Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dinner/supper debate

Below is a really amazing look at the old dinner/supper debate and where it all stems from. But before I get to that....

I've received a few emails from readers wondering where my once regular post have gone.

Some of you may know from earlier posts that my mother-in-law is battling breast cancer.

Well, we now feel the need to be closer with our families and are moving from northwestern Montana back to Las Vegas. It was a difficult decision. After my husband graduated
from law school, he then completed a one year clerkship at the Arizona Supreme Court and at that time we literally spun a globe to determine the best place to settle and raise our family.

We chose the most beautiful place in the continental U.S.

In this last year and a half I have seen bears, bald eagles, snakes fighting; with the victor dragging his spoils off to his den.

I have seen a golden eagle stretch out his wings(7 foot wing span), I've seen hawks fighting in midair, I've seen a mountain lion walk passed my front yard and a bobcat stroll by, and every couple of days we wake up to the sound of coyotes yapping and howling at their hunting parties
. So, this parting it very bittersweet.

Also in this last year my father passed away without ever seeing our forth baby. And now with my husband's mom in this difficult fight we knew we had to go back.
I was born and raise in Las Vegas and my husband's family moved there when he was ten.

We have moved almost constantly since my husband graduated from college. From his graduation he worked for Rep. Ron Paul in D.C. (now running for pres.), after that it was back to Vegas to study and get ready for law school. We were stalled a bit there as my husband's sister was suddenly stricken with spinal meningitis and became brain injured. So hubby became her legal guardian and co-guardian to our 11 year old niece. While she was recovering, hubby studied for the LSAT and got into Yale (and Harvard and Stanford-but picked Yale). So off to Connecticut we went, and then each summer moving to the town that that year's internship was located (first Phoenix then Miami.)
Then back to Vegas for the summer, then off to Phoenix for a clerkship, then to Montana, where while getting settled and with a newborn and three other kids, our landlord decided he wanted to use his house as vacation spot so kicked us o
ut to have his friend stay.

Now you can see that once we are settled back in Vegas there will be no more moving.

I am done.

We will live in a rental for year and half to two years-to get our student loans under control, then we'll buy a house up in Mt. Charleston, and that will be that. We will be home and I'll never pack another box.


And below is the dinner/supper article.

-Tasha


Sherrie McMillan looks at the evolution of mealtimes.

Supper Party by Gerrit van Honthorst depicts members of the upper class combining entertainment with the last meal of the day.

TODAY WE DON'T always agree on the names and times of our meals. Some of us have dinner at eight, while others have supper at five. It wasn't always that way.

The names of meals and their general times were once quite standard. Everyone in medieval England knew that you ate breakfast first thing in the morning, dinner in the middle of the day, and supper not long before you went to bed, around sundown. The modern confusion arose from changing social customs and classes, political and economic developments, and even from technological innovations.

Despite our stereotypes of big English breakfasts of sausages, kippers (sardines), toast, tomatoes, etc., big breakfasts weren't really common until the Victorian age. Breakfast before the 1800s was usually just toast or some variation of gruel or porridge, except when a lavish spread was offered to impress guests. The main meal of the day was dinner.

In the Middle Ages, great nobles ate the most formal dinner, around noon or one p.m. Their dinner was more than a meal; it was an ostentatious display, a statement of wealth and power, with dozens of servants attending in a ritualized performance. Cooking for this grand, daily show began hours in advance, and the preparations for presentation began at 10 or 11 a.m. The meal might take hours, and be eaten in the most formal and elaborately decorated chambers. Lesser nobles, knights and manor holders ate a far less formal dinner, but at the same time of day.

Middle-class tradesmen and merchants, however, had to eat a little later. Their day was bounded by work, not by feudal rituals. They couldn't leave their shops to see to their own dinners until clients and customers had gone off to their own. So merchants and traders would eat at one or two in the afternoon, and then hurry back to meet the afternoon customers. The middle-class dinner might be served by one or two servants and consisted of bread, soups, pies, and perhaps meats and fish. The dishes varied with the season, and from country to country.

Peasants broke off after six or seven hours of work in the morning to have dinner around noon. This was their main meal too, consisting of bread or porridge, peas or beans, perhaps with some cabbage, turnip or onions thrown in. Sometimes they had meat, fish, cheese or whey (a byproduct of cheese-making). Their meal was much like that of the middle class except there was usually less to eat, and little variety. They ate far more at dinner than at breakfast or supper.

Today many people find it strange that the biggest meal of the day once centered around noon, but it made great sense at the time. Artificial lighting such as oil lamps and candles were expensive, and provided weak illumination at best. So people went to sleep at sundown, because it's difficult to work and eat in the dark. The last meal of the day was a rushed affair, a quick snack before the lights (the sun) went out. The only exceptions were those who had to work at night, and the extremely wealthy and powerful people at royal courts. The wealthiest courts, like those of France and Burgundy might stay up after sunset, their grandly decorated halls illuminated by thousands of candles or torches. But they were unusual; most medieval people never witnessed such spectacles.

Traders and merchants, who sometimes had to stay in the shop to handle the last daylight stragglers amongst their customers, might close shop at dusk and spend the last hour or two of their day in candlelight or firelight. But they made it to bed as quickly as they could, to rise early the next day and open up their shops again. Only the extremely wealthy had candles to burn and could waste daylight hours sleeping in late. So supper, the third and last meal of the day, was usually eaten before the sun went down, or very shortly afterward.

The English knew the last meal of the day as supper, and it was a light repast, usually made of cold leftovers from dinner. People generally went to sleep soon after eating it, and did not like to go to bed on a full stomach any more than modern people do.

Most nobles and manor lords ate supper between four and six p.m. They might have entertainment afterward, unlike the lower classes, but even nobles usually went to bed before too many hours had passed. Peasants might have just the last of the day's bread for supper, eaten at sundown. Then they went to sleep, to be up and working with the sunrise.

And that was the standard schedule for centuries. There were some exceptions, of course. People at the wealthiest courts might stay up after dark, as already mentioned. They had plenty of money for things like candles and rush lights, and were used to the world revolving around their schedules, rather than the other way around. A king or a lord who was passionate enough about his pursuits to put off eating for hours while hunting would make his retainers and family wait too.

Some groups, like Parliament in England might meet in the morning and work until late afternoon, without a break. They would go to their homes for dinner at four or five or even six p.m. Their families generally had to wait for them. Supper would then be pushed ahead until eight or ten o'clock, or not eaten at all. Supper was considered an optional meal by the English, who often stuffed themselves so full at dinner that they could not eat again until the next day. Who today would think of skipping the last meal of the day? We are far more likely to skip the first or the second.

Read the rest here

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