incorporating packaged food into meals redefines cooking ‘‘from scratch’’
and can invoke the deskilling argument (Short, 2006). As Short argues, the deskill-
ing argument only recognizes ‘‘proper cooking,’’ that is, from scratch with all fresh
and raw foods, an argument which privileges ‘‘proper cooking’’ as nostalgia and a
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badge of honor (2006: 103). Yet, women who re-define cooking ‘‘from scratch’’ by
incorporating packaged food into meals do not nullify the symbolic meanings
attached to homemade (Moisio et al., 2004). Rather, creative agency is spurred
by women’s desire to cook meals her family will enjoy and foster commensality.
Creativity expresses an ideological dimension because cooking practices are
embedded in the politics of food and reflect changing cultural values of everyday
life. Through everyday creativity in the kitchen, women express values in relation
to food, family and industrial agriculture. Most mothers choose to cook fewer than
seven nights a week to accommodate busy lifestyles based on values such as self-
fulfillment, engagement with the world and retaining youthfulness. While mothers
support the involvement of family members in activities outside the home, they are
also keenly aware of accentuating time together. One mother, for instance, makes a
point of teaching her 10 and 12 year-old children how to cook at home instead of
buying the packaged foods they desire in the supermarket. We watched another
mother teach her eight and 10 year-old sons how to bread and saute
chicken nug-
gets. Working side-by-side in the kitchen, the woman passed along creative cooking
skills and values to the next generation. These practices show that the concept of
creativity is political and contested (Woronov, 2008). The meanings that middle-
class mothers ascribe to creative cooking differ from those provided by industrial
agriculture solutions in deciding what to prepare for dinner.
Anthropologists employed in advertising and marketing research, as we have been,
can augment the generalized views of consumers that corporations typically hold
(Malefyt and Morais, 2012). This benefits corporations since many base their
advertising, marketing plans and new product developments on particular views
of consumers. One such view we challenged is that home cooking is moribund and
mothers are no longer inspired by meal preparation. Because anthropologists
explore more holistic perspectives of consumers’ lives, we see other social and
material connections beyond consumers’ relationship with a given brand or prod-
uct in question. This holistic outlook leads to insights that expand the use and
scope of the brand. In our case, we explored the social and emotional world of
women who cook, beyond just making meals, and saw how women’s interconnec-
tions with aspects of their ‘‘creative selves’’ and family lives actively enhanced
relations with others, and contributed to feelings of motherhood.
Creative cooking practices elevate and celebrate motherhood. Our ethnographic
picture leads us to conclude that cooking has risen in the hierarchies of practices
(Warde, 2005). Rather than regarding family meal preparation as a mundane chore
or an ‘‘issue’’ for mothers balancing work with family life (DeVault, 1991), we
claim cooking delivers internal and external rewards. Pleasing her family with
healthy and good tasting meals grants mothers a deep sense of satisfaction and
self-esteem. At the same time, creative cooking practices build social and cultural
capital. Family members give praise and recognition for meals they delight in.
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By providing food and time for enjoying each other, mothers re-create the family in
the present, validate its identity over time, and mnemonically direct its future.
Cooking and motherhood are generative of myriad social relations that help sus-
tain the family.
From our research we surmise that creativity in cooking does not occur ‘‘out
there’’ in a vacuum. It occurs in daily life shaped by the constraints of time, money,
ingredients, family preferences, and by imagining a meal made from familiar fla-
vors and ingredients that surround everyday life. Meal ideas for mothers in par-
ticular are gleaned from the immediate world of lived experiences, as creativity is
grounded in personal relations, familiarity with ingredients, and in what is known,
both from the aspect of other people as sources, and from foods and flavor profiles
that are familiar.
Creativity of cooking in everyday life highlights a perspective on transformation
that adds to theoretical understanding of social change. Theories of domination,
such as Gramsci’s concept of hegemony (Gramsci, 2010), Foucault’s notion of
knowledge as power (Foucault, 1980) and Marx’s notion of capital and owning
the means of production (Marx, 1992), have emphasized structure and power,
where change is imposed from dominant structures ‘‘above.’’ From this viewpoint,
agency lies in the hands of the powerful elite. In theories of resistance, on the other
hand, agency comes from the hands of revolutionaries ‘‘below’’ who attempt to
refashion consciousness and protest institutions, policies and persons in power.
