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Clarissa Dickson Wright's latest culinary adventure reveals the origins and development of our three daily meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a nation, we take them for granted, assuming that they have always existed as they are now. But unpick each of these eating rituals, trace their lineage back through a thousand years of British history and you find fascinating and surprising stories of social upheaval and shifting class structures, of technological developments and gastronomic revolutions.

Clarissa Dickson Wright completes her journey through the history of our mealtimes with dinner - our main meal of the day and also our showiest. Dinner is when we like to enjoy the finest dishes and exhibit our good taste even if, as Fanny Cradock understood, that involves a touch of snobbery. And, as Clarissa discovers, some people nowadays resort to serving ready meals as if they were their own culinary creations!

But although dinner is our most ritualistic meal, don't imagine that its traditions are timeless and unchanged. In fact, it's a microcosm of 1,000 years of evolving customs. As she journeys back into history, Clarissa reveals that in the Middle Ages, even the most refined diners ate with their hands - we have the Italians to thank for introducing us to the fork. Similarly, we have the humble turnip to thank for making roast beef our historic national dish, and the custom of eating dinner in series of separate courses only came to us via the Russian ambassador to Paris in the nineteenth century. But most surprising, perhaps, is the fact that for centuries dinner was always served in daylight hours. The custom of eating it in the evening only came about because of the increased availability of candles in Georgian times.

Sadly, we have the Victorians to blame for the poor reputation of British dinnertime cuisine, something that even pioneer TV cook Fanny Cradock could do nothing to dispel; and the rise in popularity of ready meals in our own time is not likely to revive it. As she reaches the end of her journey, Clarissa arrives at a typically outspoken conclusion about the current state of our mealtime traditions and what we need to learn from the customs of the past.

Release date:

1 hour

Last on

Mon 26 Nov 2012 21:00

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Role Contributor
PresenterClarissa Dickson Wright
Series ProducerPaul Tilzey

Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Have we always eaten them?

Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Have we always eaten them?

Three square meals a day seems like a normal eating pattern, but it wasn't always that way