The other day, I got to pondering the words we use for meals. I was on my way to my favorite wine bar where I intended to have an early supper/late lunch and the fact that American’s don’t have a word for that meal got my brain spinning around the ways we talk about dining.
Breakfast, break fast, is just the first food of the day. A light breakfast is light in weight and doesn’t usually last very long. Toast, maybe an egg. Granola. Hot cereal like oatmeal that you can eat standing up. A big breakfast has a load of protein and is meant to stick with you. Frequently there are vegetables, too. Potatoes in the form of hash browns. Sliced tomatoes in the summer. Onions, peppers and mushrooms in the omelette. Fruit on egg bread, waffles and pancakes. A big breakfast isn’t a meal that you grab as you run out the door.
Brunch is a word that means garnish and, frequently, alcohol in your fruit juice. Brunch is languorous. It also means I’m not doing anything that takes effort before noon.
Lunch is the middle of the day meal. Big lunch means you will wish for a nap, later. Lunch happens anywhere from 11 AM to 3 PM.
Supper is the evening meal. Dinner is the biggest meal that is not breakfast. So, lunch or supper could be dinner. Sunday dinner is almost always lunch. But, a work day dinner is usually supper.
So, the question that came to my mind was “what is the afternoon equivalent of brunch?” Turns out, it’s afternoon tea. My Canadian friends tell me that tea is served around 3:30 or 4:00, there is tea to drink and something light to eat. We chuckled over a young acquaintance who had fussed at her sister to “eat your tea.” But, I think I want to adopt that usage. It’s a handy definition. And while a cream tea is one that includes jam and clotted cream in the snacks, I think a wine tea may become my occasional earlier-than-supper afternoon meal.
And, according to my English friend, high tea is a heavy meal served as workers come in from their labors ready for serious eats. I expect it comes from afternoon tea that waited a little too long and needed to be more filling since you were ravenous by the time you finally got have food.
Another word I am going to adopt is “fika.” It is a Swedish word and it means to have coffee and a bite and a chat with friends. It is a thing I love and now have a word for. It is not time specific. It is activity specific and it an activity I enjoy immensely.
I learned another meal word from my Spanish friend. “In Spain, there is an actual meal between lunch (which for them is always the largest meal of the day), and dinner, which is a lunch-sized portion late in the day, like 8 or 9 pm. I was always offered this meal, each day, even in the hospital! “Merienda”. It corresponds to the “tea” idea, but without mentioning tea. Coffee or tea might be offered, or beer or wine, and deli slices, bread, cookies, fruit. Oh, it happened around 5 pm. Very confusing.”