We argue that forms of power do not inform the best way to understand home
cooking practices, even though mothers resist industrial agriculture, as the growing
popularity of farmers markets and home gardens in this country attests. Cooking
practices show, instead, that ‘‘home cooks’’ are more than resistant. They are
actively creative in producing something new that is grounded in the familiar, as
they are responsive to a network of social relations. By looking at the constraints of
creative cooking practices, we see how agency and structure are mutually impli-
cated in bringing about change (McCabe and Fabri, 2012). Agency is influenced by
a culturally constructed sense of boredom, by the trust that a family places in their
mother, and by her perceived level of cooking ability. At the same time, meals are
structured according to constraints of family taste preferences as well as time,
budgets and resources in the home, and the politicized appropriateness of certain
foods, such as local, organic or something else. Improvisation in cooking thus
mediates both agency and structure, and constitutes a normalized practice of every-
day life.
Creativity involves change and the reverse holds true, that change involves cre-
ativity. In the case of home cooking practices, women value the small and subtle
improvisational changes they make as natural to self-expression, pleasing the
family with sensory experiences, and recreating the bonds of family life through
motherhood. Women also embrace change as they creatively adapt cooking prac-
tices to changing conditions throughout stages of life and motherhood. Creativity
is thus a vital yet often unrecognized dimension of motherhood that seeks to be
acknowledged in this and further studies.
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This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial,
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Author Biographies
Maryann McCabe is senior lecturer at the University of Rochester. She is founder
and principal of Cultural Connections LLC, a marketing research consultancy in
Rochester, NY. Her ethnographic research involves US cultural practices, relations
between producers and consumers, and social change. At the University of
Rochester, she works with students who do an entrepreneurial study year.
Timothy de Waal Malefyt is visiting associate professor at Fordham University
Business School in NYC. Previously, he worked in advertising for over 15 years
as Director of Cultural Discoveries for BBDO Worldwide advertising in NYC, and
at D’Arcy, Masius, Benton & Bowles in Detroit. He holds a Ph.D. in anthropology
from Brown University, is co-editor of Advertising Cultures (2003), co-author of
Advertising and Anthropology (2012), and co-chair of EPIC conference for 2013. He
is frequently cited in Business Week, New York Times, USA TODAY, among
other media.
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... Sense of achievement, while cooking aligns with the social cognitive theory (Bandura, 2005), which describes people as agents who intentionally influence their functioning and life circumstances. From this perspective, a home cooked meal then provides an opportunity for personal accomplishment and improved life functioning, as has been described in qualitative research with women and families (Moisio et al., 2004;McCabe and de Waal Malefyt, 2015). Interestingly, this may link achievement to the domain of positive emotion. ...
... Present moment awareness is also linked to enhanced creativity (Greenberg et al., 2012). Cooking offers numerous opportunities to express oneself creatively according to qualitative research, including exploring new foods and flavor profiles; examining how ingredients work together; successfully preparing meals despite time, money, or family preference constraints; creating dishes that are visually pleasing or colorful, and recreating meals seen outside the home (Short, 2003;Gatley et al., 2014;McCabe and de Waal Malefyt, 2015). Despite the potential connection between cooking and present moment awareness, there currently is limited empirical evidence regarding this connection in the literature. ...
... Lastly, gender differences in the current pandemic with respect to cooking and food are emerging in the literature (Leddy et al., 2020). These pandemic related disparities may lead to a differential in threats to wellbeing related to cooking and other family related duties, as women more often deal with "double duty" and the "second shift" at home with meal preparation (McCabe and de Waal Malefyt, 2015). ...
Full-text available
The prevalence of psychosocial distress is increasing in the United States. At the same time, the American default lifestyle has steadily displaced household food production with industrial food production, despite increased cultural interest in cooking. An important focus of cooking research to date has been on cooking’s association with nutrition and dietary quality. Less focus has been placed on how cooking might foster the qualities that allow for mitigation of psychosocial distress and promote well-being. Rooted in its evolutionary role in the human experience, cooking requires skills and knowledge that have the capacity to encourage aspects of well-being as described by Seligman as flourishing. Evidence for a beneficial role of cooking in psychosocial health exists, but the exploration is limited, potentially due to lack of a theoretical context to explain these benefits. From this perspective, we review the current literature showing the application of Seligman’s prominent well-being model, Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment (PERMA), to cooking, defined as the activity related to the preparation of food or a meal. We propose that the PERMA model as applied to cooking may function as a theoretical framework to explore psychosocial outcomes associated with cooking. Broader application of this approach may also help to further the application of positive psychology in the developing literature around psychosocial health and nutrition-related chronic diseases.
