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What's your earliest/latest/average dinnertime?


Ellen Shapiro
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I like to eat dinner by around 7:00pm. I just don't enjoy sleeping on a full stomach so I'll only eat later than that if I'm not the decisionmaker, for example if I'm a guest in someone's home and dinner is served at 9:00 or later, or if friends are going to a restaurant and the arrangements are for late.

If I tell New Yorkers I like to eat by 7:00pm, they say, "Wow that's early." Implication: Loser. If I tell people in Kansas I like to eat by 7:00pm, they say, "Wow that's late!" Implication: Man you big city people live the night life.

When do you like to eat dinner? What's the earliest you'll eat? (I know plenty of urban folks who absolutely consider it uncivilized to eat before 7:00, 8:00, or even 9:00pm, and in a place like Argentina the norm can be a lot later even than that.) The latest? Your average? What kinds of behaviors have you noticed in your travels? Why is sophistication or at least urban-ness assigned to eating late rather than early? Is there any question that from a health and comfort standpoint it makes sense to eat earlier? Who here will refuse a 5:30pm reservation on principle? How about 10:30pm?

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Personally I prefer starting between 7:30 to 8:00 pm. Much later than that and sleep becomes difficult -- a serious problem given that during the week we are out of bed around 6 am. Much earlier, and I end up snacking before going to bed: bad for sleep and for weight control.

My wife is from Texas, and even after 12 years on this side of the water she prefers to eat at something like 6 pm or even 5:30. That's about the time we feed the children, and she and the nanny often eat with them.

Meal timing is not independent of national work habits and restaurant opening times. In the UK, it is rare to be finished with meetings and calls before about 5:30 pm, and there are often meetings starting at 5 pm. So it is challenging to get home much earlier than 7 pm or 7:30 pm. Weekday dinner parties here are often "7:30 for 8:00" which means that dinner actually starts at something like 8:15.

The better restaurants here don't start serving much before 7:00 or 7:30. Gordon Ramsay's early seating is at 6:45, but that is an exception.

In France, I have had difficulty getting reservations starting before 8 pm, 7:30 at the earliest. This can be a problem when we are with the children. Italy goes even further in this direction.

As Ellen points out, nightlife in Argentina doesn't really start until 9:30 or so. I have found it very easy to get good tables at some of Buenos Aires's most desirable restaurants, simply by booking for 8 pm, where a 9.30 reservation would be impossible. Only problem is that if you take Argentinians along, they finish dessert at a time that, for them, the night is still young. They then settle in for several hours of coffee, drinks and chat. Fun, but painful if you are jet-lagged.

Jonathan Day

"La cuisine, c'est quand les choses ont le go�t de ce qu'elles sont."

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Earliest: 5:30 or 6:00, but only at fine restaurants in NYC. It's easier to get early reservations. Since we can easily take 3+ hours for dinner at someplace like Jean Georges, I want to start early so I'm not finishing at midnight. Especially if it's a weeknight.

Latest: 9:00pm or later, but only at home, which = office. Sometimes we just can't wrap up what we're each working on any earlier. Or one of us has a meeting, and we can't eat beforehand. I hate eating that late, though -- for the same reason of not wanting to go to bed right after eating.

Average: somewhere around 8:00pm. Please don't call me then. :wink:

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When we lived in Panama, we had an American bachelor friend (Mike) who was invited to the home of a Panamian couple for dinner. The written invitation said (in Spanish) to come for "dinner at eight."

Our friend knew better to arrive at eight of course, so at 8:30, he knocked at the door. The hostess, obviously expecting a delivery of some sort, opened the door wearing a bathrobe and slippers, no makeup and her hair in rollers.

She let out a horrified gasp to see our amigo, Mike. "Oh my goodness," she said in Spanish. "What are you doing here?" and then realizing what he was doing there, quickly added, "Of course it's very nice to see you, won't you come on in?"

