Forum: Hobbiton

Discussing: Hobbit Feeding Habits

Hobbit Feeding Habits

I'm confused about the definition of a hobbit's meals, and what time of day they take place, and when I'm writing stories I sometimes have to go back and correct myself for putting the wrong meal at the wrong time of day. Here's my take on the situation:

Time: Around 7 a.m., or upon first rising
I imagine this might be a sort of "continental breakfast" as we call it here it the US...tea, breads, butter, jelly, etc.

Second Breakfast
Time: Around 9 a.m.
This I see as a more "American breakfast." Eggs, bacon, sausage, oatmeal, pancakes, the works.

Time: As the name suggests, around 11 a.m.
A snack to tide one over until luncheon. Tea, toast and jam, maybe some little sandwiches. Sort of a "morning tea."

Time: Around 1 p.m.
A fairly large, multi-course meal. Soup, a main course of meat, a selection of side vegetables depending on the season, wine, bread, etc.

Time: Around 3 p.m.
Your typical English afternoon tea. Tea (duh!), sandwiches, cookies, pastries.

Time: Around 6 p.m.
I see this as the big meal of the day. Several courses, always some sort of big meat dish (stew, roast lamb, stuffed chickens, etc.). No dessert though, I'm saving that for.....

Time: Around 9 p.m.
A last meal of the day to tide one over until morning. Just some very light dishes, some savory, some sweet. Defintely time for tea and dessert.

I think the times are flexible, and would very likely change with the seasons, as would the content of the meals, with some meals possibly even skipped during the warm summer months. A long time ago, on another board, I had a fun (but hungry!) time putting together a full hobbit menu for an autumn day...if I can dig that up, I can give a better idea of how I define these meals.

What do you think? Any other ideas?



Re: Hobbit Feeding Habits

Sounds very reasonable, Oselle. I'd like to see your hobbit menu!



Re: Hobbit Feeding Habits

I'm a little contrary (as usual) on the subject of Hobbit eating habits.

I think that a lot of this has come out of the scene from FotR with Pippin babbling on about 2nd breakfast and "Elevenses".

Hobbits like to eat, but perhaps not all of these set meals:

"[Hobbits] laugh deep fruity laughs (especailly after dinner, which they have twice a day when they can get it)" emphasis mine. From Ch. 1 of The Hobbit

My take on it is they have four set meals per day: breakfast, dinner, tea and supper, with dinner and supper being fairly substantial, and tea optional for people who are involved in outdoor work - gardening, farming, herding, building. I also assume that no healthy hobbit turns down an offer of food, and that they will have a cup of tea and something to nibble on intermixed with any of these regular meals, when they can get it.

I also suspect they do not eat as much at a meal as we think. These are small, energetic people, who are involved for the most part in reasonably heavy physical labor on most days. They are going to build up big appetites with as much energy as they expend. If they do not eat so much at a single sitting as a Big Person, they may have to eat more often than we do in order to keep their energy levels up.

But are they routinely going to be sitting down to *seven* meals? Perhaps on feast days, or among certain well-to-do families, but not as a rule. The Maggots, for example, eat one large supper, and go to bed:

" 'It's near sundown already, and we are going to have supper; for we mostly go to bed soon after the Sun.' "

which would place that last meal of the day at different times depending upon the season. I think two meals (one large, one more likely just fruit & cheese & a good smoke) in the summer, but only the single meal in winter at the end of the day.

Anyway, my point is just that I think that one scene from the movie is having undue influence on people's perception of Hobbit eating habits. Four meals (three - no tea - if you're out working in the fields) plus a lot of nibbling and snacking over the course of the day. An extra meal, with pipes & ale & good company, always appreciated.

Toodles - Ang



Re: Hobbit Feeding Habits

Ang, I totally agree that they would NOT be sitting down to seven meals every single day, especially not in the summertime, when people tend to eat lighter and less often. I think there would probably be three main sit-down meals, breakfast (or possibly second breakfast), luncheon and dinner, with the other meals being much more casual affairs that some family members would skip (although I do think afternoon tea would be as sacred to them as to the English!).

However, I'm trying to figure out what would be the proper defintion of ALL the POSSIBLE hobbit meals...not to imply that all such meals would be eaten in the course of one day. For example, if I listed all the possible meals of a 21st century middle-class American, I'd probably include something like "brunch" on the list, even though very few of us eat brunch with any regularity. The definition would be along the lines of "a meal eaten after breakfast but earlier than lunch, usually featuring a hearty selection of breakfast-themed foods, such as eggs. Most popularly eaten on Sundays."

However, now I'm going to have to do some book-digging, because I definitely remember seeing the NAMES of those seven meals in print...NOT just in the movie...and being surprised that the movie had picked them up so exactly. So I don't think that's a complete "Jacksonism."

EDIT: I've done some book-digging and can't find the exact NAMES of those meals, although I'm sure they're spread throughout the book somewhere. I did, however, find this, from "Concerning Hobbits:"

"And laugh they did, and eat, and drink, often and heartily, being fond of...six meals a day (when they could get them)."

Which I interpret as meaning that six meals a day was the preferred way for hobbits to eat, even if that was not always possible.

What I'm mostly curious about is what would be the bigger end-of-day meal: dinner or supper? If I base this on the types of rural European communites that my parents grew up in, the last meal of the day would definitely be the lightest. My father's family, for example, would have a very light breakfast, usually just coffee and bread, an ENORMOUS multi-course midday meal that lasted about two hours, and then a very light "supper" in the evening, sometimes no more than some vegetables or bread and cheese. Regardless of the time of year, no one ever ate a big meal right before going to bed (that's an innovation of our culture, which may explain why so many of us are overweight insomniacs!).

