By the s, upscale hotels, which had traditionally served dinner between one and three, began to offer the option of dining well after those hours. The seven-hundred-bed St. As dinner shifted to the evening and became an important family routine—important because it was now the main occasion for spending time together when family members spent their days apart—snacking entered into the crosshairs. Snacking was the antithesis of meals in general and of dinner, the archetypal meal, in particular. During this era, dining became exalted, and snacking taboo. Rhetoric about snacking warned of its dangers and proliferated, serving a dual purpose: it demonized between-meal consumption and glorified the family dinner.
Focusing attention on the transgression of snacking elevated the importance of the evening meal, carving a pedestal for the new nightly family gathering.
Abigail Carroll: Three Squares - The Invention of the American Meal (Burlington)
With snacking as its nemesis, dinner became an evening affair whether Jane Cunningham approved or not, and this change occurred for two reasons. First, the shifting shape of work in the mid-nineteenth century led to new schedules and roles within the family. Second, the rising importance of social class made dinner a classroom for manners and a training ground for worldly success.
Both changes in schedule and class structure were the offspring of industrialization.
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Although the shape of the modern meal may have little to do with industry, it has everything to do with the Industrial Revolution. The modern meal emerged from the crucible of change that was the nineteenth century, a time of upheaval when the status quo was disrupted and reinvented on every level—social, cultural, technological, economical.
The Industrial Revolution not only revolutionized the means of producing goods in this country but altered how ordinary Americans lived, turning everyday life for masses of people on its head in just a few decades. The crux of the change was the shift from farm to factory.
The manufacture of goods, once centered primarily on farms and in homes and artisan workshops, was now becoming centered in mills, where water-power ran complex machinery that fabricated products like cloth and glass in great quantities and at high speeds. Peterborough , NH at 12 Depot Sq. Skip to main content.
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