What Time is Dinner?, History Magazine
ABOUT ANCIENT GREEK MEAL TIMES
"Meal times are variable, but a midday meal was usually called ariston lunch... and an evening meal deipnon, dinner. The latter was perhaps typically the biggest meal of the day, and for some the only meal."
---Siren Feasts: A History of Food and Gastronomy in Greece, Andrew Dalby [Routledge:London] 1996 (p. 12)
ABOUT BRITISH MEALTIMES (overview)
"In the beginning of the sixteenth century in England, dinner, the main meal of the day, used to begin at 11:00AM. Meals tended over time to be eaten later and later in the day: by the eighteenth century, dinner was eaten at about 3:00PM...By the early nineteenth century, lunch, what Palmer in Moveable Feasts calls "the furtive snack," had become a sit-down meal at the dning table in the middle of the day. Upper-class people were eating breakfast earlier, and dinner later, than they had formerly done...in 1808...dinner was now a late meal and supper a snack taken at the very end of the day before people retired to bed. For a long time luncheon was a very upper-class habit; ordinarily working people dined in the early evening, and contented themselves as they had done for centuries with a mid-day snack...Supper now means a light evening meal that replaces dinner; such a meal is especially popular if people have eaten a heavy lunch..."
---The Rituals of Dinner, Margaret Visser [Penguid:New York] 1991 (p. 159-160)
"Taking meals at regular times was seen a good thing in moral terms: every mouth needs food; meals shall take place at their proper time'...Gluttony consisted of eating before the time of the meal, as well as taking too much. Regular mealtimes seem to have been seen as evidence of an ordered, civilised life. Morever, in large establishments, serving meals at set hours would have saved time. Punctual meals were particularly important in monasteries where the offices had to be observed. When meals were taken, or even how many meals a day there were, varied according to the calendar, social class, and personal preference. The novice of the Colloquy seems to eat first soon after midday...The Regularis Concordia mentions the prandium ad sextam at noon, and a cena between Vespers and Compline allowed daily from Easter until Whitsun. From Whitsun until September 14 (apart from certain fast days which included Wednesdays and Fridays) and on all Sundays and feasts of twelve lessons there were also two meals a day but the prandium was not taken until none (3 p.m.). A single meal ad noman between Nones and Vespers was the rule for the winter period from September 14 to Lent; in Lent and on Quarter Tense days the one meal was ad vesperam (after Vespers). So it appears there was a main, midday meal, though this might be put back to mid-afternoon, or later, for which the term was ge-reordung or non-mete. According to the Old English Rule of Chodegang, if preostas ate twice a day then it was a midday and evening, and at Aethelwold's monastery the monks had dinner and supper...An ealier meal than dinner or supper is referred to--the undernswoesendum. Undern was roughly the period of dawn...In contrast to the monastic regimen where the main meal was at or around midday, it is possible that in a secular time-table, main meals were at the third hour and again at supper time, to allow a full day's activity between them. A number of individuals, usually for religious reasons, chose to have only one meal a day. There may have been others whose meals were similarly limited from lack of resources, but we do not hear of them."
---A handbook of Anglo-Saxon Food: Processing and Consumption, Ann Hagen [Anglo Saxon Books:2992] (p. 69-70)
"...what were the mealtimes and how often did people eat a day? The very poor doubtless ate when they could, but the slightly better-off peasants seem generally to have eaten three times a day. These meals consisted of breakfast at a very early hour to allow for dinner at about 9 a.m., or not later than 10.00 a.m., and supper probably before it got dark, perhas at 3.00 p.m. in the winter. The times and number of meals were originally derived from the hours of devotions of the Church. Monks ate the main meal of their day after the celebration of nones, which was nine hours after daybreak. This was in practice at some time between midday and 3.00 p.m. The evening meal had to be a reasonable time after this, at or after vespers (around sunset). Three meals a day were accepted as reasonable by most later sixteenth-century writers, such as Andrew Borde, although he thought that this was only good for the labouring man: anyone else should be content with two. It has been suggested that breakfast was only eaten by children and workmen, but certainly by the fifteenth century it was quite commonly taken by everyone....although the 1478 household ordinance of Edward IV specified that only residents down to the rank of squires should have breakfast, except by special order...The time was only specified as a 'convenyent hower', although to break one's fast after devotions was the generally recommended procedure. Earlier reference to breakfast sometimes meant dinner, literally, in these cases, the first meal of the day. Sir William Harrison thought that in previous times (not specified) there had been four meals eaten a day, that is breakfast, dinner, nuntions (or 'nuncheons', taken about noon) and late supper. Nuncheons was usually something eaten by workmen who were given payment for it...Edward Prince of Wales (son of Edward IV) probably dined at 11.00 a.m....and supped at 5.00 p.m....The staggering of meals in large households, with the servants eating earlier than the lord...was common."
