Does Dinner mean Lunch or Supper?

Only a sudden oven breakdown could be more haunting for a hostess than an inaccurate perception of dinnertime. Friends arrive six hours late to eat overbaked lasagna, or six hours early to greet the cook scrubbing the toilet. Is dinner served at noon or night? I say “not at all” at our house, where lunch and supper supersede to avoid the confusion of when dinner shall be served.

Some Internet bloggers call dinner’s conflicting time a lingering issue between Yankees and Southerners. My experience in the Midwest finds that dinner seems largely a difference for rural and urban dwellers and what time of day you tend to eat a hearty meal of roast beef with mashed potatoes.

Fewer yet say dinner requires Grandma’s fine china and a candle. Losing clout in their argument are those evening dinner-eaters who flip-flop to eat dinner at noon on Sundays.

By the end of the day, dinner’s definition reflects personal lifestyle.

Like most farm families, I grew up eating dinner at noon. Before retirement, Granny rang the dinner bell only at noon to summon the men from their farm chores for meatloaf. My other grandma leaned out the back door before 1 p.m. and hollered “Dinner’s ready!” toward the barnyard and hoped the neighbors didn’t show up for ham and potatoes. My dad, brother and the farm employee know to head houseward for pork chops when my brother receives a text-message jingle for the midday market report.

For my husband, heavier meals had always been in the evening throughout his life. So my then-fiancé later confessed his astonishment when my mom placed a baked, turkey-sized chicken on the farmhouse table at a noon meal. I explained how the leftover chicken makes a delicious second meal in soups and casseroles. He remained bewildered and repeated “whole” with wide eyes and a head nod, as if she had placed a whole pig there. It is dinner, after all. Expect a tossed salad for supper.

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Our church follows my guidelines to avoid dinner-speak altogether as they serve their annual Steak Supper and Turkey Supper, and renamed the Come-As-You-Are Dinner to Luncheon. No one seems to debate the general timing of lunch and supper.

Meanwhile, my life has adjusted to a light lunch and larger supper, as our primary income is off the farm and our meal together as a family is served around 6 p.m. But on hungry middays, I crave Grandma’s meatloaf, home-canned green beans and the stomach-topping apple crisp with a scoop of ice cream.


  1. Thank God for this post! I am so sick of Yankees indoctrinating our children with Dinner at Supper.

    This has become a big deal within our family. I will not let my kids or other family call the night time meal dinner without at least a verbal lashing from this Southerner.

    At least when I die they will know that they have given up their Southern lifestyle to the dreaded Yankees.

    I think I will have this put on my headstone. At least that never dies.

  2. I am a Yankee and it is breakfast, dinner, and supper. Lunch is that snack you have in mid-morning or mid-afternoon.

  3. I was born in Arkansas. But raised in Texas. We ALWAYS were called infromplay are work at noon for Dinner. Momma would holler “Dinnnnner’s ready”, and we kids are working would come running. Another meal was prepared for Supper at 5-6:00pm.


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