She called for a maid and they sat Mike on the sofa. The hostess scurried off to finish getting ready. The maid fixed Mike a drink and then, with a half-apologetic/half-miffed air, set before him upon the coffee table one solitary forlorn bowl of mixed nuts. Mike said that it had about it a "quality of desperation" and he could imagine that the conversation in the kitchen had gone something like: "What can we give him?" "I don't know, nothing's ready yet." "Well, we have to offer him something." "Okay, take this bowl of nuts. It's not much but what does he expect after arriving so early."

The doorbell rang about 15 minutes later - it was the fishmonger delivering the fish right off the boat. This time, one of the servants went to the door and took the fish into the kitchen and gave it to the cook.

At around 9 pm, the host appeared and he and Mike had a nice chat by themselves until at 9:15 when the hostess, now dressed in full party regalia showed up. Elaborate platters of appetizers began appearing and music started playing.

The doorbell began ringing again at 9:30 when the other dinner guests started arriving. By 10pm everyone was in place, and they ate at 10:30.

Mike spoke enough Spanish to realize that a great deal of the lively conversation and laughter revolved around the retelling of the story about his early arrival and the hostess in her bathrobe/curlers. Several people pointed out to her that it was her own fault, because "everyone knows" that "'norteamericanos' have no manners and if you invite one, you should always add an hour and a half to the invitation because if you don't, they're there on the dot, 'like an inspector or something.'"

:laugh::laugh:

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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What a great story Jaymes!

When we eat usally depends on a number of things. During the week, I feed my son around 6 or so, and hopefully, hubby gets home in time to eat around 7:30.

Weekends, when dining at home, dinner time tends to be around 7:00 p.m still since even with healthy snacks a 10 year old boy doesn't seem to be able to last much longer than that.

When we dine out, reservations are usually made anywhere between 7:30 and 8:30 depending on whether we are by ourselves or dining with friends. We have one set of friends who prefer dining late (8:30) and another that prefer dining early (7-7:30)

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I often eat late; I'd rather eat early. Were it not for competing obligations (such as work), the general attitude of the people I dine with (they like to eat late), and the way restaurants handle the first sitting (they rush you), I'd make all my dinner reservations for 5:30 p.m. Especially in the case of fine-dining restaurants, my meals tend to last three hours or more. So an 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. reservation has me eating dessert close to midnight and I may not get home until 1:00 a.m., at which point I have to go to bed on a full stomach. That's just not pleasant for me. When cooking at home I'd ideally eat between 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. because, unless we're entertaining, meals at home usually last under an hour. Of course I'd rather eat a big lunch than a big dinner anyday. If a restaurant serves equivalent cuisine at both meals, and my schedule otherwise allows for it, I'll always choose a long lunch followed by just a snack for dinner.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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This is just surmise. There are probably books on the subject. I think late eating is not just an urban, but a middle to upper class phenomenon for several reasons. First, rural people, who were largely farmers when there were lots of farmers, were tied to the schedules of the seasons and their animals and were the last to get electricity, which, of course, was to extend waking time. Urban workers, when there were factories, worked long days, starting early, and often lived close to their jobs. They were hungry and tired from hard physical labor and liked to eat as soon as they got home. Also, they were men, so their wives, who almost universally stayed at home, could have supper ready when their husbands arrived home.

The urban upper and middle classes were probably the first to have electric light in their homes and offices. This development extended both the working day and the time available for evening recreation. These were also the people who were the first to live at some distance from their jobs. Commuting time meant getting home later. And, if you read John Cheever, you know there was the cocktail hour before dinner. There were also more things to do before dinner for urban dwellers with money, like theatre and concerts and movies. And the movies, which taught Americans to smoke and how

to kiss, also taught them that sophisticated people ate late.

Today, we have probably the majority of households that are headed by two people marked by both people working at some distance from the home. This means meal preparation doesn't begin until at least one person arrives home--no more mom having dinner ready when dad walks in the door. And what with both members of urban couples often working late, dinneris going to be later than it used to be. Also, if people don't eat breakfast until they get to their desks at, say, 9:30, this skews the meal times to later hours throughout the day. By the way, I think working late and eating dinner later leads to early evening snacking, which I think is another explanation for the country's growing obesity.