... 2) observes, "the relationship between families and food is socially significant, personally engaging, emotionally charged and politically contested". Thus, food-related practices and meanings in family life have received considerable scholarly attention (DeVault, 1991;McCabe & de Waal Malefyt, 2015), as have the implications for individual, relational and collective family identities (Cappellini et al., 2019;Epp & Price, 2018). Most studies have focused on food practices and meanings within the nuclear family, leaving grandparents' roles, identities and relationships underexplored (Curtis et al., 2009;Pankhurst et al., 2019;Rogers et al., 2019)). ...
... Much feeding takes place within family settings, and food is deeply bound up with the construction and reconstruction of family roles and relationships and indeed family itself (Cappellini et al., 2019;Coccia & Darling, 2017;DeVault, 1991;Jackson, 2009). Family food consumption is also bound up with contemporary political and moral agendas surrounding the provision of fresh produce and healthy eating choices and practices, not least in relation to global concerns about childhood obesity and the balance of healthy and unhealthy food in children's diets (James & Curtis, 2010;McCabe & de Waal Malefyt, 2015;UNICEF, 2019). ...
... Grandparent-grandchild relationships are mentioned only briefly by Epp and Price (2008), and do not feature at all in Epp and Price's (2018) discussion of how feeding the family is affected by changes in home life and the organization of care. Other studies of family identity and food consumption have focused on nuclear family dynamics (Cappellini & Parsons, 2012;McCabe & de Waal Malefyt, 2015), with only fleeting references to grandparents and grandchildren (e.g. Chitakunye & Maclaran, 2012;Moisio et al., 2004). ...
Both grandparenting and food provisioning practices play an important role in contemporary family life, but the role of food in grandparent-grandchild and wider family relationships is under-researched. Popular and academic discourse often focuses on grandparents as indulgent feeders, with negative implications for children’s weight and eating practices. Drawing on the concept of family identity bundles and interviews with Danish and New Zealand grandparents and grandchildren, it was found that, for both generations, being alone together was a treat in itself and a time for treats, although they were fluent in the discourse of balance and moderation. Grandparents’ food-related practices were shaped by the internalized as well as actual presence of the parents, but they tended to experience rather than express tensions over parental feeding practices. These findings offer a nuanced account of grandparents’ role in children’s (un)healthy eating practices, and of the role of food in intergenerational family relationships.
... The family dinner has been seen as a metonym of the family itself through which people recognize themselves as families (Bugge & Almas, 2006;Moisio et al., 2004). Studies highlight the collective outcomes of creative foodwork observing its potential to build social and cultural capital and validate family identity over time (McCabe & de Waal Malefyt, 2015). While much more work is needed to explore the intersections between mothering, race, class and foodwork, Pamela Attlee's systematic review of research on low income mothers, nutrition and health found "striking similarities in women's accounts of caring for children in poverty" (2005: p. 230), in samples which were ethnically diverse. ...
... This is what emerged in talking to Rose about the meals she provides to her 3-year-old son, Jon. Rose compares her standards of a good meal (fresh food cooked from scratch) with the ones of her friend (processed food) and she distances herself from a diet that she does not consider appropriate for her family (living off frozen food). Interestingly caring for her children seems to translate into a care for self as feeling competent and being creative in foodwork seem for her to be significant sources of self-esteem, and self-worth (Cappellini et al., 2019;McCabe & de Waal Malefyt, 2015). As she says: ...
... Rather than being oriented towards attaching value to their self via the future accrual of capital, foodwork is rooted in present relations of care saturated with past affective experiences where relationships are "cemented on the basis of memories of intimacy and care." (Lewis, 2016, p. 10 While creativity is seen as a way in which white middle-class mothers escape the boredom of their routinized cooking (McCabe & de Waal Malefyt, 2015) for Katie and many other participants, creativity is in balancing children's preferences in providing a variety of "good" food which she knows they will appreciate. This logic of care also enfolds a very different understanding of the individual. ...
