Dining Eighteenth-Century Style

Eighteenth-century novels are full of visits and dining amongst the gentry. For those of us who still have trouble distinguishing supper from dinner, it is helpful to note that the full meal of the day--dinner--would have been served in the mid-afternoon. A much lighter repast would have been served much later in the evening.

In the 17th installment of Mr. B Speaks! Pamela arrives late to dinner with the Darnfords. "Dinner" involved more than just the meal, however. It was meant to be a full-day affair. Pamela's schedule for that day would go something like this:
Learn more about English dinners at
the Maxwell House website.

11:00--Leave home
12:00--Arrive at Darnfords
2:00--Eat dinner
Afternoon--Discussion and walks
11:00--Leave for home

This type of schedule would change in the nineteenth schedule as dinner moved later, to 5:00 or 6:00, leading to the introduction of "luncheon" at noon.

Because Pamela is trapped at home by Mr. B's sister, her new schedule becomes as follows:

11:00--Prepares to leave, sister arrives
6:00--Arrives at Darnfords
8:00--Early supper for Pamela's benefit
11:00--Leave for home

Both meals--dinner and supper--would have included mostly meat, soup, pudding, wine, possibly a vegetable, likely no fruit. From a modern perspective--despite Dr. Atkins--this is a rather appalling diet, explaining why the "master" in Manor House tried to get the resident chef to cook meals more in line with a late-twentieth-century diet than a still-meat-heavy late-nineteenth-century diet. The chef was rather annoyed at the lack of historical accuracy. But hey, a person's digestive system is a person's digestive system.

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