This section is from the book "Meals Medicinal", by W. T. Fernie. Also available from Amazon: Meals Medicinal: With "Herbal Simples" Curative Foods From the Cook in Place of Drugs From the Chemist.
That diseases can be treated medicinally throughout their course from first to last by food constituents taken at meals, which food principles identically represent drugs as given heretofore in mixtures, pills, or powders, periodically every few hours, is our present unhesitating contention. With this view our endeavour is to prove the facts by an analytical comparison of the prescribed foods with the pharmaceutical preparations of the chemist; and to supply a code of foods fully as remedial, which the doctor may confidently order at his daily visit, and which the patient will gratefully appreciate. Meantime, something of interest is to be said here about meals in general, both of past times, and of the present era. Early Breakfast, for instance, had its beginning in 1463, and up to a century ago was a light, trifling meal. Queen Elizabeth and her Court rose at six, drank their morning ale, with brawn, at seven, and dined at 11 a.m. Cromwell dined at half-past one p.m. In 1750, five o'clock p.m. was the fashionable dinner hour; and towards the close of the eighteenth century breakfast parties began to be given at noon.
Lord Chesterfield, in his famous letters to his (natural) son (1774), wrote: "I am convinced that a light supper, a good night's sleep, and a fine morning have not infrequently made a hero of the same man who through indigestion, a restless night and a rainy daybreak would have proved a coward." "Lord Chesterfield," said The Edinburgh Review, "was the wittiest man of quality of his time".
George the Second dubbed him "a little tea-table scoundrel".
He married a lady who is believed to have been a daughter of George the First. Boswell tells in his Life of Dr. Johnson, that the great doctor "thought of Chesterfield as a lord among wits, but found him only a wit among lords "; whilst concerning the famous letters of this Lord Chesterfield to his son, "they teach the morals of a whore, and the manners of a dancing-master".
"Hope" (unsubstantial food), said Lord Bacon, "is a good breakfast,but a bad supper," (when better nourishment is needed).
"Breakfast! come to breakfast!
Little ones, and all! How their merry footsteps,
Patter at the call! Break the bread: pass freely,
And on their lips of rose! "
Dinner may be pleasant:
So may social tea: Yet methinks the breakfast,
Best of all the three.
With its smile of welcome,
Its holy voice of prayer, It forgeth heavenly armour,
Against the hosts of care".
As to the English "country Sunday," and its substantial meat and drink at the mid-day meal after morning service, especially with the Chapel-goers, Richard Jefferies has told in his eloquent Saxon speech (Field and Hedgerow, one of his last essays): "There is no man so feasted as the Chapel pastor. His tall, round body, and his broad, red face might be taken for the outward man of a sturdy farmer, and he likes his pipe, and glass. He dines every Sunday, and at least once a week besides, at the house of one of his staunch supporters. It is said that once at such a dinner (in a Sussex yeoman's homestead), after a large plateful of black currant pudding, the pastor, finding there was still some juice left, lifted the plate to his mouth, and carefully licked it all round; the hostess hastened to offer a spoon, but he declined, thinking that his way was much the best for gathering up the essence of the fruit. So simple were his manners, he needed no spoon; and, indeed, if we look back, the apostles managed without forks, and put their fingers in the dish".
The ancient Greeks had as their meals acratisma (breakfast), deipnon, or aristin (as early dinner), and darpee (supper, or late dinner); their hesperisma corresponded to our five o'clock tea. The Romans had pentaculum (breakfast), prandium (luncheon), and coena (dinner). The old Low Latin term for the noonday meal was merenda, as suggesting the notion of food to be earned before it was enjoyed. So in Friar Bacon's poem, A Prophesie, (1604) it stands declared that "in the good old days he that wrought not till he sweated was held unworthy of his meat".
The modern luncheon, or nuncheon, was the archaic prandium, or under-meat, displaced by our breakfast, but which then came between the noontide dinner, and the evening supper. Nowadays to some persons, fond of outdoor daily life, and sunshine, and the beauties of nature, a mid-day solid meal is distasteful, and repugnant. Thus pronounces Elizabeth (in the Solitary Summer) when called from the green fields, and the intellectual enjoyment of life in the fresh country air, to the heavy, substantial family luncheon within doors: "Luncheon is a snare of the tempter, and I would fain try to sail by it like Ulysses (tied to the mast) if I only had a biscuit to comfort me; but there are babies to be fed, and the man of wrath, my husband: and how can a respectable wife and mother sail past any meridian shallows in which those dearest to her are sticking? So I stand by them, and am punished every day by that two-o'clock-in-the-afternoon feeling to which I so much object, and yet cannot avoid. It is mortifying after the sunshiny morning hours at my pond, when I feel as though I were almost a poet, and very nearly a philosopher, and wholly a joyous animal in an ecstasy of love with life, to come back, and live through those dreary luncheon-ridden hours when the soul is crushed out of sight, and sense, to take up with cutlets, and asparagus, and revengeful sweet things." Cotton, who collaborated with Izaak Walton in The Compleat Angler, said: "My diet is always one glass of ale so soon as I am dressed, and no more till dinner." Viator, in the same noted book, exclaims, "I will light my pipe, for that is my breakfast too." The word lunch is literally (Welsh) a lump, and was at first simply a lump of bread and cheese taken between meals.