The Origin of Dinner
During the iron ages, the centuries of combat, you dined when you could, sometimes after the battle, sometimes before. Charlemagne wanted feats to be performed before any nourishment was taken; Henri IV, on the other hand, wanted his soldiers to have a bit of beef in their stomachs before facing the enemy.
When leisure became the ultimate object of French society, dinner, taken by warriors during the first hours of daylight, drew closer to the middle of the day, settling in between eleven and twelve. In the seventeenth century, the daily devotions, whose duties and requirements marched in step with the splendors and rigorous etiquette of the court, fixed the time for dinner, placing it at the close of the divine office, “at the end of Mass.”
Later, dinner seemed to interfere with the dissipated life publicly avowed by the entire court; the previous century’s timing seemed impractical when bedtime was at daybreak; it became far too troublesome to sit down at the table at noon; for a long time, then, dinner was only an inclination; it was endured, not accepted. Under Louis XIV, dinner was after Mass; under Louis XV, supper came after the theater; among the nobility and for the wealthy class, supper was thus created out of a loathing for dinner.
From “Paris a Table” by Eugene Briffault, a journalist who chronicled Parisian dining in the mid 19th Century; Painting titled “Dinner with Napoleon, Alexandre I and Frederick III, 1807” from the National Library of France
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