Outline of meals

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The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to meals:

Mealeating occasion that takes place at a certain time and includes specific, prepared food, or the food eaten on that occasion.[1][2] The names used for specific meals in English vary greatly, depending on the speaker's culture, the time of day, or the size of the meal. Meals occur primarily at homes, restaurants, and cafeterias, but may occur anywhere. Regular meals occur on a daily basis, typically several times a day. Special meals are usually held in conjunction with such occasions as birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and holidays. A meal is different from a snack in that meals are generally larger, more varied, and more filling than snacks.[3] Meals are composed of one or more courses,[4] which in turn are composed of one or more dishes.

Types of meals[edit]

3 main meals of the day[edit]

  • Breakfast – eaten within an hour or two after a person wakes in the morning.[5] (Index)
  • Lunch – eaten around mid-day, usually between 11 am and 3 pm. In some areas, the name for this meal depends on its content.[6]
  • Dinner – eaten in the evening. In some areas, the name for this meal depends on its content, but many English-speakers use "supper" for this meal regardless of size.[7]
    • Dinner party
    • Full course dinner – in its simplest form, it can consist of three or four courses, such as soup, salad, meat and dessert. In formal dining, a full course dinner can consist of many courses, and in some instances the courses are carefully planned to complement each other gastronomically.

Types of meals, in the order served throughout the day[edit]

A dabbawala in Mumbai with meals packed in tiffin carriers
  • Breakfast – meal eaten before 10:00 A.M. Any meal after 10:00 A.M. is not breakfast, but is usually referred to as eating breakfast food for that given meal.[8]
  • Second breakfast – small meal eaten after breakfast, but before lunch. It is traditional in Bavaria, in Poland, and in Hungary. In Bavaria or Poland, special dishes are made exclusively to be eaten during second breakfast. In Vienna and most other parts of Austria the second breakfast is referred to as Jause.[9]
  • Brunch – combination of breakfast and lunch eaten usually during the late morning but it can extend to as late as 3 pm.[12][13] The word is a portmanteau of breakfast and lunch.[14] It is usually larger than a breakfast and usually replacing both breakfast and lunch; it is most common on Sundays. Brunch originated in England in the late 1800s, and in the 1930s became popular in the United States.[15]
  • Elevenses (also called "morning tea") – light snack[16] and drink taken in the late morning after breakfast and before lunch.
  • Lunch – midday meal[17] of varying size depending on the culture. The origin of the words lunch and luncheon relate to a small meal originally eaten at any time of the day or night, but during the 20th century gradually focused toward a small or mid-sized meal eaten at midday. Lunch is the second meal of the day after breakfast.
  • Typical south Indian Andhra style combo meal, India
    Tea – any of several different meals or mealtimes, depending on a country's customs and its history of drinking tea. However, in those countries where the term's use is common, the influences are generally those of the former British Empire (now the Commonwealth of Nations). Tea as a meal can be small or large.
  • Afternoon tea – mid-afternoon meal, typically taken at 4 pm, consisting of light fare such as small sandwiches, individual cakes and scones with tea.[18]
Ceramic meal in a Ming Dynasty burial figurine table
  • High tea – British meal usually eaten in the early evening.[18]
  • Linner - More jargon than historical. Linner is a late lunch or almost dinner meal. The name comes in reference to brunch, being a combination of the words "lunch" and "dinner".[1]
  • Supper - a light meal eaten in the late evening; as early as 7pm or as late as midnight. Usually eaten when the main meal of the day is taken at lunchtime or high tea.
  • Dinner – most significant and important meal of the day, which can replace either lunch, high tea, or supper. However, the term "dinner" can have many different meanings depending on the culture; it may mean a meal of any size eaten at any time of day.[19] Historically, in British culture, dinner was taken at midday for children and manual workers; in the early evening for office workers; and in the late evening by the wealthier elements of society. During the latter half of the 20th century there has been a cultural shift towards everyone having the main meal in the late evening. The meaning as the evening meal, now generally the largest of the day, is becoming standard in most parts of the English-speaking world.