Sorry for the somewhat random nature of these thoughts. Anybody else out there have some? I'd love to see what you think.

Edited by ranitidine (log)
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it depends on where i am - monday, wednesday and thursday i eat at 4:30 which is the only time i can get someone to break me at the reference desk. tuesday, friday, saturday and most sundays are date nights so 6:30, appys and sherry at 6:00. i never and i mean never eat after 7pm. the few times i was so silly as to think that i could i spent most of the night up with horrible pain. :angry:

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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i never and i mean never eat after 7pm.  the few times i was so silly as to think that i could i spent most of the night up with horrible pain.

Please look at my nom d'egullet. Its the active ingredient in Zantac. I chose it as my monicker because it's what makes it possible for me to eat the wonderful foods our fellow posters report on and, especially, makes it possible for me to eat them in the evening. I suggest you consult your doctor. I hate to vouch for a drug, but the stuff really has worked for me.

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My parents, and my grandparents before them, and in fact almost every elderly/retired couple I know, eventually settle into a "two meals a day" routine.

They eat a rather large, nice breakfast around 10 or so. And then, a big dinner at about 4pm (hence the popularity of the "Early Bird Special"). Sometimes they have a very light snack around 8ish - maybe a glass of milk, or piece of fruit or pie or something before bedtime.

I could be totally wrong about this, but I suspect that may be a more natural pattern.

I believe the schedule of an early breakfast; lunch (or dinner) at midday; and then dinner (or supper) at night, was primarily to coordinate with work schedules - usually farm work, difficult manual labor.

I'd be interested to know what eating patterns were the norm in earlier societies among the wealthy "gentlefolk" that never had to work, or otherwise lift a finger.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Growing up, the entire family (mom, dad, two kids) sat down to eat dinner together at 6:00 pm on the dot. Every. Single. Night. And no, my last name isn't Cleaver. My Mom still tends to eat between 5:00 and 6:00, though I now prefer between 7:00 and 8:00.

I completely agree with FG's strategy of eating a large lunch and a snack for dinner. This works especially well for large, multicourse meals that last 3 or more hours. It takes at least 2 to 3 hours to degest to the point of comfort, so starting at 9:00 I probably wouldn't be able to sleep until about 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning. I know that in Spain everyone takes a long lunch and a nap in the afternoon, which helps explain the ultra-late dinners and after hours carousing. I demand a federal law mandating napping in the workplace!

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When I was growing up, my mother either stayed at home taking care of us or worked as a teacher, meaning she would get home around 4:00-4:15. My father worked from 8 AM to 4 PM, so he would get home at 5:00 if there was no traffic and pretty much expect dinner to be close to ready. (He also had a 2nd job twice a week that started at 6:00.) Consequently, even when I went off to college, I'd still eat dinner at the absurdly early hour of 5:00 or 5:15.

Now that I've been in NYC for 10 years, my eating times are definitely later. Heck, I don't even get home until 5:45 on a good night. Unless I have chorus rehearsal or something else that compels me to eat early, I usually have dinner around 6:15, later if I'm cooking something more complex than pasta. I too can't really sleep on a full stomach so I generally don't like to have dinner later than 7:30 if I have a choice. (I also heard that the closer to bedtime you eat, the likelier you are to gain weight, or at least not to lose it.) Weekends are different--I will have a late breakfast and early supper, with a very light snack in between.

While I loved my trip to Spain, it was hell on my internal clock. I'm so not a night owl, and I found it difficult adjusting to dinner at 9:30, and consequently staying up much later than I usually would.

When my parents come visit me, they won't let me make dinner reservations later than 6:00, and the earlier the better. They're going to make great retirees. :biggrin:

Edited by BklynEats (log)
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Please look at my nom d'egullet.  Its the active ingredient in Zantac.  I chose it as my monicker because it's what makes it possible for me to eat the wonderful foods our fellow posters report on and, especially, makes it possible for me to eat them in the evening.  I suggest you consult your doctor.  I hate to vouch for a drug, but the stuff really has worked for me.

i'm well aware of zantac and other drugs. i was on them in 1982 when i developed digestive problems. i chose to change the way i eat and not rely on the drugs so for the last 17 years or so i have had few problems. i tend to ear a smallish breakfast - soy yoghurt, cottage cheese with fruit, rice cereal, make my main meal in the middle of the day and go lighter for dinner.

