Men are more confident when it comes to cooking seafood than women
How confident you are in your ability to prepare tasty new seafood dishes may influence how often you eat seafood. In one study, my colleagues and I discovered that men are more confident in their cooking skills than women when it comes to cooking seafood.
This discovery made me think back to my own childhood. When I was little, fish was always on the menu when it was my father’s turn to make dinner. Was this linked to the data from the study? I had to ask my father to gain a better understanding. He told me that he used to catch the fish himself, hang it up to dry and salt it and it therefore seemed natural for him to prepare it himself. I think he was probably proud of being able to serve the family food that he had produced on his own.
Previous studies found that it is important to feel confident in your own cooking abilities in order to prepare and eat healthy foods. In our study “Norwegian consumers’ quality assessments of salmon and trout”, 515 Norwegians answered questions about how confident they felt in their cooking abilities, for food in general and more specifically for seafood.
The results of the study show that women and men have roughly equal confidence when it comes to cooking in general. However, we found significant gender differences in questions relating to seafood in particular, for example “how confident do you feel about being able to prepare tasty dinners using seafood?” Men, particularly under the age of 50, were more confident about being able to cook seafood than women were. The findings also showed that more women than men preferred seafood products that were easy to prepare.
Has cooking become masculine?
Even though cooking has traditionally been the domain of women, we now find that men, especially in western countries, cook more frequently for their families and participate in daily activities relating to food. Men have started viewing cooking as a masculine activity, which may be due to the male role models on TV such as Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver.
An Australian study associates men’s attraction to recreational fishing with the inherent instinct to secure food for their family. Many men, like my father, are passionate recreational fishermen and, when they prepare seafood, they have an opportunity to prepare their “catch” and demonstrate their practical and culinary skills to their loved ones. Even though my father now buys the fish from the fish counter, it is still associated with hunting and fishing.
Cooking can give men an identity
Other studies find that women usually cook for their families from a nurturing perspective, from which they feel it is their duty to provide their loved ones with good healthy food, something that both my mother and I can confirm. Even though many younger men take a greater part in everyday cooking because they care about their loved ones, other studies find that there are even more of them who consider cooking to be a hobby. They cook when they feel like it, often on special occasions, at weekends and when barbecuing.
Studies show that people confirm who they are and who they are not through the food that they eat. For example, certain types and quantities of food can help showcase masculinity or femininity, i.e. gender identity. Men are also more likely to eat red meat and large quantities of food, as these choices confirm their masculinity while women prefer to eat fruit and vegetables and smaller meals to confirm their femininity.
Our findings indicate that there are quite a few men who, among other things, build their identity on being talented chefs. They want to cook from scratch to show off their skills. Consequently, they do not care about food being quick and easy to prepare, as this deprives them of the opportunity to impress family and friends.
Women need to expand their seafood repertoire
The study may confirm something that many of us already know. But how we can use this knowledge in practice? We know that Norwegian seafood consumption is falling, all while health authorities recommend eating more seafood.
The study shows how important it is for both men and women to feel confident in their abilities to cook tasty seafood dinners. I believe that we need initiatives to encourage women to cook seafood at the weekends and for special occasions, so that we too can develop our identity as talented seafood chefs. In other words, we need to expand our “seafood repertoire” to serve more seafood that requires more preparation than factory-produced fish sticks and fish gratin.
At the same time, men should be encouraged to cook more seafood as part of everyday life, since they are already confident in cooking seafood. This way, we can all be good role models for our children, who will hopefully have the confidence to make good seafood dishes regardless of whether they are boys or girls. If we are to increase seafood consumption among the population, both women and men need to learn to cook seafood for everyday life and for special occasions.
Wien, Alm, Altintzoglou 2020: The role of identity and gender in seafood cooking skills
Young, Foale, Belwood 2016: Why do fishers fish? A cross-cultural examination of the motivations for fishing
Cairns, Johnson, Baumann 2010: Caring About Food: Doing Gender in the Foodie Kitchen