---Food and Feast in Medieval England, P.W. Hammond [Wrens Park Publishing:Pheonix Mill] 1993 (p. 104-5)
"...what time to eat? Should the midday meal or evening meal be larger? Entire books were composed on this very topic. Medieval theorists, and common custom through the Renaissance, favored the "prandium," or dinner, at ten or eleven in the morning, as the larger meal. Digestion, it was thought, is fortified by movement and the heat of the sun...authors, armed with a purified Galen and other Greek authors, promoted the larger "coena," or supper, at around six in the evening. They argued that distribution of humors and spirits, the third stage of digestion, is stronger during the day, but concoction is much stronger when the mind and body are at rest...Most authors agreed that two meals are sufficient, although some Arabists favored three meals in two days or food every sixteen hours. The English vehemently defended their custom of taking breakfast. Most agreed in condemning the between-meal and late-night snacks, or "merenda" and "collations." The latter term originally referred to the light monastic meal at the end of the day, which derives its name from John Cassian's "Collations," which was read during the meal. It eventally came to mean all late-night nibbles or after-dinner dainties...Digestions, it must be remembered, was thought to proceed in distinct separate stages rather than one long continual process along the digestive tract. Thus, knowing how long each stage requires also reveals the ideal time to eat. A meal must not commence until the former meal has been thoroughly processed...Such a schedule would mean rising at 6:00, dining from 10:00 to 11:00, supping from 6:00 to 7:00, and sleeping at 11:00."
---Eating Right in the Renaissance, Ken Albala [University of California Press:Berkeley] 2002 (p. 112-3)
Early modern Europe
"One detail that comes primarily from literary evidence is the time of day when meals were customarily taken. This was acutally a matter of debate among dietary writers in the sixteenth century, but most of the deferred to the authority of ancient authors like Galen and recommended two meals per day. The first smaller meal, dinner, should be taken at around 11:00 a.m., and a larger meal, supper, follows six hours later at around 5:00 or 6:00 p.m. These authors reasoned that since the digestive powers are stronger during sleep when the digestive heat is withdrawn inward, and because there are more hours between the evening and morning meal, that supper should be larger. These recommendations follow ancient practice, and concide with early modern custom in Spain and some parts of Italy like Venice and Genoa. But the rest of Europe followed a different pattern--eating the larger meal in the late morning and smaller meal in the evening. The evidence for this comes foremost from literary descriptions of meals that usually take place mid-day. Even in the vast majority of cookbooks that offer menus, the grander meal was held at mid-day...What is clear is that meal times gradually shifted, dinner being held later and later in the day. In the sixteenth century dinner was held around 11:00 a.m. By the seventeenth century it had crept to 12:00 or 1:00 p.m. Samuel Pepys, the seventeenth-century English diarist, recorded several dinners he ate at 12:00 replete with heavy drinking. In the eighteenth century fashionable dinners, and the gentry and business classes in the cities who sought to imitate them, ate dinner later and later in the afternoon...Actually the usual dinner time was 2:00 or 3:00 p.m. by mid-century and by the late eighteenth century it was perhaps as late as 4:00 or 5:00 p.m. Only in more recent times has it come to rest in the evening, when supper consequently became less important. This development necessitated the invention of a new mid-day meal, lunch, which only became standard at the very end of the eighteenth century. Even more elusive is evidence for breakfast. Judging from cookbooks and dietary literature there was no such meal, or at least it was only recommended to children, invalids and the elderly who have weak digestive systems and must eat smaller meals more frequently. Nevertheless, there was such a meal, and some people took it regularly...What appears to have happened is that as dinner moved later in the day, people were hungrier first thing in the morning, especially when the evening meal was relatively small. In countries where the evening meal was larger, breakfast did not become important. In southern Europe it is still not a proper meal, but merely coffee and perhaps a piece of bread or pastry. In England and the north the pattern was quite different...By the eighteenth century breakfast...was eaten around 9:00 or 10:00 in the morning. Only in the nineteenth century did it emerge as a full and sumptuous meal with bacon, eggs and even steaks. Thus the three-meal-a-day pattern we are familiar with is a relatively recent phenomenon. The English afternoon meal called "tea" as a snack between lunch and dinner also did not emerge until the nineteenth century...This kind of evidence of course only relates to the meal patterns of the upper classes. From the comments of dietary writers who usually disapproved of common custom, it is certain that laboring people ate many more meals, usually a breakfast, dinner in the mid-morning, some form of snack at sundown and then a small supper late in the evening. This pattern also persisted despite the shift in meal times among elites."
