Sunday, October 31, 2010

Is It Time to Eat?

Many foreigners find the customs and terminology that accompany eating in America odd, disconcerting, or baffling. Why do some American executives like to conduct business at breakfast, whereas we often consider lunch as little more than an afterthought? We load our water glasses with ice. We drink denatured (decaffeinated) coffee.
We eat strange things and at odd times. Consider the following:
  • The main meal of the day in other countries is taken at midday. In America the main meal comes at the end of the workday. We call the evening meal “dinner,” a word that signifies the midday meal in other English-speaking countries.
  • The evening meal in America is served, generally, within an hour either way of 7 P.M. Elsewhere it is generally later and generally lighter. In Spain supper commonly begins at 10 P.M.
  • The English have tea in the afternoon, usually around 4 P.M. This meal consists of tea, small sandwiches, and pastries. High tea is not a more elaborate version of tea. It is, in fact, an informal replacement for supper, which is eaten later in the evening.
In addition, brunch is considered a curious American invention in places where it is known at all. A foreign visitor will probably find its timing disconcerting.

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