Sun 13 Jun, 2004 10:18 am
Supper, or dinner?
It's that one meal, probably between 4pm to 8pm. What do you call it?
I personally call it supper, I call lunch "dinner".
The historic difference between supper and dinner
Being born in Northern California, my meals were called breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The difference between supper and dinner depends on which part of the country you come from and whether you come from the working or upper classes. The terminology that set today's standard is represented by the poorer, agrarian and working classes, which were in the majority for the earlier period in our history.
Terminology of meals:
During the colonial days of US history, memoirs and letters mention only three meals daily-breakfast, tea and dinner. Apparently the urgency of making a farm produce in those days was so important, that work could only be stopped for two meals daily-breakfast & dinner, with a break in the afternoon for tea and a snack. Documents of the wealthy classes and European merchant classes mention supper as well, a meal taken before retiring, as dinner was usually eaten earlier than today--usually around 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon.
During the mid 1800s, mention is made of up to five meals a day, particularly among the wealthier classes both North & South (but especially in the Northern states). These meals were Breakfast, Luncheon, Tea, Dinner and Supper. Both Dinner and Supper parties were mentioned in letters and memoirs.
The dinner party was a more formal affair, that lasted for up to three hours (!), featuring many courses and agonizingly long conversations. It took up most of the late afternoon and evening. The supper party was usually given during a dance or entertainment, and consisted of a light meal late in the evening.
Working class folks contented themselves with three main meals a day. Breakfast, Supper & Dinner.
Breakfast was always the morning meal.
Dinner was the largest meal of the day and Supper was considered a lighter meal (usually cold meats or leftovers). But here comes the area where much confusion arises: Depending on the circumstance of the diners, Dinner was eaten as the mid-day meal OR as the evening meal. Supper & Dinner were interchangeable.
In households with a cook or servant, Dinner was usually the evening meal, and was enjoyed at the end of the day. The householders considered it the duty of the cook to keep the fires burning, the stove going, and to prepare three hot meals a day. Supper, the lighter meal, was usually eaten in the afternoon.
In households where the wife cooked, Dinner was often eaten in the middle of the day, and Supper was the evening meal. The reason for this practice was practicality.
It took alot of effort and skill to keep a fireplace or cook stove heated with a nice, even heat for cooking. The housewife got the stove going to prepare breakfast ,which was usually quite a substantial meal to keep the menfolk working all day. Since the stove was already hot, she began to cook dinner as soon as breakfast was done. (There were no instant foods, and preparation usually included hours of slow cooking). This allowed her to serve the big meal at mid-day, at which time she could let the stove go out, escape the environs of the hot stove during the heat of the day, and get some serious work done. She then served bread and cold meats or leftovers for supper, any foods that did not need extensive cooking.
The source for the above information is a good book which covers this concept well: The American Heritage Cookbook and Illustrated History of American Eating & Drinking by the Editors of American Heritage Magazine
Pub 1964 by the American Heritage Publishing Co, Inc.
Even Fannie Farmer, as late as 1896, mentions this concept in her Boston Cooking School cookbook-" A salad, with crackers and cheese, or a bowl of soup, or a glass of milk with sandwiches will often be satisfying enough for luncheon (or for supper, if dinner at noon meets your family's needs better than dinner in the evening)."
Nice, thanks for the info bbb, it wasvery interesting!!
Good article, BBB!
When I grew up, my mother always called the biggest meal of the day "dinner," whether it occurred midday or evening. If you had "dinner" midday (as we always did on Sundays & holidays,) the smaller evening meal was called "supper."
So, it was either breakfast-lunch-dinner or breakfast-dinner-supper.
We always had;-
breakfast in the morning
dinner at mid-day
tea in the evening
Actually, I use them interchangeably. Either one is fine with me.