Full-text available
In this paper we analyse the foodwork of mothers when feeding their families on low and reduced incomes. By exploring their accounts of food shopping and household budgeting, we argue that foodwork is intrinsically linked to other areas of social life and dominant values associated with ‘good mothering’. Through a careful consideration of the contexts and relations in which foodwork is valued, embedded and made meaningful we draw two key conclusions. First, we find that mothers’ foodwork is oriented towards avoiding devaluation and maintaining a level of respectability as opposed to accumulating cultural capital. Second, we introduce the concept of foodcare arguing that it potentially offers low income mothers an alternative to the logic of capital for their demonstration of self worth. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.
... Instead of providing individuals with 86 ever more information about what or how they should be cooking, a practice approach 87 prioritises changing the unthinking elements which establish cooking habits and perpetuate 88 inequalities in unhealthy eating in the first place. Previous academic studies have already 89 demonstrated the potential benefits of adopting a practice-theoretical approach to cooking 90 and eating and have made a significant contribution to cooking scholarship in a wide range of 91 areas, including typologizing everyday cooking styles (Halkier, 2009), exploring the interaction 92 of elements of cooking through auto-ethnographical videos (Torkkeli et al., 2018), examining 93 how a new type of food processor affects cooking habits (Truninger, 2011), considering the 94 translation of cooking classes into daily practices (Dyen & Sirieix, 2016) and even using 95 cooking practice to explore the conditions and constraints giving rise to creative behaviours 96 (McCabe & de Waal Malefyt, 2015). However, few practice-based accounts have focused on 97 healthy eating and few, if any, have adopted a practice-based approach to explore 98 inequalities in healthy cooking and eating. ...
... Through focusing on the 206 interconnection of these non-conscious elements involved in the situated doing of cooking, 207 taking a practice approach puts habitual doing centre stage, acknowledging that food 208 preparation performances are a product of the patterns of our lives as much as our intent. 209 210 As previously noted, a host of academic studies have already demonstrated the potential 211 benefits of adopting a practice-theoretical approach to cooking and eating and have made a 212 significant contribution to cooking scholarship (see Halkier, 2009;Torkkeli et al., 2018;213 Truninger, 2011;Dyen & Sirieix, 2016;McCabe & de Waal Malefyt, 2015). However, few 214 practice-based accounts have focused on healthy eating and few, if any, have adopted a 215 practice-based approach to explore inequalities in healthy cooking and eating. ...
... Mothers were 253 chosen to be the study participants because they still tend to be at the centre of what the 254 household eatsdoing more of the food-work than fathers in 2/3 of cases according to a 255 recent study (O'Connell & Brannen, 2016;Carrigan & Szmigin, 2006;Elfhag, et al., 2008;256 Draxten et al., 2014). As a wide literature attests, the context of mothering in itself is clearly 257 important in shaping eating practices (Fielding-Singh & Wang, 2017;Harman & Cappellini, 258 2015;Malhotra et al., 2013;McCabe et al., 2015;McIntosh et al., 2010;Carrigan & Szmigin, 259 2006;Bugge & Almås, 2006) and would be worthy of a separate study in its own right. In this 260 paper, whilst we do discuss certain differences around expectations and performances of 261 motherhood between different social groups, it is fair to say that these are not as central to 262 our account as the connections between social inequality and cooking practices more 263 generally. ...
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In the UK the way we eat has become the biggest cause of preventable illness and death, placing a huge burden on our health system. Studies have found this is particularly true for those in more deprived areas. In the context of cheap ultra-processed foods, public health interventions to reduce this healthy eating gap often promote cooking 'from scratch' as a means of making increased fruit and vegetable consumption affordable on a tight budget. However the effectiveness of such healthy cooking interventions is debated. This research sought to address this problem by using practice theory to highlight previously overlooked non-cognitive factors involved in everyday cooking performances and consider how they might affect inequalities in healthy eating. Our findings are based on in-depth qualitative research with 25 mothers (including interviews and cooking observations) and a quantitative survey of 310 respondents. In the first section we build the case that cooking is better understood as a practice by outlining the different non-cognitive elements involved in mundane performances of cooking at home (focusing on materials, meanings and competencies). In the second section we focus on the complex relationships between social deprivation, diet and cooking practices, exploring the underexamined links between macro-scale social inequalities and the more micro-scale repeated performances of everyday activities. More specifically we show how social deprivation can impact upon the materials, meanings and competencies of cooking practices in ways that severely limit the capacity for those in more deprived areas to frequently cook with healthier unprocessed ingredients. Finally, we contend that by viewing cooking as a practice and by designing interventions based on this foundation it would be possible to achieve significant benefits to public health.
