How to...

The English have a peculiar way of eating. Or they do traditionally. Nowadays, the whole "three meals a day" business prevails, but it's supposed to be quite different. So, here are the times of the meals, the names of the meals and what is traditionally eaten. It should be noted that the times given ARE prescriptive, and must not be altered. Also note the information about tea and coffee at the end.

8.00 am - BREAKFAST

Traditionally, the English get up at seven o'clock, in time for breakfast at eight. Breakfast is in no way a light meal, but it must all be eaten. One starts with a small bowl of cereal served with ice-cold milk, before moving on to toast with jam or marmalade (or sometimes honey). Then a pastry is served before the main course - a traditional cooked breakfast containing fried bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes, eggs (fried or scrambled), black pudding, fried mushrooms and baked beans. At breakfast coffee and fruit juices are served.


Believe it or not, another breakfast is eaten at ten o'clock. This is, however, much smaller than the first, and usually consists of fresh fruit or pastry. One should drink coffee at second breakfast.


Aptly named, elevenses are another chance for a snack. And it is a very light snack - usually one eats just biscuits, because the main focus is the drink - coffee.

12.00 noon - LUNCHEON (LUNCH)

This is a cold meal, consisting of delicate food such as sandwiches or salad. Nothing sweet should be eaten, and cold fruit cordials are drunk.


This is the first of three meals called 'tea'. Afternoon tea consists of tea (obviously) and cream scones (sweet fruit scones with clotted cream) with jam. This is known as "cream tea".

4.00 - HIGH TEA

This is the real tea party. As one might expect more tea is served along with lots of food. The food must be cold, and could be made up of more sandwiches, or perhaps quiche. In fact, anything which can be eaten with the fingers may be served. After one has had enough cold savoury finger food, the cake (generally a sponge cake like a Victoria Sandwich) is brought out along with more tea.

5.00 - TEA

More tea, but this time served not in cups, but in beakers! A light, hot meal is served, but it is not "snack" food, and should be eaten with proper cutlery.

8.00 - DINNER

Dinner is a very large meal, usually consisting of at least three, but more often five or seven or more courses. These courses are (in a much debated order):

1. Starter
2. Soup
3. Sorbet
4. Fish
5. Main (meat) course
6. Dessert and/or cheese
7. Coffee and chocolates

Water is drunk until the main course, at which point wine is drunk (red or white depending on the meat). Sweet dessert wine is served with dessert.

11.00 - SUPPER

Quite simple, but one of the favourite "meals". Biscuits and a hot, creamy, chocolate drink.

And at 11.30 pm, you have finally made it - you can go to bed!


Tea and coffee must always be served fresh and hot. Tea must never be drunk before noon, and coffee (with the exception of coffee at dinner) must never be drunk after noon.



Yes, this is a little misleading, and yes, I should have listed my sources when I wrote this back when I was a little ignorant runt. It really, REALLY has no bearing on modern English eating habits, and only really affected the rich colonial English around one hundred years ago.

Most of it came from a little brown book of my grandmothers, which I will strive to find next time I am in the same city as her. Thanks.