---Food in Early Modern Europe, Ken Alabala [Greenwood Press:Westport CT] 2003 (p. 231-4)
18th century Britsh mealtimes:
The British Housewife: Cookery Books, Cooking and Society in Eighteenth-Century Britain, Gilly Lehmann (various references throughout the book; charts p. 385-6)
"A Short History of [British] Mealtimes
Breakfast 10AM; Dinner 3-5PM, Tea 7PM, Supper 10-11PM
Breakfast 10AM (leisurely), 9AM (less leisurely), 8AM (working people); Luncheon Midday; Dinner 3-5PM; Supper 10-11PM
Breakfast, before 9AM; Luncheon (ladies only) Midday; Dinner 6-8PM; Supper depending upon the timing and substantiality of dinner
Breakfast 8AM (town), 9-10AM (country); Lunchoen 1-2PM; Dinner 6-8PM (depending upon formality and place)
Early morning 8AM (tea, bread and butter); Breakfast 8-8:30AM; Luncheon Midday; Afternoon tea 5PM, Dinner 7:30-8PM
Breakfast 8AM; Lunch/upper classes or Dinner/rest Midday-1PM; Afternoon tea 4PM; High tea 5-6PM; Dinner 7-8PM; Supper 9-10PM.
---Consuming Culture: Why You Eat What You Eat, Jeremy MacClancy [Henry Holt:New York] 1992 (p. 61-66)
[NOTE: These pages contain far more information than is paraphrased above. If you need details please ask your librarian to help you find a copy of the book.]
Period mealtime details
* Edwardian era
Current British meal times
"Mealtimes...These vary somewhat depending on the region of the country you are visiting, but in general breakfast is served between 7:30 and 9, and lunch between 12 and 2. Tea--an essential and respected part of British tradition, and often a meal in itself--is generally served between 4:30 and 5:30. Dinner or supper is served between 7:30 and 9:30, sometimes earlier."
---Fodor's Great Britain  (p. 34)
ABOUT AMERICAN MEALTIMES
"American meal patterns over the past four centuries have varied across different regions of the country and have been determined by an individual's occupation, social class, gender, ethnicity, and personal preferences. Seasons, holidays, and the weekly round of activities also played a part in determining what is eaten when. All meals, whether served at home or in a restaurant, are structured events...In colonial times, American meal patterns followed European practices, in which the extended family participated in meals, which occurred three times a day; the standard meals were breakfast, dinner, and supper. As the first meal of the day, breakfast...was eaten immediately upon rising or a few hours later, after the earliest chores have been completed...Working men and schoolchildren returned home for dinner, the main meal of the day, which was traditionally served in the early or late afternoon...Supper, the last meal of the day, was light and, sometimes, optional. It was eaten in the early evening...The traditional meal pattern began to change duirng the mid-nineteenth century, due in part to the growth of cities and the shifting of occupations of American men. The first meal to change was dinner. As towns and cities grew, it became more difficult for wokers to return home for dinner at midday as the distance between home and the place of work increased...Dinner, the most important meal of the day, moved to the evenings, when the family could dine together at a more leisurely pace. The midday repast came to be called lunch...and evolved into a small, light, and frequently rushed meal--often something brought from home in a tin pail or a brown bag, or a quick bite in a workplace cafeteria. Sandwiches, soups, and salads became common luncheon foods...After World War II, the American meal pattern changed yet again...Snacking became increasingly common as the century progressed, and the "three squares" diminished in importance."
---Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, Andrew F. Smith editor [Oxford University Press:New York] 2004, Volume 2 (p. 65-7)
"Dinner...The main meal of the day...The word dinner, dating to the thirteenth century in England, derives from the French "diner." Supper is also found in English as of the thirteenth century, from the French so(u)per, itself possible realted to "soup," which was often the simple repast of the evening meal. In American usage, "dinner dates in print to 1622. In America the tradition of eating the heaviest meal at midday was superceded in the 1820s by the demands of workers whose mealtime was often not paid for by their employers, thereby necessitating a quick, light meal before getting back to work. This became known as lunch, and the main meal of the day, "dinner," was consumed after work ended. The tradition the main meal in the afternoon was carried on as the "Sunday dinner," sence Sunday was for most people the only day of the week off from work. Even after the five-day workweek became the norm, the Sunday dinner, held anywhere from noon onward, continued to be an American family gathering."
