OBJECTIVES: The purpose of this paper is to analyze the social organization of caring as gendered work as it relates to meal preparation and consumption activities surrounding older adult cancer patients and their caregivers. METHODS: Qualitative methods consisting of in-depth, semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with 30 older cancer patients (17 women and 13 men aged 68-90) and their caregivers were conducted separately. Participants were diagnosed with pancreatic, colon, breast, lymphoma, skin, and head and neck cancer. RESULTS: Major findings were that both patients and caregivers experienced distress surrounding food preparation and mealtime activities, and these varied according to the gender of both patients and caregivers and the relationship that existed between patients and caregivers. Of particular note, female patients experienced distress over not being able to fully participate in meal planning and cooking activities that were central to their self-identity. Related to this, male spouses experienced frustration over not being able to engage in cooking activities that met their wives' expectations. Female caregivers expressed tremendous discontent that the one they were caring for did not eat like they 'should'. DISCUSSION: Matters related to the organization of meals and food consumption activities may be a source of significant distress for patients and caregivers. Further research and greater attention from health care providers are warranted to evaluate the extent of such distress.