Oct 10, 2019

Patriarchy's influence in food choices

A few days back, I heard this statement from a family member - "cucumber vaangaradhu illa, avarakku pidikaadhu. pagarkkai, kovakkai sugar ku nalladhunu solraa, aana avarakku indha kai ellam pidikkaadhu. adhanala vaangaradhilla" ("I don't buy cucumber because he(husband) doesn't like it. I have heard that bittergourd, ivygourd are good for controlling sugar but since he doesn't like it, I don't buy it").

Both of them have diabetes and high blood pressure, but she does not/cannot make any lifestyle changes JUST BECAUSE her husband is not onboard. 

Women play such a significant role in a family. When we lead by example, family members follow. In some families, it might take time but sooner or later, they will be ready to embrace change. There is no need to nag or shout from the top of our lungs. Our actions would speak for themselves, our habits would influence/inspire others in our family, especially the husband and children. Elders in the family may or may not be willing to change as they have been stuck with old habits for long.

My husband K used to eat quite a bit of junk (chocolates, tetrapack juices, icecreams, aerated drinks etc). But ever since I stopped eating junk foods, he has come onboard with me and has made remarkable progress with his food habits in the past 3 years. He used to hate salads but now he doesn't mind eating a small bowl. His overall portion sizes have reduced. He has started eating all vegetables without a fuss. Yes, there are a few veggies he is not too fond of - bottlegourd and cabbage being on top of the list. Yet, I make them once in 2 weeks and he eats without throwing a tantrum :-) He loves paneer whereas my daughter and I are not too fond of it. So I cook a dish with paneer once a week and whenever we go out to a restaurant, we always order a paneer dish.

I understand it is time consuming to cook different dishes for a small family. But why should the man's preferences dictate the family menu ALL THE TIME? Why can't the man compromise on a few meals when wife's favorite dishes or healthy-dishes-for-the-whole-family are prepared? 

What are the repercussions when the family menu is decided based ONLY on the man's preferences?
  1. If the man hates certain veggies, they will never be cooked. The family members will never get the nutrients from those veggies.
  2. This habit affects the kinds of foods that children in the family are exposed to. If the man(father) hates bittergourd, the children in the family would have never tasted it, while growing up. Their taste preferences would become molded, just like that of their father.
  3. The woman totally loses touch with the taste of the foods she used to like, just because her husband doesn't like the same.
I'm not implying that this trend is happening across all Indian families. I'm sure there are men who have a deep interest in food, cooking and nutrition. But they are far and few exceptions as of today. I sincerely hope that we see a positive shift in our next generation, where everyone in the family understands food - where it comes from, how it is being prepared, how to plan wholesome meals, which nutrients are present in which foods etc.

Do share in the comments below if this article resonates with your family. How do you manage the influence of patriarchy in food choices?

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