Nothing is better than frying in lard.

Nothing.  Do not quote me on this.

 

Linda Ellerbee

Take Big Bites

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Like nightscotsman, I grew up eating at 6:00 on the dot!

I have always been more of a morning person than a night person and even in college I had a hard time eating at 8:00pm.

Nowadays with 3 small kids I try to keep dinner between 6:00 and 7:00 (my husband also gets home around this time) and when going out to restaurants I try to go before 6:00 because that is when they are the least crowded.Trying to get into most restaurants in Japan after 7:00 can mean upwards of a 2 hour wait and alot of places have adopted this new policy of not taking reservations on weekends. So occasionally when I am going out with a group of friends we have to get there before 6:00 or we can't get a table together.

Of course I am usually in bed by 9:00pm every night so early dining works for me! :biggrin:

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I grew up in Charleston, SC; when I was a child, my grandparents had a formal 2 pm dinner every day. It usually was an okra gumbo, rice and/or shrimp. My family hasn't carried on the tradition of having your biggest meal in the day- sort of difficult without the luxuries afforded to my grandparents.

I like to start cooking around 5 or 6 to eat around 7. If it is too early, I tend to snack which shows up on the waistline. And if we end up eating late at home (different if we are going out), I will eat every piece of bread in sight.

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Appetite management, mentioned by many here, is definitely a concern too. A big meal late at night does nothing to take the edge off hunger all day long. The big lunch is great from this perspective. The anticipation of the lunch helps limit morning appetite and afterwards only snacking is really necessary to get through to bedtime. Whereas, with a big dinner coming up, I tell myself not to eat much but it backfires. A small breakfast, a small lunch, and by late afternoon I'm so hungry I eat a pre-dinner dinner composed solely of dreck.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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Is there some endemic sleeping problem in the United States or something? All you people neurotic about not being able to sleep if you eat any later than 7pm. You know your trouble? You're not drinking enough wine with your meal.

A nice apero at 7.30, followed by dinner at 8 with a good bottle, possibly a very small digestif with coffee and you'll sleep fine.

I cannot abide the big lunch. It destroys you for the rest of the day.

Edited by Tonyfinch (log)
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I've been in line to get into restaurants at midnight in Madrid. I've sat down to the table as late as 2:00 am in some cases, but this is the custom in Spain. Dining is quite late.

Being one of the first into a restaurant usually assures two things: Your ingredients are never the freshest-they're the stuff they didn't serve at lunch. The other thing is that the service is too fast. Since you're one of the only guest in the restaurant, they serve you quickly-too quickly. Before 10:00 pm, you're out the door and wondering what you'll do for the rest of the evening.

Instead of heading home for bed, you're supposed to take a stroll along the streets to help digest all of the food and wine. It works and it's lovely but when you have to get up early the next morning, it's difficult to cultivate the custom.

Yet I do miss this style of eating.

BlackDuff

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Weekends are usually earlier, around 5pm.

Weeknights are around 7pm.

Latest will be a nible when my girlfriend comes home. She's a flight attendant and occasionally will have a late flight, like this morning when she got home at 12:15am. :wacko:

Drink!

I refuse to spend my life worrying about what I eat. There is no pleasure worth forgoing just for an extra three years in the geriatric ward. --John Mortimera

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By the way, I think working late and eating dinner later leads to early evening snacking, which I think is another explanation for the country's growing obesity.

But what about that late-evening snacking in front of telly, if the family has eaten early? Snacking =Tubbiness, no matter the time of day! We both maintain a pretty comprehensive snacking ban.

My husband spent some time in Spain (before he met me) and I swear it changed his life forever. His natural preference is to eat after 10:00, and it requires nagging and hustling on my part to get the meal on the table by nine. As he does most of the cooking, this can be difficult.

