A forgotten meal, along with afternoon tea
and ladies' lunch
. Originally, supper
(served at the same time as dinner) was the last meal of anyone's day, when midday dinners were the norm, and in some countries, they still are. However, when dinner
got pushed up to the evening hours, supper was transformed from a simple dish of soup
to go to bed on to a luxurious extra to a night's entertainment, similar to a Japanese candlelight tea
There are several schools of thought on supper, and it doesn't have to be at precisely midnight either. One, that cleaves to the clear-soup-and-cracker idea, to make it especially light. This is useful if you've already had a dinner party, say around eight or so, and just want some way to bring the night to a close without the awkwardness of saying "Well, I guess I gotta kick you out, I've got work..." when the witching hour rolls around. Somehow, a slight change of pace often is enough to do the trick.
Another is to create small, rich meals late at night, helpful in soaking up whatever alcohol might have been consumed -- eggs, made into an omelet, thick soup or chili, hot savory sandwiches or Welsh rabbit-type entrees, steak and eggs (a Las Vegas specialty), etc. (At Yale University, late-night pizza is an option, and much liked, as well.) This is also useful for Sunday nights, when it's served, like the old-time suppers of yore, when dinner would be: a chance to get a nice cap on a weekend, with the people you like best -- a nice touch here is to fill out the menu with dishes of olives, celery sticks, and other nonfoods -- the aggressive crunchiness of green salad is contrary to the comfort-food mood, though some cut-up fruit is a nice extra too. Hot drinks (coffee, cocoa, etc.) are often served with this, to contrast with alcoholic drinks, signal the end of drinking, and sober up people who might need to travel home.
A last possibility, favored by couples as an after-the-theater, concert, dance, or other nondrinking entertainment, was the Bird & Bottle: a small game bird (squab, usually, the closest modern equivalent would be a Rock Cornish game hen) or small chicken split, stuffed and garnished with savory tit-bits, and served by itself (hot or cold) with a bottle of white wine, Champagne, or sherry. This gives both of you a chance to debrief, calm down, and generally figure out whether you want to go to bed together or simply call it a night.
A good idea...perhaps it ought to be revived.