... Participants also highlight the value of cooking as a space to connect with others, in some cases in the preparation of food and in others, in the act of sharing it at the family table. Current studies (Beghetto, Kaufman, & Hatcher, 2016;McCabe & de Waal Malefyt, 2015) indicate that cooking is an activity conducive to the development of creative processes, as it allows original combinations and generating novel products in certain sociocultural contexts. ...
... Deployment of creative processes in everyday contexts seems to be a promoter of health in a broad sense, since it fosters positive emotions related to personal expression, self-regulation, and self-realization. Previous studies of everyday creativity (Gandolfo & Marty, 2010;McCabe, 2015;Pollanen, 2015) also point out the positive effects of creative activities in the processes of selfconfidence, self-esteem, and identity construction. Similarly, development of creative processes promotes autonomy, personal development, and communication with other people. ...
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The main objective was to study creative processes in isolation by COVID-19. We analyzed, from the participants’ perspective, activities, emotions, and motivations linked to everyday creativity in quarantine. The study was carried out between March 27 and April 12, 2020, in Argentina, during Social and Preventive Isolation by COVID-19. The sample included 302 men and women who lived in different provinces in Argentina: Córdoba, Buenos Aires, San Luis, La Pampa, and San Juan. The participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 77 years. All participants answered an online questionnaire with open-ended questions. We analyzed textual data, images, and videos with ATLAS.TI8. From qualitative analyses, we elaborated four categories: With things we had at home: creative activities in isolation; Alone, but not so alone; Being and feeling in isolation; Creativity, motivations, and quarantine. The results indicated that most participants carried out various creative activities in quarantine. These activities generated positive emotions and allowed to face negative emotions related to the pandemic. The motivations had been varied, although reasons related to enjoyment, coping, and sharing with other people are predominant. Apparent paradoxes arise from the analysis of everyday creativity in the time of COVID-19. The knowledge produced in the study can contribute to formulate psychological interventions and public health policies during a pandemic.
... En este sentido, destacamos la importancia de los procesos creativos como oportunidades para la expresión personal, la comunicación de emociones y la autorrealización. Estudios anteriores subrayan la relevancia de la expresión creativa en el bienestar y la salud de las personas (Gandolfo y Marty, 2010;McCabe, 2015;Pollanen, 2015). ...
... El despliegue de procesos creativos en contextos cotidianos parece ser un promotor de la salud en un sentido amplio, ya que fomenta las emociones positivas relacionadas con la expresión personal, la autorregulación y la autorrealización. Los estudios previos de creatividad cotidiana (Gandolfo y Marty, 2010;McCabe, 2015;Pollanen, 2015) también señalan los efectos positivos de las actividades creativas en los procesos de autoconfianza, autoestima y construcción de identidad. Del mismo modo, el desarrollo de procesos creativos promueve la autonomía, el desarrollo personal y la comunicación con otras personas. ...
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Current studies indicate that creativity is a potential that can be deployed in different contexts. The aim of this paper is to analyze, from the perspective of the actors, constructed meanings regarding their own creative processes, considering conceptions, activities and emotions that condition creativity. We present a qualitative study developed in two stages. In the first moment, 200 adults (between 18 and 78 years old) from Río Cuarto (Argentina) participated by answering a questionnaire about everyday creativity. In the second stage, we interviewed 20 people selected from the initial sample. The interviews centered on the contexts proposed for creativity, focusing on educational environments. The results indicate that creativity is a potential of all people that can be deployed in the most diverse daily activities. We observed links between creative activities, positive emotions and personal satisfaction. Creativity, the complex process that includes subjective and contextual components, requires certain cognitive, personal, social and cultural conditions for deployment in different areas. Creating creative educational contexts involves commitments and risks, and educational policies need to be more open in order to allow for interstices for innovation.
... This is reflected in the increasing number of cookbooks that are sold annually, TV shows, online courses, and tutorials available on the subject. Food preparation is a meaningful real-world task that can boost creativity (McCabe and de Waal Malefyt, 2015) and have a positive impact on the self-esteem of people (Farmer et al., 2018). When food preparation occurs collaboratively, it strengthens social bonds by reinforcing family relationships, initiating and underpinning friendship (Wrangham et al., 1999). ...
