Home Cooking

Although cookery has become increasingly fashionable, women still do the majority of the labour, and traditional British fare remains the mainstay of our diet, at least at home. Luckily, most of us enjoy cooking to some degree, and we get our

<b>Frequency of cooking main meals</b> <b>Adults %</b> Daily 39 Five or six times a week 10 Three or four times a week 16 Once or twice a week 14 Two or three times a month 4 Once a month or less 4 Never 12

<b>Enjoyment of cooking</b> <b>Adults cooking greater or equal to twice a month %</b> A great deal 21 Quite a lot 46 Not very much 20 Not much at all 13

<b>Food types cooked regularly</b> <b>Adults cooking greater or equal to twice a month %</b> Traditional British 78 Italian 54 Indian 46 Chinese 47 Updated British 43 American or Mexican 27 Other European 27 Other Oriental 20 French 14

Research by NOP shows that 84 per cent of all adults (aged 15 or over) cook a main meal at home at least twice a month. About half the adult population are “frequent cooks”, making at least five main meals a week. Sixteen per cent of adults are “regular cooks”, making three or four main meals a week, while 14 per cent cook once or twice a week and four per cent cook two or three times a month. The remaining 16 per cent, who cook rarely if ever, were excluded from the rest of the survey.

Despite the predominance of male chefs on television cookery programmes, domestic cooking is still largely a female preserve. Seventeen per cent of men never cook a main meal at home, compared with seven per cent of women, and men are far more likely than women to cook only occasionally. In comparison, two-thirds of frequent cooks are women – and just over half of all women cook a main meal every day.

The research hints that even men who do cook are less likely to be the main cook in their household. Just over half of the cooks surveyed agreed that they “share the cooking with the other people in the household”; but nearly half of male cooks agreed strongly with the statement, compared with three in ten women.

Fifteen- to 24-year-olds are most likely “never” to cook, and they are far less likely to be frequent cooks than are other age groups. Almost as many over-65s ” never” cook, but the remaining four-fifths have a fairly similar pattern of involvement as do other age groups. Nearly half of older cooks state firmly that ” I only cook because I have to”, compared with 37 per cent of younger people.

Smiling at the stove

Two-thirds of cooks claim to enjoy cooking – a fifth of them “a great deal”. Another fifth do not like cooking very much, but only 13 per cent complain that they actively dislike it.

Fortunately, there is some correlation between enjoyment and participation. Frequent and regular cooks are twice as likely to enjoy cooking “a great deal” than occasional cooks, and only 12 per cent of frequent cooks make main meals against their wishes. Upmarket ABC1 households contain a higher proportion of keen chefs than do downmarket homes – perhaps because there is less budgetary pressure. Men are slightly more likely than women to be enthusiastic cooks – but this has to be placed in the context of smaller initial numbers, and less frequent participation.

The majority of cooks “enjoy deciding what to cook”. Frequent cooks – and those who enjoy cooking – are the most likely to take pleasure in planning menus. Both cooking and planning are most popular in the southern third of the country, and most people – 61 per cent – “prefer cooking for special occasions than just everyday meals”.

NOP asked cooks what types of food they cooked regularly. Although “traditional British” was by far the most widespread, prepared by nearly four-fifths of cooks, more exotic meals were popular. Just over half of home cooks – 54 per cent – made Italian food; Indian and Chinese food were each cooked by just under half, slightly more than “updated British” food. Just over a quarter cooked American or Mexican food, and a similar number “other European”; a fifth cooked oriental food other than Chinese. Only French food scored badly, made by 14 per cent – perhaps because it is seen as more difficult and complex, and there are fewer ready-made dishes or sauces available.

Most cooks had a wide repertoire of food types. Only a fifth restricted themselves to just one type of food; a third cooked two or three, 16 per cent four and a third five or more. People who enjoyed cooking a great deal were the most enterprising, 46 per cent cooking five or more of the types on the list; but frequent cooks were only slightly more likely than average to have a wide repertoire.

Real pot-boilers

Cookery books are the leading source of information and inspiration about cookery. Just over half of NOP’s interviewees rated cookery books as “important” , and 44 per cent “sometimes read cookery books just for pleasure”. But the written word is being challenged by TV. Cookery shows attracted slightly more general interest than books, although fewer cooks found them “very important”. Oddly, cookery books linked to TV series were only rated by a third of cooks, indicating that the two media perform different roles in the market.

As the frequency of preparing main meals increases, so does the perceived value of cookery books. Nearly a quarter of frequent cooks and a fifth of regular cooks found books “very important”, compared with 13 per cent of occasional cooks; TV programmes, by comparison, had similar value to all three types of cook. Although a quarter of people who “enjoyed cooking a great deal” rated TV programmes a very important source of information, this was less than the third who relied on cookery books.

Other sources of information have a narrower reach. A third of cooks thought “newspaper and colour supplement articles” important; “leaflets in supermarkets and shops” had a similar rating. “Articles in magazines devoted to cookery” influenced a quarter of cooks, almost exactly the same as “articles in general women’s magazines”; given their very different levels of circulation, this indicates that the specialist magazines are reaching their target. Their score increases significantly among frequent cooks, but their prime market is among enthusiasts; just under half found specialist magazines an important source of information.

Main findings

– 39 per cent of adults cook a main meal at home every day

– 67 per cent of ‘frequent cooks’ are women

– 21 per cent of cooks enjoy cooking ‘a great deal’

– TV programmes and cookery books are the most important sourcesof information

<b>Frequency of cooking main meals</b> <b>Adults %</b> Daily 39 Five or six times a week 10 Three or four times a week 16 Once or twice a week 14 Two or three times a month 4 Once a month or less 4 Never 12

<b>Enjoyment of cooking</b> <b>Adults cooking greater or equal to twice a month %</b> A great deal 21 Quite a lot 46 Not very much 20 Not much at all 13

<b>Food types cooked regularly</b> <b>Adults cooking greater or equal to twice a month %</b> Traditional British 78 Italian 54 Indian 46 Chinese 47 Updated British 43 American or Mexican 27 Other European 27 Other Oriental 20 French 14

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