---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p. 112)
Colonial American mealtimes
Early 20th century USA
Mealtimes, and meal titles, at the turn of the 20th century were a reflection of social status, not location. Wealthy folks emulated the latest British etiquette while farm families and poorer folks stuck to the traditional agrarian standards. Folks living in institutional settings (military, hospitals, schools, prisons) ate according to regulations. For example: A wealthy person's dinner party would commence anywhere from 6-8PM, while a mid-western farm family might be sitting down to dinner (their main meal of the day) at noon. The wealthier you were, the later (and longer) the breakfast. Lunch cut across all social classes at this time. Priviledged ladies entertained each other with fancy luncheons while factory workers and school children chowed down sandwiches in brief, prescribed breaks. Regardless of time and place, the general distinction between dinner and supper is the former indicates the main meal of the day; the latter is a light repast. If you took your dinner at noon, you supped at 5 or 6. If you took your dinner at 8, you might sup at 11. Period etiquette books were written for the wealthy and upper middle classes. Meal times and dining notes generally address social occasions rather than family (informal) meals. General notes here:
"The hour for luncheon is usually half after 1, the matter of time being its chief distinction from a breakfast, as the latter is served at noon; though another point of different is that while luncheons are frequently given without any more particular meaning than enjoyment, breakfasts come after certain ceremonies or occasions, as for instance, a wedding breakfast or a hunt breakfast....The dinner hour varies from half after 6 to 8 o'clock." ---The Good Housekeeping Hostess, facsimile 1904 edition [Hearst Books:New York] (p. 14-15)
[NOTE: This reprint is readily available. Your local public librarian will be happy to help you obtain a copy. It contains detailed descriptions of how to give parties from invitations to instructions for serving.]
Formal dinner at 8PM (p. 6); "Formal luncheon is served as a rule at one, half-past one, or two o'clock--not later than the latter hour, lest it spoil the guest's appetite for dinner." (p. 36-7); "The modern supper is not, as a rule, the first and foremost object of an evening's entertainment, but is usually an adjunct to some other form of festivity, such as a theatre or card party, or reception. Among the exceptions to this are the so-called game, wine, and fish suppers, popular among the "men-folk." Suppers are of various degrees of formality--from the delightfuly informal chafing-dish "spread" to an affair scarcely less elaborate than the formal dinner...there is no variation from the general rules applying to those features of the formal dinner...[no specific time recommended ] (p. 42-43); "The formal breakfast--or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the company breakfast, for this meal is not as a rule very formal--is much in favor with people of the leisure class...who frequently have considerable time to kill...The hour for a breakfast is usually twelve o'clock, but very often it is as early as ten; never later than noon, for it would then infringe upon the hours appointed by custom for luncheons." (p. 49); "In America the six-o'clock dinner prevails very generally, and the "Five o'Clock Tea" custom has gained comparitively little foothold; it has been adopted by the leisure clases, and is also popular with the college girl, the bachelor maid, the artist, and the so-called Bohemian circle." (p. 53) ---Consolidated Library of Modern Cooking and Household Recipes, Christine Terhune Herrick [R.J. Bodmer Company:New York] 1905 , Volume 1: The Modern Hostess
In sum, American famlies in this period could be eating breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner (wealthy, priviledged), supper OR breakfast, dinner, supper (agrarian, rural) OR breakfast, lunch, dinner, (middle class, industrial workers).
Appetizers & hors d'oeuvres
Appetizers, hors d'oeuvres, starters, antipasto, gustus, tapas, maza, mezze, zakuski, dim sum, smorgasbord...small foods served before meals to whet the appetite play integral roles in many cultures and cuisines. Offerings and traditions developed according to regional taste. It is important to note that appetizers were not part of all menus through time. In many cuisines this is a relatively recent practice. This explains why there is no such thing as "authentic" colonial American appetizers; only creative adaptations based on period recipes.
"...many of the great cuisines of the world -- Chinese, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Spanish, French and Italian, just for starters -- have long recognized that dawdling over small servings of many different dishes, sharing tidbits and discoveries, not only stretches out a pleasant social evening but bonds friends together in a very emotional way. In fact, the very word "companion" comes from the Latin com panis, or "with bread," meaning the person you share meals with -- friendship defined by dining...The most familiar versions are Middle Eastern mezze and their Spanish derivatives tapas; Chinese dim sum (meaning, sweetly, "touch the heart"); French canapes and hors d'oeuvres (themselves derived from the Russian zakuski); and Italian antipasti. In Vietnam, such drinking dishes are called "do nhau" -- literally, "little bites," and sounding not unlike "doughnut." The Thai, who might be the world's masters of outdoor gourmet dining, call them "kanto." Indians refer to samosas and other such little fried finger foods, cheerfully enough, as "chat."
---"Bite-Size Cusine," Eve Zibart, Washington Post, Sept. 4, 1998 (p. N26)
ANCIENT GREECE & ROME
"The Athenians were also responsible for inventing the original hors d'oeuvre trolley, which other Greeks adduced as proof of their miserly disposition. An Athenian dinner, claimed Lynceus, was an insult to a hungry man. 'For the cook sets before you a large tray on which are five small plates. One of these holds garlic, another a pair of sea urchins, another a sweet wine sop [probably some scraps of wine-soaked bread or marinated fish], another ten cockles, the last a small piece of sturgeon'."
---Food in History, Reay Tannahill [Crown:New York] 1988 (p. 69)
"The Romans served many different appetizers to begin their banquets. The most popular items were seasoned eggs and egg-based dishes, vegetables, salad, mushrooms and truffles, assorted shellfish, cheese with herbs, olives, sausages, and even more filling dishes, such as complicated fricassees and casseroles, which today would be considered complete meals in themselves."