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Researchers have been interested in the investigation of the interactive functions of questions in conversational contexts. However, limited research has been conducted on the interactive functions of questions in embodied collaborative work, that is, work that involves the manipulation of physical objects. This study aimed to identify the interactive functions of questions in embodied collaborative work. To do so, we conducted a systematic qualitative analysis of a dataset of 1,751 question-answer sequences collected from an experimental study where pairs of participants (N = 67) completed a collaborative food preparation task. The qualitative analysis enabled us to identify three functions of questions: anticipation questions, exploration questions, and confirmation questions. We have discussed in this study how the types of questions identified are associated with: (i) the accomplishment of interactional goals and (ii) complementary temporalities in the collaborative activities.
... Regarding units of analysis, families were the most popular in the third wave (Chitakunye & Maclaran, 2014;Epp & Price, 2008, 2010Hand & Shove, 2007;McCabe and Malefyt 2015;Money, 2007;Türe & Ger, 2016). Some communities were also investigated and, recently, Rulikova (2020) delivered an excellent contribution with a macrolevel investigation, following the biography of secondhand clothing in a post-socialist country. ...
The process of commoditization-singularization, as developed by Kopytoff, is a compelling concept for understanding market exchange, and has been explored predominantly by scholars of consumer culture theoretics. The concept allows us to examine complex interactions between people, objects, and the dynamics of a market, and the literature based on it has illuminated the intricate tensions and contradictions within and between spheres of exchange. The use of the concept, however , is not without problems since some studies have applied dualistic or simplistic versions of it. This paper illustrates the current state of affairs by revisiting Kopytoff's seminal work and analyzing the marketing and consumer research literature that derives from it, thus demonstrating how the conceptualization has evolved over time. In an attempt to overcome the dualist approach and further explore this topic, I propose a multidimensional perspective of spheres of exchange, offering an alternative approach for investigating the commoditization-singularization process.
This study seeks to uncover the benefits of participating in the act of cooking. The study was conducted in two phases at a mid‐sized private university on the East Coast: First was a phenomenological inquiry (n = 8), followed by a survey (n = 420). Measures included the Ryff scales of psychological well‐being and a survey of cooking attitudes and behaviors. Four distinct qualitative themes were identified in the first phase: cooking as a means of expressing creativity, positive attitudes about cooking, cooking as a valuable social opportunity, and cooking providing mood improvement. Cooking as a creative outlet was a key theme. We found small but significant correlations between frequency of cooking and the Ryff subscales of Environmental Mastery (r = .14, p < .003), Positive Relationships with Others (r = .11, p < .023), and Self‐Acceptance (r = .11, p < .020). A Chi‐squared 2x1 analysis indicates that survey participants have a significant preference for cooking for themselves and others as opposed to only cooking for themselves. Results suggest that cooking as a creative intervention may contribute to the improvement of mood, social connections, and personal acceptance, and that cooking as a creative act may be relevant to individual well‐being.
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Examining theory and practice, Advertising and Anthropology is a lively and important contribution to the study of organizational culture, consumption practices, marketing to consumers and the production of creativity in corporate settings. The chapters reflect the authors' extensive lived experienced as professionals in the advertising business and marketing research industry. Essays analyze internal agency and client meetings, competitive pressures and professional relationships and include multiple case studies. The authors describe the structure, function and process of advertising agency work, the mediation and formation of creativity, the centrality of human interactions in agency work, the production of consumer insights and industry ethics. Throughout the book, the authors offer concrete advice for practitioners. Advertising and Anthropology is written by anthropologists for anthropologists as well as students and scholars interested in advertising and related industries such as marketing, marketing research and design. - See more at:
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A business anthropology approach to the study of creative processes in cultural production.
What and how we eat are two of the most persistent choices we face in everyday life. Whatever we decide on though, and however mundane our decisions may seem, they will be inscribed with information both about ourselves and about our positions in the world around us. Yet, food has only recently become a significant and coherent area of inquiry for cultural studies and the social sciences. Food and Cultural Studies re-examines the interdisciplinary history of food studies from a cultural studies framework, from the semiotics of Barthes and the anthropology of Levi-Strauss to Elias' historical analysis and Bourdieu's work on the relationship between food, consumption and cultural identity. The authors then go on to explore subjects as diverse as food and nation, the gendering of eating in, the phenomenon of TV chefs, the ethics of vegetarianism and food, risk and moral panics. © 2004 Bob Ashley, Joanne Hollows, Steve Jones, Ben Taylor. All rights reserved.