The ideal dinner

We’re showing our age at every turn! We’re down to eating just two meals each day. I view this as a material aberration of the standard social behaviour in the western world. It plainly conflicts not only with ideal dietary recommendation but further contaminates the ageless business luncheon (which I readily admit was often propelled by an overriding ambition for a martini or similar midday analgesic). I recall as a young lawyer attending a noon hour meeting with senior lawyers at a downtown Toronto restaurant. I arrived mere seconds after noon. When I told the mâitre d’ for whom I was waiting, he informed me with a smirk that they were already at table. Enjoying their morning eye opener!

The nutritional deprivation of having but two meals per day does little if anything to maintain our racehorse figures. I blame Nature’s unrestrained proclivity for abundance and consumption when at hand. More of that capitalist promotion to get it while you can. Sometimes after breakfast – which is customarily late in the morning (usually following  a purgative bicycle ride) – I often wonder whether I’ll be able to eat dinner. But inevitably I do. And as regularly with an appetite (which I find even more astonishing).

Breakfast as we all recognize is very much an insular activity. The British nicely adjusted the early morning preference for isolation by exporting manipulation from staff to oneself. Distance is the key to revival (sometimes shamelessly prolonged by last evening’s Champagne). And one needn’t enforce manners or spirited dialogue. Instead we are enabled to seclude ourselves behind a newspaper (or nowadays an iPhone) before having to straighten the spine for proper address.

The evening meal – what I am accustomed to call dinner – is an exposition of limitless calculation.

The word is from the Old French (c. 1300) disner, meaning “dine”, from the stem of Gallo-Romance desjunare (“to break one’s fast”), from Latin dis- (which indicates the opposite of an action) + Late Latin ieiunare (“to fast”), from Latin ieiunus (“fasting, hungry”). The Romanian word dejun and the French déjeuner retain this etymology and to some extent the meaning (whereas the Spanish word desayuno and Portuguese desjejum are related but are exclusively used for breakfast). Eventually, the term shifted to referring to the heavy main meal of the day, even if it had been preceded by a breakfast meal (or even both breakfast and lunch).

i won’t pretend that dinner is for me more enchanting than any other meal but it affords the inexpressible conclusion to any day, eventful or otherwise. The evening meal is the faithful resource of settlement. For some it is merely an interlude before cocooning in the goose down duvet. As for its constitution dinner is as extraordinary or as plain as the imagination of the chef. I haven’t an inclination to press upon others the preferred ingredients of dinner – whether meat or fish, bread or pasta, vegetables or fruit, vino or agua. But I am particular about not putting on the nose bag after 7:00 pm. It’s another reflection of aging.  Fortunately we haven’t graduated to “seniors hour” or “ early bird special” at five o’clock. But I won’t say it won’t happen.

Meanwhile I delight in this culinary routine. It reaffirms that I’ve managed to make it through another day unscathed.  Or if I am scathed, there’s respite in the tradition. And don’t forget dessert – another day tomorrow to do it all over again!