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History of mealtimes

Posted by kiwiscanfly on April 22, 2007

The following is from boing boing:

History Magazine’s old (heh) article on the history of mealtimes is just too fascinating. Before artificial light, the main meal of the day was eaten at lunchtime, with the evening meal being a few leftovers before sundown followed by an early bedtime. Artificial light changed that, prompting aristos to eat a huge meal after dark, party all night, wake up mid-day, and say “good morning” to one another until sunset.

With these late hours for entertainment and parties, and with more artificial lighting, many people in the cities began going to bed later and rising later in the morning. Mealtimes were pushed back as a result. In London, by the 1730s and 40s, the upper class nobles and gentry were dining at three or four in the afternoon, and by 1770 their dinner hour in London was four or five.In the 1790s the upper class was rising from bed around ten a.m. or noon, and then eating breakfast at an hour when their grandparents had eaten dinner. They then went for “morning walks” in the afternoon and greeted each other with “Good morning” until they ate their dinner at perhaps five or six p.m. Then it was “afternoon” until evening came with supper, sometime between nine p.m. and two a.m.! The rich, famous and fashionable did not go to bed until dawn. With their wealth and social standing, they were able to change the day to suit themselves. The hours they kept differentiated them from the middle and lower classes as surely as did their clothes, servants and mansions.

Some upper-class individuals did get up earlier, children for instance and sometimes their mothers. By 1800 the dinner hour had been moved to six or seven. For early risers this meant a very long wait until dinner. Even those who arose at ten a.m. or noon had a wait of anywhere from six to nine hours. Ladies, tired of the wait, had established luncheon as a regular meal, not an occasional one, by about 1810. It was a light meal, of dainty sandwiches and cakes, held at noon or one or even later, but always between breakfast and dinner. And it was definitely a ladies’ meal; when the Prince of Wales established a habit of lunching with ladies, he was ridiculed for his effeminate ways, as well as his large appetite. Real men didn’t do lunch, at least not until the Victorian era.

Link (via Megnut)

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