“If you want to understand any woman, you must first ask about her mother and then listen carefully. ”
~ The Red Tent
Women and food: It is a learned relationship, and the learning begins by observing the women around you.
The history of women begins by understanding the history of your women--the women in your family who undoubtedly shaped, in ways large and small, who you are today, including your relationship with food.
- You learned meal preparation, whatever that meant in your family: What to cook and how to cook it.
- You learned what to eat, how much to eat, and role expectations.
- You learned rules and “rituals” around eating.
Do you think about where you learned all of your current food habits? Sure, you undoubtedly picked some up since childhood, but you might be surprised by how early memories continue to influence you today!
Here are a few things that we at Walnut Health learned from the women in our families:
The Women’s Domain
Melissa: During family get-togethers, the women did it all: Prepared the food, served the meal, and cleaned up afterward. But, as a result, I learned to cook, and self-sufficiency isn’t bad! I also now teach my son how to cook.
Jamie: At home, my father actually cooked more often, as he worked from home, so I grew up in a pretty egalitarian household in terms of food. He also made my school lunches ("A moist sandwich is a happy sandwich!"). But my grandmother’s kitchen was her domain. And if you wandered in, Nana handed you a knife and expected you to start peeling potatoes. Children were often expected to help in some way, but I don’t remember ever Grandfather entering that kitchen!
The Food Relationship & Expectations
Melissa: Every holiday, women talked about the new diet they were starting tomorrow, while men never expressed any guilt about eating too much or compensatory behaviors. At the same time, cooking well is an important part of being a "good woman" and fulfilling gender role expectations in my family. Expectations also differed based on gender: Men ate a lot more and ate more aggressively, while women ate less and ate more “delicately”.
Jamie: My mother, and really all of the women, modeled a rather neutral relationship with food. Food is, well, just food. My mother loves to cook and bake, mostly old-school: Flour, sugar, butter, tried and true. Everything in moderation, but nothing “bad” or “good”. In general, the men seem to sway more toward "live to eat", while the women sway more toward "eat to live", though they all certainly appreciate delicious meals--and the woman can eat hearty! I suppose that's why I fall somewhere in the middle!
The Family Dinner
Melissa: We ate dinner together most nights. You ate everything on your plate, you asked to be excused, and you cleared your own plate.
Jamie: We always said grace before dinner. No matter who sat around the table, we all held hands before diving in. You had a take a “no thank you” helping of everything, and you asked to be excused. My dad always congratulated you for joining “The Clean Plate Club”, but dessert was never a “reward”. If you wanted it, you could have it--but, yes, you could probably take a few more bites of chicken or vegetables first.
Memory is imperfect, and childhood memories can acquire somewhat black-and-white qualities over time. Therefore, what we remember as “truth” can have quite an impact on our future mindsets and behaviors. So, when thinking about why you do when you do when it comes to food, consider where you learned those habits and mindsets. And please share with our Facebook community!
This month, we kick off our monthly Walnut Weekly Write-In! What would YOU like to learn more about? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, and we might dedicate next week's Walnut Weekly to you!
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