Supper refers to the evening meal in a few areas in England. Usually, it refers to the last meal of the day consumed after dinner. It may also refer to a complete meal like the Poor Man’s Supper.
Traditionally, in the Middle Ages, supper was considered a light meal consumed after dinner. However, in different parts of England, the term supper was used to refer to a meal consumed at a different time. The term SUPPER was derived from the French term SOUPER or the German term SUPPE which was used to refer to a light soup that was consumed after dinner. At that time, dinner was served early as a heavy formal meal early in the evening or around noon. This was a very common practice with nobility. Cooks from rich households used to spend hours preparing the meal and present it at noon. Multiple courses were served and dinner was for several hours spreading from noon to about 5 in the evening. However, the working class could not manage this as they had to work. As a result, they had a meal at around one and then rushed back to their shops. When they shut shop and returned back home around 6 to 7 in the evening, they had to have a rushed meal. This was because artificial lighting was usually in the form of oil lamps and candles. The poor could not afford the lighting and most people went to bed when the sun went down. In the fading light, it was only possible to have a rushed simple meal which was then referred to as supper. Supper was consumed shortly before the sun went down or just afterwards. Nobles and merchants usually had a light meal between 4-6pm but peasants ate earlier at sundown. However, as time passed, the term supper was used in different connotations to refer to meals taken at different times in the evening. Supper would have been a light soup, or a warm milky drink or biscuits and cereal or even sandwiches which were served after dinner as a light snack. In some parts of England, the term supper was used by the lower middle class to denote an informal family meal while dinner was used by the upper class to refer to a heavy formal meal.
- In Ireland and New Zealand, tea was used to refer to the supper meal and it consisted of tea, coffee and cake served after dinner.
- In areas like Hong Kong, US and Canada, the terms dinner and supper may be used interchangeably to refer to the same meal which is served from 6pm to 8pm.
- In some parts of the US, especially Missouri and Iowa, dinner may refer to lunch while supper is consumed in the evening between 6pm to 8pm.
- In the Philippines, dinner refers to the afternoon meal from 4pm to 7pm while supper refers to the night meal consumed from 8pm to 11pm or later.
- In Malaysia and Singapore, dinner refers to the first meal of the evening around 7pm- 9pm while supper refers to the meal consumed after that anywhere up to midnight.
Traditionally, light cold meals were served as supper dishes. Soups, cold meats, fruits, cheese and bread were considered traditional. However, complicated dishes like potted meat, fricassees of meat or fish, toasted bread, etc were also common. Nowadays, any dish can be served at supper as a light meal or a snack before bedtime.
Suppers as Complete Meals
- Special suppers like the Burns Supper refer to a special occasion where a dish called haggis is prepared. It is usually served with drams of whiskey, champit tatties or mashed potatoes, and bashed neeps or cooked turnips and Swedes. This supper is followed by a simple local Scottish soup like Scotch broth or cock-a-leekie.
- In the US, supper may refer to a special meal served at Christmas or Thanksgiving where the entire family gathers together to have a traditional meal.
- In Canada, a fowl supper or a fall supper refers to a turkey cooked and served at a meal.
- In Scotland, a fish supper refers to a meal of fish and chips while a sausage supper refers to a meal of sausages and chips. A pastie supper refers to a meal of pasties with chips.
- A Poorman’s Supper refers to a Depression Era recipe for potatoes and hotdogs which was very popular during the time.