Styles of meal[edit]

Styles of meal, by format[edit]

  • Airline meal
  • Banquet – large, formal, elaborate meal, with many guests and dishes.[20]
  • Barbecue – meal at which food (often meat or fish) is cooked out-of-doors on an open fire or portable grill.[21]
  • Blue-plate special – term used in the United States by restaurants that refers to a specially low-priced meal, usually changing daily.
  • Buffet / Smörgåsbord – typically involves diners serving themselves from foods placed in a public area. Buffets are effective for serving large numbers of people at once, and are often seen in institutional settings, such as business conventions or large parties. Some restaurants also offer buffets, such as a lunch buffet, or are specifically buffet restaurants.
  • Collation
  • Family meal
  • Field ration
  • Haute cuisine
  • Kaiseki
  • Kids' meal
  • Meals on Wheels – meals delivered as a service to the homes of people who are unable to prepare their own.[22]
  • Multicourse meal – meal of multiple dishes served in sequence.
    • Full course dinner – in its simplest form, it can consist of three or four courses, such as soup, salad, meat and dessert. In formal dining, a full course dinner can consist of many courses, and in some instances the courses are carefully planned to complement each other gastronomically.
    • Main course – featured or primary dish in a meal consisting of several courses. It usually follows the entrée ("entry") course. In the United States it may in fact be called "entree".
  • Picnic – outdoor meal where one brings one's food, such as a sandwich or a prepared meal (sometimes in a picnic basket). It often takes place in a natural or recreational area, such as a park, forest, beach, or lawn. On long drives a picnic may take place at a roadside stop such as a rest area. Picnics are often consumed on a picnic table.
  • Platter
  • Potluck – gathering of people where each person or group of people may contribute a dish of food prepared by the person or the group of people, to be shared among the group.
  • School meal
  • "TV dinner" –
  • Value meal
  • Yum chaCantonese morning or afternoon meal where dim sum dishes[23] and tea are served. In the U.S. and U.K., the word dim sum is often used in place of yum cha.

Styles of meal, by cuisine[edit]

Styles of meal, by cuisine – some examples of meals by cooking style, such as ethnic or regional meals include:

Meals for special occasions[edit]

History of meals[edit]

Components of a meal[edit]

  • Drink
  • Food
    • Cuisine – food prepared in a particular way. A cuisine is a style of cooking characterized by distinctive ingredients, techniques and dishes, and usually associated with a specific culture or geographic region.[25][26][27]
    • Course – specific set of food items that are served together during a meal, all at the same time. A course may include multiple dishes or only one, and often includes items with some variety of flavors. For instance, a hamburger served with fries would be considered a single course, and most likely the entire meal. See also full course dinner.
      • Hors d'oeuvre – literally "apart from the [main] work") or the first course, is a food item served before the main courses of a meal, typically smaller than main dishes, and often meant to be eaten by hand (with minimal use of cutlery).[28] Hors d'oeuvres may be served at the dinner table as a part of the meal, or they may be served before seating.
      • Entrée – dish served before the main course, or between two principal courses of a meal.[29][30][31]
      • Main course – featured or primary dish in a meal consisting of several courses. It usually follows the entrée ("entry") course. In the United States and parts of Canada, it may be called "entrée".
      • Dessert – typically sweet course that concludes an evening meal. The course usually consists of sweet foods, but may include other items. In world cultures there are a wide variety of desserts including cakes, tarts, cookies, biscuits, gelatins, pastries, ice creams, pies, puddings, custards, and sweet soups. Fruit is also commonly found in dessert courses because of its naturally occurring sweetness.
    • Dishes – specific food preparation, a "distinct article or variety of food",[32] with cooking finished, and ready to eat, or be served. A "dish" may be served on tableware, or may be eaten out of hand; but breads are generally not called "dishes".
    • Bread – staple food prepared from a dough of flour and water, usually by baking. Throughout recorded history it has been popular around the world and is one of the oldest artificial foods, having been of importance since the dawn of agriculture. See List of breads.
    • Garnishes – items or substances used as a decoration or embellishment accompanying a prepared food dish or drink. In many cases, it may give added or contrasting flavor. Some garnishes are selected mainly to augment the visual impact of the plate, while others are selected specifically for the flavor they may impart.[36]
    • Condiments – spice, sauce or other food preparation that is added to foods to impart a particular flavor, enhance its flavor,[37] or in some cultures, to complement the dish. See List of condiments.
    • Leftovers

Meal-related activities[edit]

Meal venues[edit]

Meal implements[edit]

Aspects of a meal[edit]

