The Last Dinner

When we moved to the Midwest three point five years ago, some cultural adjustments were necessary.

For starters, we had to get used to people who were overwhelmingly nice. Began to think of “traffic” as being third in line at a red light instead of inching forward on a freeway for hours. Discovered that Fleet Farm is the real “happiest place on earth.” And that they sell everything from burnt peanuts to all-season windshield washer fluid, the latter being a necessity around these parts in the wintertime. Chalk that up as another lesson.

We even had to adjust our vocabulary to fit in. Suddenly, “ope” and “you bet’cha” weren’t just charming turns of phrase from Fargo and “Jeez Louise” could be delivered unironically.

Perhaps the biggest adjustment involved the word we use to describe our main meal of the day. It all started when a coworker at Ye Olde Publishing Company invited us over for “supper” one night.

“You mean dinner?” I asked, just to clarify.
“No,” she replied. “Supper.”
“Yeah, sure!” I said. “We’ll be there with bells on!”

I promptly raced home and Googled supper to ensure we didn’t inadvertently show up at some unreasonable time, like 2 p.m. Had to make sure those bells were jingling at the right time, you know! Sure enough, dinner and supper can be used interchangeably, though dinner is far more common throughout most of the U.S. The Midwest, and certain pockets of the South, are the exceptoins.

And here’s the thing. Technically, supper is more correct, etymologically speaking. According to, “Dinner” doesn’t necessarily refer to a specific time of day. It simply means the main meal of the day. “Supper,” however, stems from the Old French word “souper,” meaning “evening meal.”

Besides, it would be weird if da Vinci had called his masterpiece “The Last Dinner.”

If supper used to be served at dinnertime and dinner was traditionally eaten closer to lunchtime, did lunch once refer to breakfast?

Don’t answer that. I feel a headache coming on.

The truth is, I vaguely recall my mom announcing, “Supper’s ready!” when we were young. Mom, can you confirm in the comments please? Or…you know…next time we talk on the phone?

In any case, supper at Sarah’s house was delicious. She served spaghetti. And ever since, I have encountered, time and time again, people here referring to the evening meal as “supper.” So much so that it no longer sounds odd to me. In fact, it’s even crept into my vocabulary. In a recent article for CenturyCo, I wrote, Smart meat thermometers monitor the temperature of everything from roasts to poultry, letting you know over your phone when supper is ready. 

Proof that my Midwest assimilation is complete.

Cultural adaptations were only half the story. Getting used to the climate was another. I’ve mentioned often how crazy our weather here is, and yet—as predictable as its unpredictability is—I never seem to get used to it.

Take these past few days. We went from highs of 73° on Friday to 31° on Saturday. And this morning it was 5°. That is why all-season windshield washer fluid is so important!

I’m not complaining, because this weekend was the first time it truly felt like winter. Tara and I headed out for a day of exploring the Black Hills on Saturday and, with a temperature hovering in the mid-20s, encountered frozen fog. I love how it turns our Ponderosa pines into real-life flocked Christmas trees.

The temperature fluctuated all afternoon depending on elevation. We’d be in the 20s one minute, the 40s the next. This led to a lot of juggling with the heat.

Because it gets dark so early this time of year, by the time we reached Spearfish Canyon, we could barely see the majestic towering granite cliffs that surrounded us. But that was okay: we’d planned to end the day with supper at Guadalajara in the town of Spearfish. They’ve got the best Mexican food in the area…it’s just a shame they’re nearly an hour away from home.

Oh, by the way, we’ve got our house fully decorated for the holidays, inside and out. I’m pretty happy with our display this year.

And because yesterday was cold and blustery, we kicked off the holiday season with a blazing fire in the hearth and the first of many Christmas movies.

Gotta run. I have to get supper on the table, and that Italian wedding soup isn’t going to cook itself.

33 thoughts on “The Last Dinner

  1. Crazy about the weather! I’m glad your hike ended before it was totally dark. That was making me nervous. We went hiking in mountain lion territory recently, and I was adamant about getting back to the car before dusk. Our little four-year-old probably looked like a tasty appetizer to a giant cat.
    Nice that people are so nice and that traffic is non-existent. I could totally get used to that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess I should have specified: we were driving through the canyon, not hiking. The weather was much too cold for that. One time in WA though, I was hiking alone in bear country during the height of huckleberry season as dusk was approaching. I’ve never been so nervous before!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think if I had to choose, I’d say her house is even a little bit better than ours. Trying to protect her privacy though.

        The office competition is today…winners will be announced tomorrow. I’m looking at all the entrants this morning and a lot of people have really stepped up their game this year. I’m not a shoo-in by any means!


  2. I had a few of the same adjustments when I moved to Maine years ago. Crazy weather, supper instead of dinner etc. Must be the cold temperature differential.
    Your Xmas lights are fab! Well done…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Very festive house!

    The differences in regional American English always enthrall me. I learned all about dinner and supper in the Laura Ingalls Wilder books (some are set in South Dakota where apparently the weather has always been capricious AF).

    Don’t fret, breakfast was never lunch. It’s been the meal where you “break your fast” since medieval times…except that sometimes it was pushed back to later in the day because there was not much food or you were showing you were godly or something by starving (i.e., fasting) longer. So I take that back, maybe it was at noon or something. But it was definitely the first meal?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny you should mention Little House. Tara has been watching that on Hulu the past few months. And Laura Ingalls Wilder is kinda famous around here; De Smet, on the eastern side of the state, is her birthplace.

      Breakfast…break your fast…now, why did I never make that connection?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. First, your pictures are beautiful…love the trees!!!! And your house looks warm and festive!

    Now, regarding that meal terminology…no, no, no. My ears cringe at the word supper. Makes me crazy. I can’t do that word. For me it has got to be breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In that order.

    My 80-yo email pal lived her whole life working a farm until she and her husband retired and she’s always calling lunch dinner and dinner the S word. Ack!!! Also, they still eat their big, hearty meal with meat, potatoes, gravy and at least 5 other side dishes at midday and then just have sandwiches or whatever in the evening. So, in other words, everything is backwards. Terminology and the meals themselves.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I always refer to our last meal of the day as Dinner.
    But an early dinner, late lunch is Dunch. Or Linner. I’m not very consistent with my wording.

    Frozen fog is new to me and it looks incredible! You guys outdid yourselves on the decorating and THAT is one of my top Christmas movies. Some years Elf is my fave and some years NLCV is my top; again, I’m not consistent.

    Liked by 1 person

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