November 15, 2012 Denise Winterman wrote an interesting article for BBC News Magazine entitled “Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Have we always eaten them?”
In this article the origins of each of the meals we now accept as ‘the norm’ are revealed. What follows is a greatly summarized version of the original article.
Breakfast as we know it didn’t exist for much of history. The Romans didn’t even eat it preferring one larger meal at noon, and even frowned upon it, considering it a form of gluttony. It was a religious ritual that largely shaped what we now call breakfast. On Collop Monday people would use up all of their meat before Lent. Much of that meat was commonly in the form of preserved pork. Bacon specifically. That meat was often combined with eggs to give us what is now considered the common breakfast.
At the time though, it probably wasn’t eaten in the mornings. That custom really didn’t start until the industrial revolution in the middle part of the 19th century. It was then that the average mans life really became much more regimented and the need for a hardy meal to sustain him at work was needed.
Lunch: From the time of the Romans until the Middle Ages everyone ate in the middle of the day although the meal was actually called dinner. During this period of history it was daylight that dominated and regulated peoples activities. Hence, people would rise with the sun and begin work. By midday they were hungry.
This midday meal was also often called a “beever” or “noonshine” and usually consisted of bread and cheese. As artificial light developed the actual meal called dinner slowly shifted later in the day. Still a light meal at noon was needed.
The actual name for the noon time meal “Lunch” is much debated. But it is agreed that the mid 17th century French custom of “Souper” shaped what most of us eat for lunch today. In fact it is the Earl of Sandwich’s famous meal that now dominates most lunches to this day. Even then the noon day meal was not common.
It took the Industrial Revolution to regulate both work hours and eating habits. As factory hours were often quite long, workers required a light midday meal to sustain them. It was then that lunch as we know it became ingrained in society. It even gave rise to ‘food trucks’ and industrialized food.
Dinner: As noted earlier, dinner was originally a meal eaten early in the day during the time of the Romans and even into the Middle Ages. However, the spread of artificial lighting and the effects of the Industrial Revolution changed that. By the late 19th century, dinner was a meal taken in the evenings. Finally, after a long days work people could return home for a full meal with the family.
Unfortunately, this hallowed meal has been threatened in recent history.
This came with the invention of the TV dinners, microwave meals and the like.
Most would agree that this is a mistake. In fact the University of Florida reported in the article “The Importance of Family Dinners” that “having dinner together as a family at least four times a week has positive effects on child development.” They also report that “eating dinner together as a family provides the opportunity for conversation. This lets parents teach healthy communication …you teach them how to listen and provide them with a chance to express their own opinions … Conversations at the dinner table expand the vocabulary and reading ability of children, regardless of socioeconomic status.”
Regular family dinners do require quite a bit of planning and effort but the benefits are well worth it.
If meal planning is a challenge take advantage of the many websites dedicated to helping with that. Your family will benefit and thrive mentally and physically.
Visit us at JaquesKitchen.com