What we eat, where we get it, how it is prepared, when we eat and with whom, what it means to us - all these depend on social [and cultural] arrangements.
Eating in is an everyday activity that we often take for granted. By analysing the activities that both produce and sustain eating in, this chapter aims to show the complex cultural processes that are involved. This involves a consideration of the ways in which ideas about the meaning of eating in the domestic sphere are produced by public discourses. It also involves a consideration of the complex negotiations that take place in the private sphere which produce the food which is prepared and the ways it is eaten, and identifies the power relations in which these activities take place. Debates about eating in raise a range of questions that are central in understanding food cultures. In particular, they raise questions about the role of food practices in producing, and reproducing the home, the family, gendered identities and the relationship between public and private spheres. Furthermore, the consumption practices discussed here are closely connected with other aspects of the circuit of culture, raising questions about changes in food production, policy and regulation, representation and identity.
It is unsurprising that much of the work on eating in has been motivated by feminism. Central to second-wave feminism in the late 1960s and the 1970s was the idea that 'the personal is political'. Whereas leftwing politics often distinguished between the 'public' sphere of politics and the 'private' sphere of the home and family, feminists came to see the home and family as a key source of women's oppression and, therefore, political. As Elizabeth Fox Genovese has argued, 'Feminism has led the way in demystifying personal relations, forcefully insisting they are personal to the core' (1991:11).