Mealtimes

Published 24th April 2017

mealtimesThe cornerstone of any day is our meals and the times we eat. Those who go to the gym regularly often base their day around their meals and spend hours a week planning and preparing meals for the coming days. However, it could come as more than a surprise how these mealtimes arrived at their everyday names we give them today such as breakfast, lunch, dinner or tea.

As our bliss and peaceful sleep is abruptly halted by our rude alarm clocks, the sleep is still lingering in the corner of our eyes and our pyjamas are still well and truly on, we trudge down the stairs for breakfast. Breakfast is, literally, what it says on the tin.

Break-fast. The fast being the last few (but never enough, of course) hours happily asleep. Fast, coincidentally, is what the meal is designed to be. A quick meal to break the hours without food, hence why our most important meal of the day is typically a juicy ripe apple or a crunchy light cereal bar, or even a slice of toast drowned in baked beans or topped with a scrambled egg or two. Unfortunately, about 18 percent of males and 13 percent of females between the ages of 35 and 54 decide not to opt for a fry up or a bacon sarnie in the morning, according to a 2011 study by the market research company NPD group.

Moving onto what I like to call lunch, or some dinner, this derives from a time when life was much different. From Roman times to the Middle Ages, people used to get up and go to work a lot earlier and had often been grafting hard at work for six hours come midday. In the Middle Ages, deprived of watches or electricity, lunch was taken on the basis of daylight.

As man-made light became a more modern concept, lunch or dinner became a later meal and the word lunch started to become more common for the earlier meal, taken from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘nuncheon’, which meant a quick snack between meals that you can hold in your hands, often bread and cheese, the start of the sandwich.

Sandwiches take their name from the Earl of Sandwich, who used to have sandwiches as a late-night snack. However, this started to become more and more common on the lunchtime menu as workers needed something quick to eat around noon and lunch became even more prominent during the 19th century and the industrial revolution, when Britain became the first country to offer industrialised food in the form of pies to workers.

Dinner or supper, even tea to those potentially in the northern regions of the country, derives from Roman times. This was the only meal they ate all day with breakfast frowned upon. The rich and famous ate a luxurious, ravishing meal around noon, to show off if you will. As artificial light pushed this meal back, it became a meal for when the working day was over and people ate at home after a long day. As white goods became a popular purchase in the 1950s, the traditional family dinner was born as the housewife would cook ready for the husband, who’d been at work all day.

The word dinner comes from the derogatory Latin word ‘disjējūnāre’ meaning ‘to break one’s fast’ and was at first used to describe breakfast, but can be used at any time of the day to break any type of fast so is a broader word for a meal, hence the argument whether dinner is eaten as lunch or supper. Supper refers to food eaten later in the day and originates from the old French word ‘souper’ meaning ‘evening meal’, commonly used by more upper or middle class families. In contrast, ‘tea’ is traditionally eaten at around half past six and is a working class phrase.