Meal structure, by type of cuisine[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ meal noun (FOOD) - definition in the British English Dictionary & Thesaurus - Cambridge Dictionaries Online
  2. ^ meal - Definition from Longman English Dictionary Online
  3. ^ Wansink, B.; Payne, C. R.; Shimizu, M. (2010). ""Is this a meal or snack?" Situational cues that drive perceptions". Appetite. 54 (1): 214–216. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2009.09.016. PMID 19808071.
  4. ^ Andrew F. Smith (1 May 2007). The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. Oxford University Press. pp. 19–. ISBN 978-0-19-530796-2. Retrieved 24 August 2013.
  5. ^ "AskOxford: breakfast". Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  6. ^ "AskOxford: lunch". Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  7. ^ "Definition of supper". Retrieved 2012-07-10.
  8. ^ "breakfast - definition of breakfast by the Free Online Dictionary, Thesaurus and Encyclopedia". Thefreedictionary.com. Retrieved 28 March 2012.
  9. ^ (in German) Database of Austrian German. Retrieved 2010-03-19.
  10. ^ "Definition of tiffin in English". Oxford Dictionaries. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  11. ^ Narsimhan, Mahtab (2011). Tiffin (abstract). Midpoint Trade Books Incorporated. ISBN 1770860398.
  12. ^ Palmatier, Robert Alan (2000). Food: A Dictionary of Literal and Nonliteral Terms. Greenwood Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0313314360.
  13. ^ "brunch (meal)". Memidex/WordNet Dictionary. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  14. ^ "foodnetwork". Web.foodnetwork.com. Retrieved 2013-08-24.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ Rombauer, Irma S.; Becker, Marion Rombauer; Becker, Ethan (2001). Joy of Cooking: All About Breakfast and Brunch. Simon and Schuster. p. 8. ISBN 0743206428.
  16. ^ A & C Black Publishers Ltd (2009). Dictionary of Leisure, Travel and Tourism. A & C Black Publishers Ltd. p. 103. ISBN 1408102129.
  17. ^ Online Etymology Dictionary
  18. ^ a b "AskOxford: tea". Retrieved 2008-07-20.
  19. ^ Olver, Lynne. "Meal times". Lynne Olver. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  20. ^ "Banquet." (definition). Merriam-webster.com. Accessed August 2011.
  21. ^ O'Donoghue, Ben (2008), Outdoor: grill your way 'round the world, Prahran, Victoria, Australia: Hardie Grant Books, ISBN 9781740665599
  22. ^ Meals on Wheels Inc. (S. Aust.) (1963), Meals on Wheels : what it is - how it began - what it is now - what it can become!, Meals on Wheels
  23. ^ Sterling, Richard; Chong, Elizabeth; Qin, Lushan Charles (2001). Hong Kong. Lonely Planet. p. 145. ISBN 1864502886.
  24. ^ (AP) (August 29, 2012). "Study: Death Row inmates pick comfort foods for last meals". CBS News. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  25. ^ "Cuisine." Thefreedictionary.com. Accessed June 2011.
  26. ^ Cuisine [def. 1]. (2014). Oxford English Dictionary Online. Retrieved 11 March 2015, from http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/45611
  27. ^ "The American Food Revolutions: Cuisines in America." Eldrbarry.net. Accessed June 2011.
  28. ^ "hors d'oeuvre - definition of hors d'oeuvre in English from the Oxford dictionary". oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 18 March 2015.
  29. ^ a b Oxford Dictionaries
  30. ^ a b American Heritage Dictionary Archived 2011-10-21 at the Wayback Machine.
  31. ^ a b According to Alexandre Dumas' Grand dictionnaire de cuisine Archived 2008-11-21 at the Wayback Machine. (1871), an entrée is a "Préparation chaude qui accompagne ou suit le potage," a "hot preparation that accompanies or follows the soup".
  32. ^ OED
  33. ^ "Side dish." (definition.) Merriam-webster.com. Accessed August 2011.
  34. ^ a b c d "Top Ten National Dishes". National Geographic Magazine (Travel section). Retrieved 2013-03-06.
  35. ^ Zilkia Janer (2008). Latino food culture. Food cultures in America. ABC-CLIO. pp. 71–73. ISBN 9780313340277.
  36. ^ "Garnish". Food Encyclopedia. Food Network. Retrieved 1 September 2012.
  37. ^ Merriam-Webster: Definition of condiment

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]