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American Supper

Posted by Bob on May 19, 2000

In Reply to: American Supper posted by ESC on May 19, 2000

: : We have a weekly historical section in our local evening paper. One section is for readers to ask questions about the origins of certain things and events; the editor can usually answer. Recently he asked for help. A reader had asked the origin of "American supper", where guests bring a contribution to the food to be eaten, usually in the form of a prepared dish.
: : Any idea where this expression came from?

: I've never heard the expression "American supper." It sounds like a "potluck" meal -- each guest will bring food. Sometimes the host will furnish the meat or main dish and the guests will bring vegetables, salad and dessert.

: While we're on the subject of meals, let me explain some U.S. terms:
: In the country (in the South) lunch (the noon meal) is called "dinner" and the evening meal is called "supper."

: City folks call lunch (the noon meal) "lunch" and the evening meal "dinner."

: This can make for confusion when one is making a dinner date.

: At my home church we have an event in the summer -- a homecoming -- where people who have moved away try to make it home for the day. The meal is served at noon after morning church services. It's called "the big dinner." And it's potluck. Each family brings a dish or several dishes.

: Homecoming is an important event because many of the young people have had to leave the area for jobs in the city.

I agree. Sounds like a British coinage ... since the idea of a potluck dinner seems very un-British somehow. Very Minnesota. Does the idea of a progressive dinner exist in the UK? On our side of the pond, six or seven couples in a neighborhood might hold a dinner where everyone has cocktails at the first house, first course at the second house, etc., ending with people staggering to the last house for dessert, or after-dinner drinks. It's exhausting, and sometimes can-you-top-this competitive. And therefore rarely repeated.

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