British dopers, tell me about your meals

So, a lifetime’s hodgepodge of literary and cinematic Anglophilia encompassing various historical periods and social classes have left me wondering about your meals.

The only meal universally mentioned, from Jane Austen to Harry Potter, is breakfast. Is it an important meal culturally? What about “tea”? Sometimes is seems to be a whole meal, taking the place of what I would call “dinner” though perhaps a bit earlier, sometimes just being a cup of tea. Bridget Jones never seems to have tea. Is it still gauche, ala “Pursuit of Love”, to say “lunch” rather than “luncheon”?

When’s “dinner”? Or is it “supper”? or are they different?

And what’s “tiffin”? (“Shaun of the Dead”)

Nobody says “luncheon” with a straight face. “Lunch” is the usual name for the meal that takes place in the middle of the day, although with my familial northern influences it still sounds a bit posh to me, and I tend to think of that meal as “dinner”. The evening meal is “tea” in the north (at least the parts of the north that my family hails from) and “dinner” in the south. Confusion arises because “tea” can also refer to any meal taken from mid-afternoon onwards, and because “dinner” can also mean the midday meal (at school, particularly, hence “dinner ladies”).

“Supper” is not a term that I use myself. Some people seem to use it to mean the main evening meal, while for others it is a light snack taken late in the evening.
I suspect I’m not helping much…

I think the Brits are all deeply asleep, mouth agape, and snoring fifteen pints of lager off.

So can an Australian play to keep you going until they wake up? Our meals are pretty similar, I’d wager.

In my family, when I was growing up, it was always breakfast, lunch, and tea. These days, tea and dinner are used interchangeably. In any event, I’ve never seen a cup of tea served at “tea” - it was the main at-the-table family evening hot meal instead. Some of the kids I went to school with had breakfast, dinner, and tea in their families, which used to confuse me no end.

Tea is actually served at morning tea and afternoon tea, along with cake or biscuits, but that tends to be the preserve of old aunties. If i’m hungry at that time of day, it’s more likely to be a coke and a hamburger.

Guessing this is the same for the Brits: I’ve seen “luncheon” used within a very narrow definition. It tends to be an organised (non-family) event, as in “the Historical Society will be holding a luncheon next Tuesday”. In that context, it’s still a bit tweedy, but you can at least say it with a straight face. Otherwise, it sounds like something a policeman might use at a riot.

OK, maybe. But nobody uses “tiffin” any more, do they, outside of Carry On Up the Khyber?

I’m not even sure what tiffin is. Something to do with afternoon tea during the British Raj in India, I think. Maybe the Shaun of the Dead mention was a nod to the Carry On film.

It’s breakfast, lunch and Dinner/tea for me (though supper is used sometimes).

I don’t know what tiffin is, but very recently it has become fashionable for people who work to get tiffin boxes for lunch. These are special lunch pails (the Britsh term is ‘lunchbox’, but pail seems more appropiate as the tiffin box does resemble a pail) from Indian takeaways which keeps food warm and contains rice and some sort of curry.

I don’t eat breakfast myself :eek: , but it is certainly popular here.
Bear in mind that we have a class system (much less now though) and that explains why the same meal can have different names, for example.

The upper classes (at least in books like Jeeves + Wooster) serve massive breakfasts for the guests. The sideboard groans under the weight of eggs, bacon, sausage, ham etc.
The middle classes will have a cooked breakfast together before Dad sets off to work and Mum drives the kids to school.
The working class will slap some dripping on Hovis bread before running down cobbled streets…

Upper classes have high tea in the afternoon. Cucumber sandwiches, don’t you know.
Middle class tea is served by Mum if visitors come (and is served in the parlour).
The working classes call their evening meal tea. “When I get back from t’mill, me wife has tea on t’table.”

Bridget Jones is middle class (but with aspirations to rise!)

Lunch is a regular midday meal. Luncheon is a formal midday meal.

Dinner is the evening meal, while supper is a later snack. “I didn’t have time for dinner - I’ll have a bite of supper later.”

Tiffin (as Usram rightly says) is reminiscent of the Raj. It means tea (with memories of Indian servants waving fronds to cool the English memsahibs.

That usage is current in the US as well. It’s always a group holding one, usually a group that a few decades ago would be the Ladies’ Auxiliary of something. “The Friends of the Library will hold their annual luncheon…” Expect chicken salad.

Isn’t ‘parlour’ about as contemporary as ‘tiffin’?!
I’m pretty sure there’s regional differences to be found, especially between dinner/tea/supper, but I’m not going to put a firm identification on any in particular.