---A Taste of Ancient Rome, Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa [University of Chicago:Chicago] 1992 (p. 49) [book includes recipes adated for modern kitchens]
"Starters (prommolsis and gustation). The aperitif was supposed to aid digestion. Aperitifs included vermouth (wormwood), spiced wine, mead or muslum; it was traditionally poured into a communal drinking-bowl and passed from guest to guest. The ritual, called potio, consolidated the sense of convivality. The promulsis might consist of oysters, marinated octopus, marinated vegetables, cauliflower, onion, garlic, snails, sea urchins, wild mushrooms and, above all, salsamentum, such as ham, bacon and especially salted fish. A Roman meal usually began with eggs and ended with fruit...Eggs were boiled, baked, or sucked raw from the shell. Patinae usually involved large numbers of eggs: hot or cold stuffed omelettes, custards, and tarts like quiches...Olives were rarely absent. Black or green and salted as they are today, they were served without further preparation. Sometimes they were pitted and gorund into a kind of tapenade: epithyrum...Dishes such as epithyrum were eaten with bread, which was never absent. It was also the base for various moretum dishes...Rabbit, sow's udder and roast pork might appear as starters, but lighter dishes, like sausages, fish and meatballs, dormice, small fish and birds, were more usual."
---Around the Roman Table: Food and Feasting in Ancient Rome, Patrick Faas [Palgrave MacMillan:New York] 1994 (p. 78-9)
"Salads, cooked vegetables, fungi and some light egg or fish dishes supplied the 'gustus' or hors d'oeuvre at a Roman meal."
---Food and Drink in Britain, C. Anne Wilson [Academy Chicago:Chicago] 1991 (p. 326)
Antipasto denotes the dishes served before (anti) the pasta (pasto) course. These are often similar to those served for gustatio. Antipasto is also more broadly defined as 'before the meal,' referring to all food served as appetizers. Alan Davidson's Oxford Companion to Food states: "Typical itmes are olives, pieces of raw or cured ham, marinated mushrooms or other vegetables, and items of seafood. As the popularity of Italian food increased in the second half of the 20th century this term acquired wide currency in English" (p.22)
"Antipasto...is an Italian term for 'hors d'oeuvres'...English actually took the word over in the sixteenth century, and partially naturalized it to antepast ( The first mess [course], or antepast as they call it, is some fine meat to urge them to have an appetite,' quoted in the Harleian Miscellany, 1590)."
---An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 7)
[in the 19th century]" The debate on popular, bourgeois, and aristocratic cooking influence the structure of the meal, modifying it profoundly. Many dishes were moved to a subsequent course, while others were assigned a new role...Among the many issues related to form, the question of the antipasto was the most important. With its profusion of different foods, it was the only part of the meal that reflected the courses offered on the tables of the aristocracy. Its evolution in the bourgeois meal continued to be tied to the stimulation of appetite and the dietary organization of the menu. The success it attained in lower-middle-class festivities, in trattorie and fine restaurants, and its decline at the dinner table made it all the more enigmatic, especially since its contents altered without ever changing completely...From the historical viewpoint antipast should not really be considered in the category of hors d'oeuvre. The term antipasto first appears in the sixteenth century, and Domenico Romoli usues it in the modern sense to mean the initial course. The term "hors d'oeuvre" by contrast is used by Massailot in Paris in 1691 to indicate dishes, such as artichoke hearts or pork trotters, that served as a supplement to the first of second course, as a kind of entrements that could also be presented after the roast. Etymologically, as Panzini shows, if a meal is considered to be the main project (oeuvre), then preparations that are supplementary or marginal to it are considered outside (hors) its scope. Il cuoco piemontese (The Piedmontese cook), written in 1766, uses the term in this sense, citing supporting soups as the hors d'oeuvre but limits its use to the first course. It was only in the following century that "antipasto" and "hors d'oeuvre" became synonymous. Romoli reflects the appetizing function of this course by proposing fresh, unsalted cheese, capers, and little fritters, which are meant to stimulate the appetite without filling the stomach. It was initially a cold but very varied course..."
--Italian Cuisine: A Cultural History, Alberto Capatti & Massimo Montanari [Columbia University Press:New York] 1999 -(p. 147-8)
"Appetizers, called 'maza' in Arabic, constitute one of the glories of this ancient cuisine. They serve as a foretaste of the delights to come in the meal, and are served on small dishes in what can amount to an incredible number, depending on the formality and importance of the meal. The impressive variety of these appetizers range from the simply presented olives or cheese to more complex preparations such as eggplant puree and hummus....The serving of these tidbits of food is believed to have been carried by the Arabs to the Iberian Peninsula during the 900 years the Arabs were in that part of Europe. The Spanish tradition of gathering before a meal for a drink and the sampling of endless appetizers called 'tapas', batches the Arab custom (but without the drinks for Muslims), and to a large extent this pleasant precursor to an elaborate meal is found only in the Middle East and in Spain."
