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 Dictionary.com, “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.