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Dining Etiquette

We have been enjoying the art of dining for many centuries, even our early ancestors dined even if it was on dinosaur! Thankfully, we do not dine in the same fashion today as we would have in one’s cave. These days some of us, thankfully, use cutlery and crockery. I always dread the visit to a house where we are expected to use our hands without even a napkin in sight. 

Dinner is a meal our ancestors were known to have enjoyed as their one main substantial meal of the day which, over the centuries, has developed into the many meals we can enjoy throughout our day. Here we look at the different dining experiences we enjoy in the United Kingdom. 

Breakfast, our early morning meal, has been taken for thousands of years going back to the Neolithic times when people then used quern-stones to grind hulled grains and then boiled them to make something similar to porridge This was known as the Break Fast by the romans, breaking the fast of not eating since the day before. Today, this is taken between 08.00 and 10.00.

Brunch is a combination of breakfast and lunch taken late morning/early afternoon but it can be enjoyed until 3pm. Brunch originated in England in the late 19th century taking over from the post-church Sunday meals in favour of lighter fare served late in the morning. Brunch can be enjoyed from 11.00 until 15.00.

Lunch was created around the 17th and 18th century as dinner was getting later in the day. Lunch was a meal taken by ladies (Ladies who lunch) when their husbands were out. This was a light meal but of great social importance for the ladies of the day to invite their friends to catch up on the important matters of state. Today, this is taken at between 13.00 and 14.30.

Buffet originates from the brännvinsbord (Swedish schnapps, or shot of alcoholic beverage). This came from the middle of 16th century. The heyday of the buffet was in the early 18th century and was developed into the modern buffet around the beginning of 19th century. A buffet is a system of serving meals in which food is placed in a public area, such as a dining table where the diners generally serve themselves. Today, this is taken between 12.30 and 14.30.

Afternoon tea is a relatively new meal created in 1740 by Anna Maria, The Duchess of Bedford. She felt there was too long a gap between lunch and dinner and asked for some tea and sandwiches to be brought to her while staying with the Duke of Rutland. Her friend, Queen Victoria, loved this idea and the rest, as they say, is history. Today, this is taken between 16.00 and 18.00.

Dinner historically was the first meal of the day, eaten at noon. The fashionable hour for dinner become later during the 18th century and was taken around 14.00 and 15.00 in the afternoon. Around the time of the first French empire, an English traveler went to Paris, France and remarked upon the "abominable habit of dining as late as seven in the evening”. Today, this is taken between 20.00 and 22.30.

Supper traditionally was the last meal of the day and rarely taken. It was a light evening meal taken around 21.00 and later of course replacing dinner. Historically, the term is derived from the French souper which is related to soup. Today, it can also be used at a replacement for dinner but can be taken from 18.00 - 00.00.

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Yumi Vega
Yumi Vega
Feb 08, 2023

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Sep 04, 2020

While etiquette scholars and trainers in UK and USA teach to sit in the dining chair from the right and keave the chair from the same side.However, defence force dinner rules in USA and Canada etc. stipulate to enter from the left side of the chair and leave from the right side of the chair which is a very disciplined way of doing so. In state dinners at Buckingham Palace, I have seen The Queen and guests entering and leaving from either side.Mostly they enter from the side they enter the dining hall with a horse-shoe shaped dining tableside. A british officer said there were no specific rules about this. I just wonder why is this disparity in the ver…

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