---From the Lands of Figs and Olives, Habeeb Salloum & James Peters [Interlink Books:New York] 1995 (p. 22)
"Andalucia and its Tapas...Sevilla is also the place to go for 'tapas', whcih may be the most fun part of Andalusian cuisine...The origin of the word tapa, which literally means cover, seems to go back to the middle of the last century, from the name given to the slice of ham, cheese or bread used to cover the wineglass served to the horsemen as they arrived at the roadside inn tired and thirsty. The tapa protected the wineglass from dust or rain. In fact, the tapa was free--the patron paid only for the wine...The variety of tapas is almost as extensive as the entire Spanish gastronomy..."
---Spanish Table: The Cuisines and Wines of Spain, Marimar Torres [Doubleday:Garden City] 1986 (p. 11)
"The tapas tradition--that delightful Spanish custom of gathering before lunch and again before dinner for a glass of wine or beer and a sampling of appetizers--is so very popular in Spain as much for the Spaniard's overriding need for company and conversation as for the delicious food, which may range from the sophisticated to the most simple fare...Tapas will be found in even the smallest bar in the tiniest village. The choice in such places will typically be limited to cured ham, chorizo, and cheese, unless there is someone unusally inventive in the kitchen. But it is in the big regional centers of Madrid, Barcelona, Santiago de Compostela, Sevila, and Malaga where tapas often become inspired and are of an overwhelming variety. The Bar Gayango in Madrid is perhaps the epitome of a tapas bar, where no less than seventy-six tapas...are available...Tapas are sometimes taken on the honor system, but in general are served by waiters...The word tapa, meaning cover or lid, is thought to have originally referenced to the complimentary plate of appetizers that many tascas would place on top of one's wineglass--like a "cover." Anything, however, served in small portions can be considered a tapa...Tapas and first course dishes are often interchangeable...While it is obvious that canapes and tartlets would be served only as tapas, any of the clam or mussel dishes are also excellent as first-course offerings."
---Foods and Wines of Spain, Penelope Casas [Alfred A. Knopf:New York] 1982 (p. 3-4)
[NOTE: This book contains recipes for several popular tapas items.]
"Tapas are savour snacks served in Spanish bars, and typically washed down with glasses of cold vino or manzanilla sherry. They are now of considerable diversity, ranging from simple olives, potato salad, and small spicy sausages to fried shrimps, stuffed peppers, and squid cooked in its ink. The word tapa literally means 'lid' in Spanish, and its gastronomic application comes from the practice of covering glasses or jugs of drink on the bar with edible 'lids', such as a piece of bread or sausage, to keep out the flies."
---An A to Z of Food and Drink, John Ayto [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 2002 (p. 336)
"The masterpiece of Russian cuisine is the 'zakuski', or hors d'oeuvre, ceremony. Limited to the role of an overture in other cuisines, 'zakuski' are the equivalent of a whole first movement in a formal dinner...By the early nineteenth century, it became fashionable in sophisticated homes to serve 'zakuski' on a separate table in the dining room or in an adjacent room, where they were eaten buffet-style. In a less formal arrangement, the diners were seated around the dining table on which a variety of hors d'oeuvre was displayed. In restaruants, hors d'oeuvre were served one at a time or in groups at the dining table....Depending upon the occasion and their financial position of the hosts, the 'zakuski' menu included:
one or more fish hors d'oeuvre
one or meat hors d'oeuvre
one or more salads and vegetable hors d'oeuvre
one or more egg hors d'oeuvre
marinated and/or salt-pickled vegetables and mushrooms and marinated fruits (plums, apples, and others)
condiments: mustard, horseradish, and freshly ground pepper
fresh whit and dark breads..."
---The Art of Russian Cuisine, Anne Volokh [Collier Books:New York] 1983 (p. 11-13) [chapter on zakuski is about 60 pages long, includes recipes.]
"First course...The appetizers [early 19th century middle class France] Four tureens of different soups were placed at the corners of the table, while the entrees--light 'made dishes' indended to serve as an introduction to the most substantial meats that came later--were ranged tidily along the sides (hence 'side dishes'). When the soups had been disposed of, the tureens were removed and replaced with four dishes of fish (hence the name releve, or 'remove', for this second installment of the first course). This was not all, however. The peaceful consumption of soup, fish and entrees was constantly interrupted by servants offering platters of salted or preserved meats, or hot dishes of kidneys, liver and the like. These, which were in effect hors d'oeuvre ('extras') designed to stimulate the gastric juices..."
