Meatball subs. T-bone steaks. Chili.
Eggs should be runny; meats served rare. If there must be salad, blue cheese should be crumbled on top.
We all know what manly food looks like.
And for the ladies, it’s all about tuna melts, angel hair pasta, and cottage cheese.
Pinot grigio is sipped and chocolate is consumed in dainty portions with mascaraed eyes falling closed in feminine pleasure.
A recent study from Northwestern University shows that real men truly don’t eat quiche. At least not if they stop to think about it.
It seems that men, more than women, are sensitive to gender-driven food messaging, both from early socialization and of the sort promoted by the evil geniuses of Madison Avenue. When a quick, 10 second decision is made, taste and appetite prevail; men will freely choose yogurt, rice pilaf, white wine, and poached fish. Given time to consider the choice, they’ll almost always shun the girlie food for beer and pretzels, hamburgers and meatloaf. Women don’t waver, overwhelmingly choosing feminine options and sticking with them.
Of course the cultural meanings of food did not materialize out of the ether. Physiology and heredity first defined gendered eating—men as hunters, women as gatherers; the greater protein needs of men; the frequency of supertasters among women—but now, it’s almost all cultural. We all had the same caveman roots, but you don’t find women shunning red meat outside of the U.S.
It makes a certain sense that the male research subjects were more inclined to yield to the tyranny of gender stereotypes. Men are more likely to be penalized for gender transgressions. It’s learned early on when little girls play freely with dolls and toy trucks, but a Barbie-loving boy arouses parental concerns.
We see the same double standard in food choices.
Women can munch away on buffalo wings, but a pastel-frosted cupcake or anything labeled as ‘diet’ is seen as an affront to manly eating. Bro-worthy treats are labeled as mancakes or whipped up as confections like the Driller (maple cake with bacon) and the Jackhammer (chocolate and hazelnut) at places like New York City’s Butch Bakery, and Diet Coke has been made over as the man-friendly Coke Zero (known familiarly as ‘bloke coke’).
The Northwestern University study suggests that for men, hard-wiring has little to do with food preferences. The initial, impulsive choice made in the first 10 seconds is seen as a true reflection of a man’s intrinsic tastes. At that moment, there’s nothing masculine or feminine about it; it’s simply food. The gendered syntax of girlie foods and manly foods is just part of the cultural tale we tell when we sit down to dinner.
The Northwestern University study: Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche: Regulation of Gender-Expressive Choices by Men appeared in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science. You can download the complete study here.
What is America’s manliest restaurant?
Men’s Health magazine surveyed its readers to identify their favorites (think meat, meat, and more meat). See the nine regional finalists at the Guy Gourmet blog.