Saturday 11 December 2010
When Do You Eat?
When Princess Marina was visiting a friend with a stately home open to the public, she looked out of the window in the middle of the afternoon and saw visitors picnicking on the lawn. Deeply puzzled, she asked: “What meal can they possibly be having?”
The later you eat, the grander you are. In Jane Austen’s books, “dinner” was a meal you had at three in the afternoon, followed by “tea” at seven and supper before you went to bed. Dinner slipped, first to five, then to about eight in the mid 19th century. Austen’s descendants felt they had to apologise for her characters eating at the "wrong" times of day.
Afternoon tea is eaten 4-5.30 and consists of tea, cake, biscuits, dainty sandwiches and scones; high tea is eaten from 5.30-7 and consists of tea, cake, sandwiches, salad, boiled eggs, beans on toast, cornish pasties etc, or else what the Upwards would class as “supper” dishes: spaghetti bolognese, cold meat and salad, thick soup, pizza.
A letter to the Guardian (July 08) twitted David Cameron for being the last person in Britain to use the word “supper”. This was a snide dig at his status: as an Upward he’d say “dinner” for a meal eaten with friends at about 8.30, or a meal out, but “supper” for a meal eaten with the children in the kitchen at around seven, though informally he’d say “Do you want to come round and eat?” Jen would say “come round for a meal”.
Or did the writer just want to sneer at him for being posh and had to pick on something? Looks like it. Use of the word “supper” attracts a volley of sneers. “It seems to me that only posh people (like Nigella Lawson) have supper. What exactly IS it and why is it only people who are or are trying to be posh use it?” Digital Spy Forum This jibe is fairly recent. The Last, and “sing for your” don’t seem to bother anybody.
If you accept the Upwards’ dinner invite, they make you wait around four hours, fainting from hunger. They then eat a huge meal at about 9 pm, meaning that they don’t need to eat breakfast, and don’t eat lunch till about 2pm (leaving you fainting once more, or feeling like a peasant for wanting to eat at 12).
Nancy Mitford (whose father was a Lord) ruled that it was common to say "cooked breakfast". This is because to her, the norm was a breakfast buffet laid out in the dining room of your stately home (with bacon, haddock, kidneys, scrambled egg etc on a hot plate).