Doctor of Philosophy
School of the Arts, English and Media
Allen, Charlotte Julie, Cooks and chefs: gender in British food writing, Doctor of Philosophy thesis, School of the Arts, English and Media, University of Wollongong, 2016. https://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/4730
This thesis explores the work of five of Britain’s most prominent food writers - Delia Smith, Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Nigel Slater - to illustrate how food writing in Britain emanates from a range of gendered positions.
The literature chapter illustrates the various meanings of the gendered literary performances to be studied in this thesis, and broadly defines what is meant by a masculine, a feminine and a queer perspective for the purposes of this study. Beginning with Judith Butler it then uses supporting evidence from other gender scholars to examine the impact and effect of gender upon writing. It also examines how such gendered literary performances are both written and received.
Chapter Two examines a brief but broad selection of historical food writing in Britain to illustrate that food writing has long been gendered into female, private, domestic cookery – hence the term ‘cook’ - and male, professional, public style cooking which has the accompanying title of ‘chef’.
Each author is then explored in detail to look at how gender affects both the manner in which they write, and the effect of this writing on their readers. All food writing is written with somewhat of an active purpose in mind, and this intended active purpose has the power to influence the food practices of readers. Gender and its corresponding performances play a large part in how people make and consume food. In fact most food practices can be seen to be largely gendered and how each author utilises their gender in their writing is illustrated and discussed. Broadly speaking these books are either written from the domestic sphere by ‘cooks’, or are written from an authorial perspective external to the domestic sphere by ‘chefs’. Where each author chooses to write from can be seen as a gendered decision and these varying perspectives are explored in detail. Each author’s construction of their literary persona, employed in their books and programmes, is also examined in detail.
This literary persona is constructed to create intimacy with their readership and as such contains elements of the lives of these authors. An examination of what they consider to be valuable and meaningful - be it family, ethical food consumption, the role of food in building strong societies, the pleasure of eating or clear instruction – is made clear by closely analysing each author’s work. Each author’s work contains a legacy for their readers. Not only are these books that can be read many times, but by incorporating recipes and instructions these books contain an active legacy of the authors’ preferred food practices which might be repeated by their readers in their own homes. This legacy also contains elements of what it is to be ‘British’, and the extent to which each author has incorporated ‘traditional’ food practices and recipes to keep them from being discarded forms part of this legacy
Overall, gender and how it affects and shapes food writing, and is examined from a number of perspectives to illustrate how gender distinctly influences each author’s performed literary persona.