Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice: An Exploration of the Relationship between Representations of Femininity and Different Depictions of Baking, Cake, and Sweet Food in Contemporary Australian Cookbooks
Cookbooks are widely published, highly consumed products that have been largely overlooked as contextual and influential objects of material culture. Little scholarship has focused on a group of cookbooks from a particular region or time period to gain greater understanding of ideas and practices contained within. Nor has significant interrogation occurred around the complex cultural expectations that are deeply embedded in published cookbooks focused on cake, baking practice, and sweet food. This thesis examines how contemporary Australian cookbooks are shaped by cultural context, audience, and dominant gender conceptions to encapsulate specific performances around the baking and consumption of sweet food. Research questions were devised to investigate the relationship between the cultural conceptions of femininity and representations of baking and cake in contemporary Australian Cookbooks; and probe the symbolic meanings that were attributed to the baking, performance and consumption of sweet food. Using a thematic analysis, contemporary Australian cookbooks were chosen that allowed for a critical look at cultural conceptions of contemporary femininity and baking culture, as well as intersections of identity, sensuality, nostalgia, indulgence and appetite. Analysis of the cookbooks reveals how ideologies of feminine practice and performance are shaped by baking culture, notions of expected feminine labour and historical legacies; how sweet food constructs sensuality and feminine sexuality to be consumed amid contradictions and tensions; and how indulgence is framed to shape appetite, contain pleasure, control feminine expressions, and eating via constant self-surveillance, expectation, and evaluation.