Growing up, my family ate 7:00 -ish (my parents having their Cheeverish martini hour!) Easier then, because there were fewer late-afternoon, evening activities for us kids...sports, etc.

His family did the six o'clock Cleaver thing. His dad still reminds his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to wash their hands before coming to the table.

When our daughter was still at home, her incessant nagging got the dinner to the table by eight. As an adult, I don't think she is capable of eating much earlier than 7:30.

Last night...our homemade pizza(with homemade sausage) and a video ("Barbershop" ..we loved it)at 10:00. Pretty typical for a weekend night.

Maybe we are just blessed with the digestive systems of goats, but neither of us suffer at all from the dread "going to bed on an full stomach" syndrome. What I have noticed is that if we do eat early, I am awake at 3:00 a.m., starving and considering a refidgerator raid!

Edited by maggiethecat (log)

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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I actually grew up with a fairly odd family eating arrangement. My whole family would eat dinner--I'm guessing between 6:30 - 7:00--and I would eat between 7:45-8:00. No, I wasn't locked in the basement until everyone else had finished the most succulent selections, I was at swim practice and would eat when I got home. I've never been a late night sort of a person but I guess I did eat pretty late for a kid. In college, at least the first few years when I lived on campus, dinner times were dictated by the hours at the dining hall. Our dorm had the best hours--I think it served until 8:30—and I was always on the late side. Even with restaurants, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone serving after 9:00 in Burlington (it's a bit better now). Of course, that’s where Ben & Jerry came in.

It’s really more of a recent (within the past five years) awareness that I’m happier eating earlier. In reality, most of the time we don’t--but I’m always hopeful that we will.

Ellen Shapiro

www.byellen.com

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My ideal dinnertime is probably 6:30. Laurie and I recently had a big special meal that started at 9:00, and it was a real pain. No amount of snacking can adequately prepare you.

Does anybody else here like an early lunch? I usually eat lunch between 11 and 11:30, but I have no qualms about digging in to a couple of slices of pizza at 10:15, and then I'm good until dinner. The amount of breakfast I eat doesn't seem to matter much, although the time I wake up does.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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This is an interesting thread. :smile:

I grew up having dinner early. My dad worked from 8:30 until 4:30 for years, so dinner at 5:30/6:00 was simply logical.

As a student, I was lucky if I remembered to have dinner. I snacked - usually reasonably heathily - and had lunch, which I got at the restaurant where I worked.

Now I live the London life, and as JD has pointed out it's exceedingly rare for the day to end at 5pm on the dot. I generally get home around half seven (or half eight on nights that I exercise), and I cook something after that. So I usually eat anywhere from 8 to 9pm. Which come to think of it, it probably why I usually just have a latte for breakfast. :hmmm:

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I usually aim for about 8pm on weeknights. I get home around 6-6:30, have a cocktail, take the dogs out...and then I can calmly face the kitchen/going out again.

Though recently, Mr. coolranch is working early hours and gets home around 4:30--and after eating lunch around 11--is hungry.

So now we've been eating a bit earlier, around 6 or 7.

Due to spur of the moment ideas/lack of reservations/meeting for drinks beforehand, we usually end up eating around 9 or 10 when we eat out on weekends.

My 80+ year old grandmother who lives in "Retirement Florida" is known by some of her favorite local restaurants because she never does the "early bird". :biggrin: She's always been a night owl and never eats dinner before 6:30 or 7, which is refreshing since dinner time for most in her 'hood is around 4:30.

Challah back!

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My 80+ year old grandmother who lives in "Retirement Florida" is known by some of her favorite local restaurants because she never does the "early bird".    :biggrin:  She's always been a night owl and never eats dinner before 6:30 or 7, which is refreshing since dinner time for most in her 'hood is around 4:30.

Love that visual... Granny down in the 'hood. Livin' large. Life on the edge. Eschewing the Early Birders. Eatin' late. Rude bumper stickers on the golf cart. What must the neighbors think.

You go Granny.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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