---Food in History, Reay Tannahill [Crown:New York] 1988 (p. 297)
"Hors d'oeuvres...a French term which has been current in a food context since the 17th century (In England, only from the 18th), indicating minor, usually cold, items of food served at the beginning of a meal. In the 20th century, until quite recent times the hors d'oeuvres trolley was a familiar sight in restaurants, incorporating up to several dozen little recipients containing the various delicacies on offer. Typical items would be anchovies, sardines, slices of smoked fish, olives, radishes, sliced tomato (or other salad vegetable), various sorts of sausage and other charcuterie, etc. Hot hors d'oeuvres could be miniature savoury pastries or tiny fritters or other similar tidbits; but these do not belong to the mainstream hors d'oeuvres tradition."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 387)
"Hors-d'Oeuvre in General Use. In this chapter I give a selected list of the hors-d'oeuvre most in use in ordinary households; it may be objected, that these belong rather to the maitre d'hotel's department, than to the cook's; but this will not be the case in smaller establishments, where the plain cook will have to attend to these, in addition to her ordinary work; this list of hors-d'ooeuvre has therefore appeared to me to have its proper place in domestic cookery. It is customary to dish up hors-d'oeuvre in small oval dishes or flat boats."
---The Royal Cookery Book, Jules Gouffe, tranlated by Alphonse Gouffe [Sampson Low, Son and Marston:London] 1869 (p. 76)
[NOTE: Gouffe's Hors' d'oeuvre selections are: radishes (raw, with dressing), Butter (shaped like shells), Gherkins (served in a boat with vinegar), Lyons Bologna or German Sausage (served cold with parsley), Olives (green), Anchovies (trimmed & served with oil), Sardines, (tinned, garnished with parsley & capers, covered with oil), Pickled herrings (served with oil, parsley & capers), Pickled oysters (sprinkle parsley on top), Mixed pickles (arranged tastefully), Cucumber (topped with ravigote), Raw artichokes a la Poivrade (seasoned with vinegar, oil, pepper & salt), Black radish (peeled, sliced & served in a boat).]
"Cold and Hot Hors-d'Oeuvre
The name of these types of preparation clearly defines their place in the menu. They are adjuncts, and if omitted from the menu should not alter the general harmony of the meal, especially where dinner menus are concerned. It is therefore indicated that they should be composed of light items of a delicate nature and they should not constitute a complete dish in themselves. But if these items are any less in terms of quantity they should be compensated for this by being of an excellent taste and by giving careful attention to the presentation--both of these should be above reproach. There are two types--cold Hors-d'oeuvre and hot Hors-d'oeuvre--each being entirely different from the other, both from the point of view of preparation and service...As a general rule cold Hors-d'oeuvre are suitable only in a meal which does not include a soup...However, this rule is not always observed especially in a la Carte restaurants; it is a means more usually of serving de-luxe Hors-d'oeuvre such as caviare, oysters, plovers' eggs etc. which do not have an undue influence on the digestion as would be so in the case of fish, salads and marinated vegetables. It is often noted that at least most of the time when these are offered, their use as Hors-d'oeuvre is nothing more than an expedient to occupy the customer whilst waiting for the preparation of the dishes he may have ordered (p. 120)...The hot Hors-d'oeuvre of our modern service are the old Entrees Volantes or side dishes of the French Service which have survived but with a change of name; their use, however, remains the same. They sometimes figure on luncheon menus together with cold Hors-d'oeuvre coming after them, but their real place is on the dinner menu where they come after the soup and serve as a link between this and the main dishes. Nowadays, there is an unfortunate tendency to exaggerate the amount and importance of hot Hors-d'oeuvre: it is too easily forgotten that the essential characteristic of these preparations is their lightness and delicacy. From the point of view of gastronomic logic they can be deemed superfluous and nothing except custom justifies their use. (P. 133)
---Complete Guide to the Art of Modern Cookery, Escoffier , first translation into English by H.L. Cracknell and R.J. Kaufmann of Le Guide Culinare in its entirety [John Wiley:New York] 1979
What about Victorian appetizers?
According to The Cassells' New Universal Cookery Book, Lizzie Heritage [Cassell and Company:London] 1894, the British were not completely committed to the idea of hors d'oeuvres.
Sweden's traditional smorgasbord offers guests a variety of small foods presented on a common table. It can be complicated (with courses) or simple (small foods meant as appetizers). Guests are invited to help themselves to whatever pleases them. Smorgasbord relates to the American "cocktail hour" in that these foods are typically offered with alcoholic drinks, similar to hors d'oeuvres.
