Thursday, 29 September 2011

Affordances continued

My last post talked about affordances and how the activities we do bring us opportunities.

The act of cooking for me affords communication.  Relationships and roles are built within my family by collaboration for example “what shall we eat this week?; appreciation (verbal or non verbal) for feeding them; and instruction and conveyance of knowledge when my children are helping me in the kitchen.  My very presence in the kitchen often affords communication with my family because the kitchen is the heart of our home and we are always in it or passing through it.  

According to de Lore and Brooke-White (2000), in any home, the kitchen is often the place where friends and family’s where the food and the drink are, but kitchens are seldom just refuelling stations. Conversations, gossip humour and ideas flow freely in the relaxed atmosphere of the kitchen.

Connections refer to what the activity leads to us doing.  For example Visser (1992), whilst talking about finding and supplying ourselves with food continued: “Next we buy it, carry it home...Then we prepare it, clean it, skin, chop, cook, and dish it up.  Now comes the climax of all our efforts, the easiest part: eating it” (p. ?).

Cooking does afford the obvious of preparation and eating but there is more to connections than that. Through cooking I have the opportunity to care for my family and take responsibility for their well-being.  Cooking also give me the opportunity to spend more time with my friends for example when the neighbours kids were playing at our house on the weekend, I started cooking dinner and they and their parents ended up staying which led to a few glasses of wine and fun for the children. 

These examples illustrate that often cooking is not just cooking for me..there are many things that branch from cooking  that bring about the opportunity for other activities.


de Lore,  C. & Brook-White, J. (2000).  Every kitchen tells a story.  New Zealand: HarperCollins Publishers.

Visser, M. (1992).  The rituals of dinner.  London, England: The Penguin Group.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Affordances - An introduction

According to Christiansen and Townsend (2004), “affordances are environmental properties that both induce and support goal-directed behaviour” (p. 18).  In other words, factors within our environment, physical and social, provide us the potential for behaviour or opportunity.

In an article by Helen Leach called 'Are we selling out on domestic life?' she raises an interesting point about how society views domestic chores.  A service exists in Australia whose purpose is to "release you from tedious, demeaning tasks, so that you can concentrate on your career, your real work" (Leach, 1997, p.10).  And the cost of selling out on domestic life?  According to Leach, "food preparation in the home will be confined to heating prepared meals, and simple mixing of items from packets and containers" (p. 15).  How sad! Yes I do heat meals and use jars of sauce but if that was to be my everyday experience of cooking, I would miss out on so many factors that cooking affords me.

Cooking has a spiritual aspect for me.  Spirituality can refer to the potential for feeling connected with the universe through this activity (Butler, 2011).  In a previous post I said I like to feel in control.. by being organised with our family meals and knowing that I am doing the best for our health and routine, gives me a sense that my spirit or mind is organised.  In this state I feel happier and less stressed by my role as a mother and provider.

Another example is how the environment or activity helps us link with history and memories.  I spoke about ‘comfort food’ in my first blog..memories of my mum making cottage pie on cold winter weekends or when I got home after I gave birth to Ella, lead me to making the same dish if I am feeling cold or homesick for England.  I remember watching my mum juggle a teaching job and cooking for a family of five and this has influenced how I juggle my family commitments – through remembering how my mum did it, we still have home cooked meals..they are just often made in advance and frozen.

Yum! Cottage pie!


Christiansen, C. H. & Townsend E. A. (2004).  An introduction to occupation.  In C. H. Christiansen & E. A. Townsend (Eds.),  Introduction to occupation: The art and science of living (pp. 1-28).  New Jersey, USA: Pearson Education, Inc.

Butler, M.  (2011).  Affordances (cont).  Unpublished, cited with the permission of the author.  Dunedin, New Zealand: Otago Polytechnic School of Occupational Therapy.

Leach, H. (1997).  Are we selling out on domestic life? Occupation, 5(1), 10-16.