People, especially women, ask what they can do to help and offer to bring food over. I assure them that meals are the least of our problems while my wife is recovering. I have done half the cooking throughout our marriage, increasing to two-thirds and perhaps even three-fourths. I like it, even when it is a burden and I am strapped for time. (There are limits, though.) So going to 100% temporarily is not a big deal, especially as we have still not quite adjusted to making 2-3 portions. Most meals I make are good for at least two dinners for both of us and a lunch for one after. Storage is more of a problem.
Yet they bring a little something anyway, or even more, even when I specifically say don't. I am tired of arguing with them, so they just bring things now. We will eat much of it eventually. It hurts them not to have brought something. Because it is not this way with men (who ask far less often whether they can do anything anyway) I reflected on how much of this is a male-female, and training vs instinct phenomenon. I propose the following: Women give gifts to show affection. Men give gifts to solve a problem. Once I articulated that, I saw it is similar to other men-women differences, such as communication. These are hardly mutually exclusive, and I can think of exceptions, especially of men during courtship.
Update: CS Lewis, as usual, has some answers. i should have remembered. Donna's comment brought these to mind.
“A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others...thus, while the woman thinks of doing good offices and the man of respecting other people’s rights, each sex, without any obvious unreason, can and does regard the other as radically selfish.” The Screwtape Letters.He also hypothesised Purgatory as a kitchen where things were forever going wrong. The women needed to learn to ignore them and attend to higher things (as with Mary and Martha), while the men needed to learn to get up and attend to those domestic things for others.
The women who are giving you gifts of food think of this as solving a problem, but it is rather sexist. They do not want your wife to have to worry about meals, not realizing that you're capable of handling those. Consider that your capability and willingness might not be the 'norm'.
However, it's also a rather easy way to feel... helpful. "I'll just double this recipe and take it over." It takes a bit more effort (and thought) to make sure the garbage cans get to the street on time or making sure the yard is mowed.
Perhaps it's different in your neck of the woods, but even the women don't show up all that much around here when the 'man of the house' is ill. This is especially difficult for those households where the male does a lot of the cooking -- or child care/transportation, etc.
I also think that men are more likely to wait to be asked because they don't want to be seen as interfering or encroaching on another's territory.
I think Donna hits close to the mark. As with fashion dress and makeup, they probably aren't doing it for the male gaze despite constant claims to the contrary.
Viewed from a certain angle, gift-giving during courtship (and after) is problem solving.
Where is that purgatory image found?
I have never found it. I read it secondhand years, perhaps from Peter Kreeft. When I have tried to look for it I get too many hits from sites that assure us that Lewis is a heretic and possibly bound for Hell because he believed in that and other Catholic doctrines, and allows magic to be operating in a fantasy world, which we know is of the devil.
Notice the update, BTW.
"“A woman means by Unselfishness chiefly taking trouble for others; a man means not giving trouble to others"...if a man gets up every morning and goes to work in a dangerous and unpleasant job in order to support his family, isn't he 'taking trouble for others'?...although he might not use the particular word Unselfishness.
Very true - and yet it is different, somehow. That is duty rather than "taking trouble for others."
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