Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Food-Psychological aspects, Food-Social aspects, Cooking-Psychological aspects, Cooking-Social aspects, Ethnicity, Families, Cooking, Family relationships, Cultural identity


This mixed-method study investigates the role of cooking in family relationships and cultural identity development. Through an online survey, 275 participants assessed the perceived relevance and usefulness of cooking. Participants evaluated both whether or not cooking altered their level of connection to family and culture as well as how family relationships and cultural identity were impacted. The findings demonstrate three primary reasons participants cook: to feed themselves and others, to bring people together, and to show care. The study suggests that cooking can be a vehicle of connection to both family and culture. Participants with a more recent family immigration history feel a stronger connection to culture through cooking while participants who have had more previous family generations living in the United States feel a stronger connection to family through cooking. In addition, the findings found that those who more often cook meals native to their culture, feel more positively toward that culture, and vise versa. Also, the more participants cooked with their parents during childhood, the more positive their attitude toward their family. Major themes about cooking's impact on family include: reflection of family dynamics, opportunity to connect, tangible care, means of feeling appreciated, place for communication, marker of child development, definition of roles, stress point, and a holder of memory and tradition. Major themes about cooking's impact on cultural identity include: measurement of identification, learning tool, manifestation of value systems, description of history, place of pride and connection, way to redefine culture, and bridge to other cultures.




v, 74 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, 2013. Includes bibliographical references (p. 56-63)