Next you’ll be telling me that ‘Upstairs, Downstairs’ isn’t contemporary drama… :eek:

Yes, ‘parlour’ is rather Victorian, but then I was trying to give an idea of the mixture of class, history and dialect that lurks behind the meaning of our English language.

For example, I have images of Jeeves and Wooster, a kid from t’North cycling down cobbled streets, Agatha Christie novels and TV reality shows of dinner parties. :confused:

On the OP’s question about breakfast, I would say that, no, it is not an important meal. Most people just have a bowl of cereal, or a few pieces of toast. However, there is the Full English Breakfast (with equivalents in the other British nations and Ireland, but I’m not sure what they call them), of which we’re terribly proud. Ingredients vary, but it must include bacon, fried eggs and baked beans. Usually toast or fried bread, sausages and fried mushrooms too. Sometimes fried tomatoes, black pudding and/or hash browns. And copious amounts of tea, with milk thanks.

Go into any greasy spoon in Britain and something called Full English Breakfast, All Day Breakfast or similar will be prominently featured on the menu.

No, no, and thrice no. Baked beans serve one purpose only, which is as a sugary disguse for cheap and/or poorly-cooked meat.

It’d be a brave man who tried: from previous threads here and elsewhere it seems to be all over the shop, with exceptions to every case. While there may be regional trends, there seem to be large elements of social class, family tradition and personal preference mixed in too.

It helps to understand the history, which I’ve posted on before, but I’m going to do it again because it’s interesting and relevant (or I think it is :wink: )

Until (I think) sometime in the nineteenth century, it was simple and uncontroversial: “dinner” was the main cooked meal of the day, taken anytime between 11 am and 9 pm or so, depending on what suited your lifestyle. If you had your dinner early, around midday, you’d have a light meal later in the evening, and that would be “supper”. If you had your dinner late, you’d keep yourself going with a light “lunch” around noon.

When you had dinner depended to a large extent on what you did for a living. Generalising wildly (there are exceptions everywhere, which is part of the reason things are still so mixed up), the working man in a factory would get a break around noon, and since he lived nearby, would go home for a cooked dinner. Mr middle class, who worked in an office in the city, but lived in the suburbs, didn’t have that option, and so had lunch at that time. The middle classes and upper classes, too, would be more likely to be entertaining in the evening, too, so they had another reason for preferring dinner late.

Afternoon “tea” was originally an occasion for the ladies of the upper and middle classes (who of course did not work) to socialise, and was, to begin with, just a cup of tea (and perhaps some bread and butter or a biscuit). Over time the term came to be used for a wide range of events in the mid- to late afternoon, up to quite large and elaborate sit-down meals.

What seems to have happened is that people have tended to fix the name of their meals based on their timing, rather than what they consist of: for some, a midday meal is dinner, even if they’re only having a sandwich; while for others it’s lunch, even if it’s a cooked three course meal. Likewise, for some people the main meal of the day is “tea” because they’re used to having it in the late afternoon/early evening.

Naturally, there’s a whole layer of [del]snobbery[/del] status-consciousness, too, with the uppper/middle class “lunch” tending to replace the more working-class “dinner”; and of course people’s life-styles have altered markedly in the last half-century – some have changed what they call their meals in response, and some haven’t.

Well I love 'em and would send back anything purporting to be a F.E.B that doesn’t include baked beans. Although I notice from Wikipedia that the Northern Ireland equivalent, the Ulster Fry, doesn’t include beans, so maybe they share your bizarre aversion to them.

You swine you.

Baked beans are an absolute essential to a full English.

Without the beans it just aint a full, as Usram says, they are a must .

Honestly, some people

Absolutely - and one additional factor is class-based aspiration. People brought up saying one word and eschewing it for another ‘better’ one.

Actually, you might be on to something here, as I suspect a lot of my carnivorous preferences do come from influences on the Irish side of the family.

*Baked beans for breakfast. * That’s interesting.

If it’s like the canned pork 'n beans in the US, then that sounds kind of icky.
How are these baked beans prepared? I’ve seen Heinz beans in the grocery but never tried them. Is that the type used for breakfast?

'Merkin here who’s had several full english’s while visiting, and it’s pretty much what I know as baked beans. Not pork n beans, with bits of hot dogs, but regular baked beans.

Yes, just plain Heinz beans heated up and slopped over half the plate, taking up valuable sausage-space. Not that I’m showing any bias, of course.