R4U: Eating The American Way


  Three square meals a day-that's what Americans are supposed to eat. But, in reality, most add between-means snacks and have a bite five or six times a day. Is is healthy? Americans believe that what they eat is more important than how often. However, the quality and the quantity of American consumption are both matters of concern.

  The meal that breaks overnight fast is, of course, breakfast. It is a meal that about 25% of American skip, either because they're in a hurry or on a diet. Many adults that do eat breakfast have only a small meal, perhaps just orange juice or toast along with the traditional wake-up beverage, coffee. But others eat a real meal in the morning. A complete American breakfast begins with fruit or fruit juice. The main course is generally hot or cold cereal or eggs. The eggs are usually served with toast and perhaps also bacon, ham, or sausages. Other popular breakfast foods are pancakes, waffles, and French toast (bread soaked in a mixture of eggs and milk and then fried), all served with maple syrup.
  Americans usually eat breakfast between 7 and 8 A.M. By 10:30 or thereabouts, they're ready for their mid-morning coffee break. Most workers are given 10 to 15 minutes off the job to have coffee, a snack, and a chat with coworkers.
  Most Americans eat lunch between noon and two o'clock. This mid-day meal is eaten away from home more often then breakfast or dinner. It is rare for working adults to go home for lunch, and many schoolchildren also eat at school. Some people brown-bag it-that is, they bring food from home in a paper bag. For this purpose, they need a meal that is small and portable. The sandwich meets these requirements. In addition, it is inexpensive and easy to prepare. The sandwich chef needs only two pieces of bread, something moist to smear on the bread (butter, maonnaise, mustard, or catsup), and some meat, cheese, fish, or poultry to stuff in between. Some popular cold sandwich are those made with ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, sliced chicken or turkey, tuna salad, and roast beef.
  People who eat lunch in restaurants are more likely to order hot sandwiches. The most popular of these are hamburgers and hot dogs. Hamburgers are patties of chopped meat, usually served in round buns. Hot dogs are 5 to 7-inch sausages (also called red hots, frankfurters, or wieners) served in long, thin buns. The name hot dog was inspired (about 1900) by an American vendor who compared the frankfurter to the long-bodied German dig. His hot dachshund sausages eventually became simply hot dogs.
  The sanwich is standard lunchtime fare, but for a bigger meal, the diner might add a bowl of soup, a salad, French tried potatoes or potato chips, and a sweet dessert or fruit.
  Because most people eat lunch around the same time, restaurants are quite crowded between noon and two o'clock. At counters, where customers sit on a row of stools rather than at separate tables, waiters and waitresses can provide faster service. To save time, many people eat in cafeterias, where customers walk by displays of food, place what they want on their trays, and then pay a cashier at the end of the line. Self-service cafeterias handle big crowds quickly and efficiently. Large institutions such as factories, hospitals, and schools often have cafeterias and/ or lunchrooms with food dispensing machines from which customers can purchase soup, sandwiches, drinks, fruit, and sweets. Microwave ovens for heating foods quickly may set up near these machines. Fast-food reataurants (where customers order food and get it in about two minutes) also do a thriving business at lunchtime.
  On the other hand, those who want a more leisurely lunch served to them can find many traditional restaurants. At nice restaurants, diners sometimes combine business and pleasure at a business luncheon, where work is discussed while eating.
  The mid-afternoon snack is also an American tradition. Office and factory workers take a second coffee break. Children coming home from school usually head immediately for the refrigerator. In warm weather, ice cream is a popular snack food. It's consumed in cones, bars, and sundaes (with a sweet sauce on top). It is also used in two popular drinks, milkshakes and ice cream sodas.
  The biggest meal of the day is dinner, served about six o'clock. Dinner may include several courses: an appetizer (consisting of fresh fruit, fruit juice, or a small portion of fish); soup; salad; an entr3e of meat, poultry, or fish; and side dishes such as cooked vegetables, rice, or noodles. Coffee or tea and dessert finish off the meal. Most American prefer a sweet dessert such as cake, pie, or ice cream. Apple pie, served hot with a scoop of ice cream (# la mode) or with a slice of cheese, is a national favorite, hence the popular expression, "as American as apple pie". Most Americans don't eat all these courses for dinner every evening, but they often do so when eating out or serving guests at home.
  With lunch and dinner, Americans commonly drink water, fruit juice, beer, coffee, tea, or a carbonated drink called soda or pop. Though children are urged to drink milk with every meal, many prefer soda or juice instead. Wine is considered festive and is likely to appear on holidays, at celebrations, and when dining out.
  Since dinner is customarily served early in the evening, the late evening snack is a ritual in most households. Children often have milk and cookies before bedtime. Adults may nibble on fruit or sweets.
  On weekends and holidays, the meal schedule may vary. On Saturday evenings, many people eat every late dinners, particularly who dine out. On Sundays, many families have brunch, a meal that combines breakfast and lunch. It is usually served between 11 A.M. and 2 P.M. and includes typical breakfast foods plus cheese, fruit, cake and perhaps cold fish. Families who go to church on Sunday morning may have their usual weekday breakfast before services and then eat their biggest meal of the day about two o'clock. The main meal of the day is always called dinner, no matter what time it is served. When dinner is eaten in mid-afternoon, a smaller evening meal, called supper, is served around seven o'clock.
  On Sundays and holidays when the weather is mild, Americans often eat outdoors. They enjoy picnics in parks, backyard barbecues (usually featuring charcoal-broiled steaks, hot dogs, or hamburgers) and clambakes.
  In the U.S.A. as elsewhere, eating is an importatnt part of family life and social activity. In many homes, dinner time may be the only time when everyone gets together and shares the day's experiences. It is also on occastion for inviting friends.
  Dinning out is also an important part of American social life. For single men and women, dates often begin with dinner at a nice restaurant. Married couples often get together in groups to eat out, especially on weekends. In their desire to use time efficiently, American may rush through breakfast and lunch, but dinnner is usually a more leisurely meal at which enjoyment of food is enhanced by pleasant conversation.