Jo, here's my old menu, which now that I look at it, was obviously composed when I was in a state of acute starvation or, at the least, deprivation. Please note: this menu is for entertainment purposes only, not legitimate fanficking.

French toast topped with butter, whipped cream, walnuts and maple syrup; hickory smoked bacon; tea with plenty of cream.

Second Breakfast
Eggs scrambled with cream and chives served over shredded potato pancakes; maple sausages; tea.

I'm seeing either a hearty soup...potatoes and smoked ham, etc, sandwiches on the side of ham and cheddar on biscuits....or perhaps roast chicken with plenty of roasted potatoes and gravy; apple cider, lemonade or iced tea.

My personal favorite. Raspberry squares. Biscuits. Muffins. Lemon curd. Strawberry jam. Sweet farmhouse butter. Strong, dark tea made thick and sweet with sugar and cream.

This would be the biggest meal of the day, wouldn't it? Start off with soup...squash? Wild mushroom with cheese toasts? Parsnip and carrots? Then how about thick beef stew with turnips and diced potatoes and tiny onions? Or chicken pot pie...diced chicken with mushrooms and potatoes and onions simmering in a creamy sauce and topped with buttery, flaky, thyme-scented crust? Then maybe a "white" salad on the side...escarole and green apples, topped with walnuts and a light, white wine dressing. To drink? Old Winyards, of course!

A lighter meal to end the day. How about a cheddar cheese/ham/potato bake? Mushroom and cheese pie? Chicken and dumpling soup? And NOW it's time for dessert. Oh, plum tart with crumb topping in a sugar-coated crust. Or spicy apple crisp with whipped cream on the side. Or a flaming plum pudding, covered in brandy. Or winter bread pudding in cream sauce. Or mincemeat tartlets with hard sauce. Or....

Before Bed
Not an official hobbit meal, but come on, you can't go to bed on an "empty" stomach...just a little something...warm milk with honey and nutmeg. Or warm mulled wine. Maybe just a couple of gingersnaps. Or shortbread.

Damn it, my mouth's watering.



Re: Hobbit Feeding Habits

I had never read any Tolkien before I saw the movie last spring. I had a real moment of empathy when Pip listed off the meals. As a competitive athlete I had eaten 5-7 meals a day for years and always refered to my 8am meal as 2nd breakfast (1st breakfast was a 5am). Three or four meals would be sit down affairs and the rest were more like big snacks I had while doing other things. Today I goggle at how much food my friends eat at one meal because I am so used to smaller meals even tho I pack away lots of calories every day. It is definitely difficult to eat a lot of multi-course meals not only in terms of stomach space and digestive time but also the preparation time must be considered. You would need one family member whose only chore was cooking.



Re: Hobbit Feeding Habits

Pippin's listing of meals in the movies includes seven meals, while Tolkien's throwaway reference is to six. I tend to miss out luncheon in my categorization, so: Breakfast/Second Breakfast/Elevensies/Tea/Dinner/Supper. I agree that six meals a day every day (in the Shire) should not be slavishly adhered to. Tolkien does say six meals "when they could get them", and also for comparison, humans "usually" have three meals a day, breakfast, lunch, and supper, but how many people do you know who skip breakfast or lunch either because of a lack of time or a lack of inclination?

In defense of more meals, however, and going from my memory rather than actually looking things up here, Frodo, Sam and Pippin have one dinner with the Maggots and then turn around and have another right away at Crickhollow, do they not? Also, I'm very sure I saw something recently about someone having a second breakfast. I think it was Bilbo in "The Hobbit", but when I looked for it I couldn't find it...



Re: Hobbit Feeding Habits

Hmm, a hobbit is generally a hard-working person I think. Apart from the upper-class families (Bagginses, Tooks, the main Brandybuck branch) who might have seven meals a day, I do no think a hobbit has the time for seven meals a day! I think Ang's view as to four meals a day is more likely both time- and moneywise.



Re: Hobbit Feeding Habits

It also seems as though younger hobbits eat more than older hobbits. Book: at Bilbo's party, there's a comment about bringing up hobbit children taking a lot of provender, and the parents being happy to let someone else pick up the tab for their children's meals for a change --> in Rivendell, Bilbo doesn't even GO to the feast held after Frodo recovers from his Morgul wound. (This is mainly reflected in the movie and other forms of fanon as Pippin being always and forever hungry, but we'll leave my issues with poor characterization of hobbits in fanfic for another thread...)



Re: Hobbit Feeding Habits

I also would emphasize that meals are major opportunities for socializing. I can imagine the mid-day meal, even among less well-to-do Hobbits, being quite elaborate affairs with many courses, but where the conversation and the company is as much the reason for the meal as the food itself.

Another thought hit me, though it may not be directly relevant. This was written before the Green Revolution and the advent of indusdtrial farming which has greatly reduced simple starvation and under-nourishment in the West (we won't get into the bass-ackwards social policies of the US, no we won't Ang, don't go there), when even in a nation like England, hunger was a real and constant issue. LotR was written during WWII under conditions of rationing. It makes a great deal of sense that emphasizing the availability of food - and the sheer enjoyment of eating and having such meals with others - would be a mark of how peaceful and admirable the Shire is.

To me, it is of a piece with how Gandalf was moved by the compassion and care of the Shire Hobbits for each other during times of disaster, like the Long Winter. I get the feeling that Hobbits expect to see many people at the table, not just their family, when they sit down. Relatives, friends, and other genial visitors. Bilbo may have been startled by all the Dwarves showing up on his doorstep, but he would never think of turning them away.




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