supper-table,

Category: Daily Life | Type: Historical | Title: Emma (in Context) | Author: Jane Austen | Vol: Volume I | Ch: Chapter III

Supper, about 8-10p, depending on locale, is the last meal of the day and lighter than dinner, the largest, between 3 and 6p (people in London tended to eat on the later side), followed an hour or so later by tea. Breakfast was about 10a, followed sometimes by a meal around noon, "nuncheon," composed of a cold snack. Sandwiches came into being in the later 18th c.

For those who did not work for a living, eating absorbed time and was an opportunity for or a test of conviviality as well as proof of being comfortably well-off. The regimen, keeping in mind the difficulties of cooking and especially baking, explains in part the need for numbers of servants.

Compared with French food, the English diet was heavy and bland. A mark of sophistication was having a French chef. Also French table manners and hygiene were superior to the English, who, according to Arthur Young, did not change the table linen regularly and did not always have napkins (see Arthur Young's Travels in France, 1787-1789, and for unique information about England in this period see his Travels there).

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