The Atlantic

The Problems That Home Cooking Can’t Solve

Two often overlooked ingredients of family meals: money and time
Source: GraphicaArtis / Getty

The family dinner as it’s known today was contentious from the start. When, about 150 years ago, the evening meal began to replace the large midday fuel-ups that were common when people didn’t work outside the home, some traditionalists were concerned. One 19th-century cookbook author fretted that “six o’clock dinners destroy health” and that women, in the absence of their typical food-preparation obligations, would “give the day to gossiping and visiting.”

A century and a half later, dinner’s time slot is now secure, but the meal—and idealizations of it—remains tied up with American culture’s expectations around family, gender, and health. In a new book, Pressure Cooker: Why Home Cooking Won’t Solve Our Problems and What We Can Do About, three sociologists trace those ties as they catalog “the complex, messy, joyful, creative, fraught process of putting food on the table.”

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