European cuisine

July 2015

Avignon-style Alaska pollock on ratatouille vegetables, curry sausage with western-spiced fries or lasagne – instead of just going for traditional German dishes in their lunch breaks Germans like to mix it up. At least that seems to be the case when you look at the top ten on the menu charts of the catering specialist apetito. Whether or not the food cooked by people in their own homes is as varied is unclear, but 26% of Germans consider themselves very experienced, with equal numbers claiming to be passionate cooks. Italians have the edge, though, in terms of their love of cooking.

More than one in four Germans say they are passionate about cooking and just as many reckon to be knowledgeable and experienced when it comes to preparing tasty meals. This is demonstrated by the findings of an international GfK survey on attitudes to cooking, from which five European countries have been selected for this Focustopic. The results from the consumer survey also show that culinary zeal does not necessarily translate into hours and hours in the kitchen. Despite their enthusiasm, people do not spend an overly long time slaving over a hot stove. Germans who cook because they have to eat or as a hobby devote a total of 5.4 hours each week to their roasts, grilled vegetables and casseroles. They therefore invest less time than their colleagues in France, Poland or the UK, but are more self-confident about their culinary skills and are more likely to categorize themselves as experienced.

Italians: self-confident and keen cooks

German home cooks cannot compete with the Italians. They are the most passionate about cookery. Of those who cook at home, 43% are avid cooks. A somewhat lower 35% consider their abilities and knowledge in culinary matters to be very good. The talent of cooks in the homeland of pasta and pizza is borne out by their stamina, with Italian home cooks spending some seven hours a week busying themselves with pots and pans, Parmesan-grating and noodle machines. That is more than in all the other surveyed European countries. Housewives and men in Poland spend an equally long time in the kitchen with an average of 6.1 hours. However, the comparatively high number of hours spent is not due to a particular enthusiasm for chopping, peeling and frying. On the contrary, in Poland only 21% of respondents said that they were passionate about cooking, with just as many (or rather few) claiming to be very experienced.

The French cook quickly, while the Brits take their time

In France, which is famed for its gourmet food, there is an unexpectedly low level of ability and enthusiasm compared to Italy, with only one in five saying that they are very proficient, although almost one in four at least say they are enthusiastic cooks. That said, the French do not spend an inordinate amount of time cooking, devoting only slightly longer (5.5 hours) to the kitchen than their German neighbors. British home cooks rank in the mid-field when it comes to rating their culinary skills. As many as in Germany, 26% enthusiastically reach for the peeler, spatula or, perhaps, the flavor shaker – an invention of the British TV chef Jamie Oliver. Almost the same percentage think that they are very experienced and skilled when it comes to cooking. On average Brits spend almost six hours a week in their kitchens.

Enthusiasm, time spent and knowledge therefore depend on the country. However, all the nations surveyed have one thing in common: passionate cooks are mainly the ones with expertise.

European comparison: enthusiasm for cooking changes with age

In all the countries surveyed, culinary passion also depends to a large extent on gender and age, yet to differing degrees. The youngest consumer group tends to have the least interest in cooking – presumably at this age the focus is on more important topics. Hence, when it comes to a passion for cooking, 15 to 19 year-olds are placed last in France (10%), Poland (19%) and Italy (34%) in comparison with older age groups. However, youngsters in Italy are much more passionate on average than in the rest of Europe, with one in three saying that they really like cooking. In the UK, 40 to 49 year-olds rank last in the passion rankings, as they do in Germany. In contrast, almost one in three Brits aged 20 to 29 are very keen cooks, and achieve top scores. In Italy and France, respondents aged between 30 and 49 are the most passionate about cooking, and in Poland experienced cooks over sixty get the greatest kick out of fresh ingredients and new recipes.

Women: more passionate about cooking than men

Cooking was long considered a female pastime, and in many countries worldwide it still goes without saying that a woman's place is in the kitchen. In Europe, female cooks are still ahead of men when it comes to culinary passion. Accordingly, in Germany, France, Italy and Poland women are by their own admission more enthusiastic about cooking. The biggest difference between the sexes is in Italy. While roughly one in two women are avid cooks, only 36% of men enjoy cooking. The picture is completely different in the UK, for example, in that the passion for cooking is distributed equally. Here men (26%) are even a little bit keener on cooking than women (25%).

Time spent: Italians and Poles are in the lead

The situation in the UK is comparatively equal in regard to the amount of time spent cooking, with the smallest difference of women spending somewhat longer cooking (6.3 hours a week) than men (5.4 hours). The biggest difference is in Italy, with female home cooks spending 3.5 hours a week more in the kitchen than their male counterparts. Consequently, women are mainly responsible for their country being in the lead in terms of time spent. It is no wonder this is the case given Italian eating habits, with an Italian evening meal frequently consisting of a starter (antipasti), two main courses and a dessert – even the most well-versed cook would need several hours to produce this. In Poland, the country with the second-largest time outlay (6.1 hours a week) an evening meal is traditionally much simpler than in Italy, yet Polish home cooks invest more time in baking, with cakes and other sweet delicacies featuring daily on the menu in many Polish families.

A lot of time for breakfast: Brits in third place

A comparatively large amount of time is taken up with cooking in the UK as well. Brits spend 5.9 hours a week in the kitchen, followed by the French (5.5 hours) and the Germans (5.4 hours). The fact that the British spend longer in the kitchen than cooks in France, the home of haute cuisine, could be to do with the "full English breakfast", which is regularly served in many British families. Consisting of eggs, sausages, baked beans, mushrooms, black pudding, smoked haddock, bacon and toast, it is likely to take considerably longer to prepare than a croissant with café au lait.

Age groups: middle generations cook the longest

The amount of time taken to prepare pierogi, schnitzel, bouillabaisse, etc. depends on the age of the person polled. The youngest group aged 15 to 19 had the lowest scores in this respect in all the countries. French teenagers spend the least amount of time (3.3 hours), while in Italy the principle of practice makes perfect appears to apply, with 4.7 hours a week spent cooking. Overall, the time outlay appears to increase as people get older – this was the case across all the countries surveyed. Presumably this is because eating habits change when people start a family and it takes longer to prepare a nutritious dish for four than a snack for a singleton. In the oldest generation, where more people live alone, the time spent then decreases slightly. The top spot in the rankings was occupied overall by Poles aged between 50 and 59, who spend 9.3 hours a week preparing their meals.

European classics to suit every time budget

Perhaps this article has inspired you to start cooking again? Maybe a culinary classic from one of the surveyed countries is on your list. Depending on which nation you opt for, you will have to contend with very differing cooking times. Those who want to take their time can try out the British roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, which will occupy the cook for a good one-and-a-half-hours. A traditional bouillabaisse, a French favorite, can take a similarly long time to prepare. Those who have less time to spare could try making Polish pierogi, which are ready in approximately one hour. If you are really ravenous, a spaghetti carbonara or a traditional schnitzel with salad is perhaps preferable, which can both be served equally quickly in 30 minutes. We wish you bon appétit!


Data source: Global GfK survey „Cooking“, March 2015

If you have any queries, please contact Claudia Gaspar (claudia.gaspar@gfk-verein.org) or Claudia Castaldi (claudia.castaldi@gfk-verein.org).


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