Restaurants are made for people-watching—where anyone with an interest in contemporary eating trends can keep an eye on the plates arriving at nearby tables. Engaged in a bit of this professional nosiness, I recently observed a server bringing a middle-aged couple their dinners. Not sure who had ordered what, he looked at the plates, then offered the woman the vegetarian entrée and placed the beef dish in front of her male companion. What sort of gender profiling was going on here?
As it turned out, the waiter had it right: there are gender differences in food selection. Men eat more meat and bread, while women consume more fruit, yogurt and diet soda. There are also gender differences in eating styles. Women take smaller bites and take longer to eat than men. When psychologists asked male and female volunteers to read sample food diaries and then make judgments about the diary writers—sight unseen, women who reported eating smaller meals were considered (by both male and female readers) to be more feminine, more concerned about their appearance and better looking than women who recorded larger meals.