Dinner Bell

Many years ago in days of childhood
I used to play ’til evenin’ shadows come.
Then winding down that old familiar pathway
I’d hear my mother call a set of sun.
Come home, come home, it’s supper time.
The shadows lengthen fast.
Come home, come home, it’s supper time.
We’re goin’ home at last.  – Ira F. Stanphill, sung by Jim Reeves

I came across an article recently that posed the question: When you were growing up, did you eat dinner or supper?

For my adult life, I believe I have served dinner. Breakfast in the morning, lunch at noon, and dinner as the last meal of the day. But I had to really stop and think about why I have always served “dinner,” because I’m pretty darn sure that in my formative years growing up in Nebraska, we always ate supper.

What’s for supper, I would ask my mom when I ran into the house after school, hoping against hope that it was something I liked. Maybe a pot roast, or oven-roasted spareribs. Fried chicken would truly be a scooooooooooore! But I’m pretty sure whatever it was, it was supper and not dinner.

I asked Bill the same question: did he eat dinner or supper. I was pretty sure I knew the answer, and I was right. The Chicago McLains always ate dinner as their final meal of the day. I specify the Chicago McLains, because when Bill’s dad grew up on the farm in North Carolina, they ate breakfast, dinner, and supper every day. Bill tells many stories about visiting his grandmother in North Carolina. His favorite story has to do with awakening at 7 or 7:30 in the morning, coming down to breakfast, and there was no one around. He asked his grandmother if he was the first one up. She laughed and told him everyone else had eaten breakfast hours ago and they were already out in the fields.

But he remembers that every day around noon, his grandmother would prepare a big noon dinner. Maybe a ham, or perhaps fried chicken or breaded pork chops. His uncles would chow down on this big dinner and return to work. At the end of the work day, she would lay out the cold leftovers for their supper.

My first thought when I read the article was that Midwesterners and Southerners ate supper in the evening. According to the article from wideopeneats.com, however, the breakdown is more along the lines of rural v. urban than by area of the country. Perhaps that has to do with the story Bill tells about his grandmother.

No matter what we called our evening meal, we always ate Christmas or Thanksgiving or Easter dinner whether it was served in the evening or at noon.

By the way, the article goes on to say that the states that Google the word supper the most are Wisconsin, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Iowa. All midwestern and all largely rural.

When you grew up, did you eat dinner or supper?

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