What makes food masculine or feminine?

   By ChefErin  Jan 24, 2011

The other day I came across an article that discusses the engendering of food — how food becomes associated as masculine or feminine. If you are old enough to remember that "real men don't eat quiche," then perhaps this concept will strike a cord with you too. If steak is "man food," and chocolate is craved by women, how do we develop these ideas? Are we advertising zombies? Is it biological or cultural?


Biological psychologist, Marcia Pelchat, of Monell Chemical Senses Center conducted a study that suggests that it's more than just marketing that causes men and women to crave certain food. She believes our cravings are biologically preprogrammed.


On the other hand, Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab, suggests that people may choose foods that, "they associate with it qualities they'd like to see in themselves. So a man who wants to be strong and masculine is more likely to eat a food described as strong and masculine — hence the prevalence in American culture of meat as a manly food," writes Riddhi Shah of Salon.com.


It's interesting to think about how these distinctions might be made. We're bombarded by advertisements every day that reinforce stereotypes for masculine and feminine food. I bet if I mentioned Special K and Wheaties, you would instantly know who was meant to eat those cereals.


How about stew versus soup? Which would a man choose to eat? (Think about Campbell's Chunky brand being promoted by football players.)


I noticed that Activia has been targeting men in their latest commercial. Typically women are portrayed eating yogurt as indulgent way to stay slim and regular. How did yogurt become girly food?


The article goes on to state that outside of the United States research often indicates that culture has a greater influence than biology. For example in Spain men and women reported craving chocolate equally. I wonder if Spanish people would be surprised that we think of chocolate was a woman's craving.  


I'm a red meat girl, myself. I definitely crave steak over chicken. Does that make me less feminine or is it simply due to the fact that I grew up in the Midwest? Perhaps I am unduly influenced by Matthew McConaughey's rugged and sultry claim, that "Beef [is] what's for dinner."


What do you think? Are we biologically programmed to crave certain foods or are we victims of marketing? What foods to you crave and what do you think that says about you?

Make a Comment

ChefErin by ChefErin | SEATTLE, WA
Feb 08, 2011

hypnicjerk - Ha! So glad you weren't ruined by the smoke alarm timer cooking of your childhood! Thanks so much for your comment. ~ Chef Erin

hypnicjerk by hypnicjerk | Seattle, WA
Feb 05, 2011

Interesting ideas posted here. I think there definitely is a combination of factors involved: 1) biological, 2) geographical, 3) marketing, and 4) societal influence. I definitely crave the foods I grew up eating...just a better, less burnt version. My mom used the smoke alarm as a timer! Luckily we have experts like you, Chef Erin, to teach us great recipes and spark great conversations. Thanks!

loricm by loricm | Shakopee, MN
Jan 27, 2011

I believe in how and where your raised. My husband was raised on a dairy farm in the mid-west, they only ate meat and potatoes, fortunately he left at 18 and traveled and will eat anything you put in front of him and does not crave any of the food he used to eat. I'm from the west coast and will also eat anything, so maybe it is where your from and I/we feel some commercials help us choose our meals or at least they can get your food thoughts moving/ thinking in one direction or another.

basilandcatnip by basilandcatnip | GARLAND, TX
Jan 27, 2011

I think it's a combination of all of the above, and the individual. For me, I crave the foods that I seem to be in need of nutritionally because they always seem to be on the list of foods Dr Oz tells us to eat for optimum health.

ChefErin by ChefErin | SEATTLE, WA
Jan 26, 2011

msfriendly - I think that's a great perspective! ~ Chef Erin

msfriendly by msfriendly | MONROE, WI
Jan 25, 2011

I don't know if it's biological. I think the foods were want are those we had when we were growing up. I am in the mid-west so we all tend to eat those hardier foods in the winter.