Aesthetic judgments and meaning-making during cooking in Home and Consumer Studies

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Gita Berg
Helena Elmståhl
Ylva Mattsson Sydner
Eva Lundqvist


In Swedish home and consumer studies (HCS), cooking forms a part of the core content, and students often experience the results in a sensuous way – by eating the food. Sensuous, or aesthetic, experiences may affect students’ meaning-making and thus what is learned within the subject. There is a lack of research concerning the aesthetic aspects of cooking in a learning context; therefore, this study aims to explore HCS students’ meaning-making by focusing on aesthetic judgments during formalized cooking practices. The research question is, in what ways do students use aesthetic judgments in meaning-making processes during cooking? The data comes from video-documented classroom observations where the students cook together. Using a pragmatic approach and practical epistemology analysis (PEA), three ways in which the students use aesthetic judgments are illustrated: as arguments in negotiations, as reference points when reactualizing experiences, and as nonverbal actions evaluating sensory qualities. Empirical examples exemplify how aesthetic judgments play a role in establishing power relations, entail social/normative values, and influence the “tacit knowing” of cooking. The study found that aesthetic experiences are integral and important in students’ meaning-making during cooking practices. Moreover, by adding a new classroom context to the methodology used, its applicability for investigating aesthetic experiences and meaning-making is confirmed and widened.

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