On Thanksgiving and Gender Politics: Who Cooks the Meal in Your Family?

On Thanksgiving and Gender Politics: Who Cooks the Meal in Your Family?

Eleanor Büsing
Nov 10, 2015

Thanksgiving dinner is one of the most, if not the most, culturally significant meals of the year, a time for family and friends to gather together (in loose-fitting trousers) and share a meal in the spirit of gratitude. But who's usually responsible for making that meal? And are we sufficiently grateful for it?

In my family, Thanksgiving dinner is mainly my dad's arena: he'll do the turkey and roast sides, with my aunt and uncle pitching in other vegetable dishes and mum mainly staying out of the kitchen until dessert—her forte. The kids (most of whom are now in their 30s, but the terminology sticks) set the table and help clear up. Of course, in my family we're all keen cooks, and in Canada there's no sporting event to distract anyone from the main point of the day: food.

I had a feeling that my family's division of duties wasn't typical, so did some very scientific research by, what else, turning to Facebook. Answers to my brief poll were mixed, with most friends reporting shared meal duties, with a majority of the actual cooking responsibility falling on mom.

Apparently this is changing: a 2013 survey by Butterball found that 84% of American men say they're involved in preparing the meal in some way, with 42% saying they make a significant contribution to the preparation of the bird itself. (However, the survey also reported that 58% of men felt they were "primarily" responsible for all family meals throughout the year, to which I and almost every other study ever, raise an eyebrow.)

It does seem that men's involvement often seems to center around the roast turkey itself, through prepping, roasting, carving, and/or serving. We're a long way from our hunter-gatherer past, but culturally, we can't seem to get past the "man cooks meat" mentality.

One thing I know: as a vegetarian, I'll never be put in charge of anybody's Thanksgiving turkey, and I'm pretty grateful for that. I'll take pie and side duty any day, with a side of equality.

Growing up, who did the cooking in your house? What about in your home/family now? Are the duties shared, and crucially—what does the balance look like for the rest of the year?

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