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gendered food

I don't know how much most people think about the intersection between gender and food choices, but it was driven home pretty strongly to me today when the OH and I went to the Fresh Choice salad bar restaurant for lunch at around 11am.

On the way over, we drove past a breakfast place called Stacks, which we ate at once many years ago and thought was only so-so. Usually there is a small line on the weekends, but today there was a line halfway down the block.

Usually Fresh Choice becomes fairly crowded almost immediately after opening at 11am. Today it was almost completely deserted.

I can only theorize that people don't think of salad bar restaurants as appropriate Father's Day destinations, because, you know, salad is for women.


( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 18th, 2006 07:23 pm (UTC)
I've seen that stereotype pop up over the years. Now, we're not as tight in our thinking of food as being only for men or women as some countries, but it's there. Women are supposed to eat salad as we're watching our figures, but men get big portions because they don't care. Salad is too delicate for a macho man to eat. The question of whether real men eat quiche wasn't a satirical one.

As for what I mean by how other countries have it more strictly delineated? Aside from what I expect you saw as an Iron Chef fan before it was adopted by Food Network, there was a specific incident I faced in a Vietnamese restaurant. I visibly startled the waiter by ordering a beer. He couldn't quite bring himself to put it in front of me, either. blackfyr passed it to me after it was placed in front of him. I found out that in Viet Nam, women do not drink beer in the same way men in the US do not shave their legs. The exception has to make other sense (swimmers shave their bodies to reduce drag), or it's a gender transgression akin to drag.
Jun. 18th, 2006 07:30 pm (UTC)
I bet that's part of it -- women are always supposed to be eating lightly. Though, contrariwise, going out for brunch on Father's Day isn't something I've ever heard of peple doing, while Mother's Day is a big eatfest.

Another part might be that salads aren't considered celebration food, though. For holidays, we like our proteins and carbohydrates and fats, none of this leaf stuff.
Jun. 18th, 2006 08:47 pm (UTC)
salads aren't considered celebration food

yes, that was my first thought.
Jun. 19th, 2006 04:24 am (UTC)
There's that. We often have salads on holidays, but they are clearly there to satisfy some sort of ritual requirement; nobody actually eats any.

(Where by "we" I mean the people I spend my holidays with, not Americans in general.)
Jun. 18th, 2006 07:32 pm (UTC)
I'm thinking it might work a little differently -- Dad gets to choose because it's his day, and Dad wants MEAT. Not so much specifically "salads are for women," but "I'm a meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, I don't eat fancy-schmancy salad-bar food."

Of course, a lot of it also depends on the kind of neighborhood you live in.
Jun. 18th, 2006 08:17 pm (UTC)
My dad is a meat and potato AND fancy salad kinda guy.
Jun. 18th, 2006 09:21 pm (UTC)
A less gendered thought: a lot of people, if they're going out for a celebratory meal, want the food brought to them, rather than a salad bar or other buffet. (More data would be useful to check this: were other buffet-type restaurants busier?)
(Deleted comment)
Jun. 19th, 2006 04:05 am (UTC)
I'll have to remember that. ;)
Jun. 19th, 2006 07:11 am (UTC)
I think there are some interesting alternative explanations in the comments.

But when I lived in Pennsylvania, I got a very strong sense of "gendered food" when I went out with friends. There were "male" dishes: beef, with cheese, fried onions, and all kinds of other rich and/or fatty sides, and any and all vegetables had to have been through some kind of transformative process (sauerkraut, pickles, ketchup, etc). Then there were "female" dishes: chicken with fresh salad vegetables.

I noticed that people would be visually inspected by the waiter if they ordered "wrong-gendered" food - "yes, she's skinny enough she's allowed to eat rich foods"; "is he henpecked or on a diet or both?".

I got very tired of the dichotomy in the menu, so one day I asked for a Thai beef salad. The menu had Thai chicken salad. Now my previous encounters with this dish in Australia had always been Thai beef salad, so I couldn't see what was going to be so difficult about the beef option. But I had to explain very carefully before the waiter understood what I had in mind.

I don't think I've ever noticed as dramatic a dichotomy anywhere else I've been. And when TOILW and I go out, we usually mutually decide on two things and then swap half-way and the world has not fallen down yet.
Jun. 19th, 2006 12:42 pm (UTC)
I had a friend tell me about the time she went to a steakhouse with her husband. Her husband's steak arrived perfectly rare, as ordered, but hers kept being overdone. After she sent it back the third time she went to see the chef, and his response was that women didn't eat rare meat and he never gave them one because they wouldn't want it.
Jun. 19th, 2006 01:34 pm (UTC)

I've noticed that when I'm in the States, at just about every meal I'm served helpings with enough food for a family of four. And that amount fat and sugar simply kills me. I usually don't worry about what I eat, but in the States I have to be careful. I need to skip meals, make sure to only eat the salad at dinner, etc., or my body will go into shock.

Maybe I should go in drag next time?

Oh, and btw: do people really go out to dinner or lunch on Father's Day? I was aware of flowers on Mother's Day and such, but celebrating Father's Day? Never seen that before. Is going out with the family the thing to do, then?

Jun. 19th, 2006 06:49 pm (UTC)
When I travel and eat out a lot, I end up eating a lot more salads than usual because at hotel restaurants salads are the only things not loaded with rich, heavily flavored sauces (well, they are, but you can ask for the sauce on the side). I don't know if going in drag would change what you are served...I tend to dress butch :)

I'm not sure what people in general do on Father's Day. We took my dad out to lunch the day before. The OH called his dad in the morning. The retailers make a big deal out of it, of course.
Jun. 20th, 2006 08:00 am (UTC)
Yeah - I ask for salads as well. Or I seek out veggie places for dinner. Plus I skip dinner. But only in the States - when I travel in Europe I have don't have this problem, at least not to anywhere near the same degree.

I've never done anything on fathers day as an adult, and I don't know anyone who do. Sometimes kids will give little presents to their dad and such.
Jun. 19th, 2006 04:02 pm (UTC)
Witness the new commercial for the "Meat Lovers" dish at Fridays/Applebees/Chilis/OneOfThoseChains, in which four men sit around the table and each one says something loud and proud about his dish:

Man #1: BEEF!

Man #2: RIBS!

Man #3: PORK!

(all three of the other men look at him in a mixture of disdain? ridicule?)

Man #4: SAUSAGE!

(all four men smile, sigh with relief, and dig in to their food)
Jun. 20th, 2006 08:22 pm (UTC)
I have seen this happen many times when I'm out with my partner. He orders a salad (e.g., chicken caesar, one of his favorites) and I order a burger or something "heartier", and the waiter delivers us each other's meals. Similarly, if only one of us orders an alcoholic drink, it is almost always delivered to him. I might not have noticed a few instances of this but it has happened to us over and over, even when the person bringing the food is the one who took the orders. Argh!

I'm surprised how many commenters are unused to father's day events not involving young children. I hear about Father's Day brunches as much as on Mother's Day. Not that everyone I know celebrates them, just that those who are close to their parents do have big events for those weekends. Probably just the hallmark marketing. :)
Jun. 21st, 2006 02:51 pm (UTC)
Unless you order a beer and he orders a mixed drink. Then you get the mixed drink. :-)

( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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