"Smorgasbord. The best-known feature of the cuisine of Sweden, is related to the Russian Zakuski and also to Hors D'oeuvres and Mezze, but less closely to Tapas. It assumed something like its present form in the course of the 19th century, following old traditions of placing all foods on the table at once and of guests bringing their own contributions. Nowadays, it is usually prepared by the hostess, without contributions, and consists in an assortment of cold dishes, cometimes supplemented by hot ones, served either as the preliminary to a meal...or as a full buffet meal. The literal meaning of the term is buttered-bread table', which might lead one to expect an array of open sandwiches. In practice the various savoury items (cured herring in various forms, other seafood delicacies, cold meats, various salads, and cheeses) are presented with various Swedish crispbreads or the like, and only a few items, if any, would appear as miniature open sandwiches. When smorgasbord is a full buffet meal, a typical sequence of course' would be herring (always first); other seafood items such as gravlaks; what are called small warm dishes'...cold meats and the like; cheese/fruit/light dessert."
---Oxford Companion to Food, Alan Davidson [Oxford University Press:Oxford] 1999 (p. 727)
About Swedish smorgasbord in the United States
"Smorgasbord. A buffet meal of Swedish origins that has become in this century a very popular party spread. The word...first appeared in American print in 1893. The idea soon caught on, so that by 1941 the West Hartford Ladies Aid Society Swedish American Cook Book listed several suggestions for a smorgasbord, including the following items: butter balls, Swedish rye bread, pumpernickel, hardtack, pickled herring, baked ham, smoked tongue, lingonberries, radish roses, omelets, "Rulle Pulse" (rolled pressed lamb), "liver pastej" (liver paste), jellied veal, head cheese, hot Swedish meatballs, Swedish pork sausage, brown beans, Swedish fish pudding, smoked salmon, stuffed eggs, potato salad, "sill salad" (herring salad), meat and potato sausage, fruit salad, Swedish apple cake, and coffee with cream. Today smorgasbords may still contain many of these same times, as well as dishes from other countries."
---Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink, John F. Mariani [Lebhar-Friedman:New York] 1999 (p 298)
" [The Fifties] While French cooking carried the most cachet (and was considered the most difficult), Scandinavian cookery--to go with the plethora of blond Danish Modern furniture and bright -colored Dansk pots decorating the chicest homes--was In, In, In. And though Scandinavian restaurants were popular...Scandinavian food was most often found a buffet parties. For what could be more modern, more chic, more fun, and easier, than a smorgasbord at a party? Said House & Garden (November 1959), "As a good delicatessen can supply the bulk of the fish appetizers, cold cuts, Scandinavian cheese and breads, you can afford to spend time making salads and hot foods and preparing and garnishing one or two spectacular dishes such as a Swedish salmon in aspic." Decorations for a smorgasbord were easy, too. All the hostess needed were a few Swedish straw stars, some slim white candles, and the food, arrayed on teak trays, Swedish crystal bowel, and gleaming chafing dishes. To go with the food: beer and aquivit...and pots of strong, hot coffee...Salmon in aspic never caught on big as a party dish, but Swedish meatballs became an American standard for both home eating and for buffets.
---Fashionable Food: Seven Decades of Food Fads, Sylvia Lovegren [MacMillan:New York] 1995 (p. 203-4)
Wondering about Swedish meatballs?
The custom among Continental nations of commencing dinner with some savory plate, which shall stimulate a jaded appetite or serve as a whet to the palate, is gaining ground, probably more in deference to fashion than from individual requirement. As to the wisdom of the practice, much difference of opinion exists. On the one hand, it is asserted that such dishes are injurious, where appetite and digestion are lacking, and that given a good appetitie, they are quite unnecessary; while on the other, it is urged that they are in many cases of real benefit. But between the two extremes--from the Russian habit of indulging in several varieties of highly-flavoured food, followed by strong liqueur or spirit, to the oyster served au naturel, declared by many to be the hors d'oeuvre par excellence--there is ample scope for the introduction of little dishes, appetising and free from injurious properties.
It should be remembered tht while over-elaboration should be guarded against, in such as precede a simple dinner, careless service is inexcusable. Dainty service and suitable garnish must not be neglected; tiny dishes of glass or white china, holding just enough for one person, are most suitable and effective for dotting about the table; though for less ceremonious occasions large dishes may be used, say two or three, each containing a distinct variety.
The following list will enable a selection to be made, and suggest many other combinations. The chief materials available are anchovies, anchovy paste or butter, beetroot, capers, cress, celery, chervil, cods' roe paste, cucumber, caviare, herring roes or filets, marinaded herrings, lemons, lax (Norwegian salmon), mussels, olives plain or stuffed; oysters, pickles, smoked ham, sausages, tongue, &c.; tarragon, tomatoes, &c. &c. Various potted meats, fish pastes, and butters, play an important part in the garnishing of the dishes. Many small savouries which would also be served as Hors D'Oeuvres will be found under that and other headings later on...." (p.21)
Recipes in this book include Anchovies, Bouchees de Harengs, Bouchees de Saumon, Caviare, Devilled, Canapes a la Premier, Canapes d'Olives, Croutons a l'Alberta, Sardines in Aspic, Shrimps a la Dorisa and Hors D'Oeurvres Assortis. (p. 21-23)