When Did People Eat in Colonial Times?

servant tending the fire

A housewife shovels coal onto the lid of a bake kettle to bake the pie inside it.

Many people, including servants and those in the lower and middle classes, typically awoke long before sunrise—maybe as early as four o’clock—to do morning chores like starting the fire, preparing the day’s meals, feeding and caring for the animals, and getting water from the well. After several hours of work, they would “break the fast” from the previous night. The morning meal might be yesterday’s leftovers, a corn mush cake, or porridge.

Dinner was served at around 2:00 p.m. and was the largest meal of the day. For the wealthy upper class, who were also known as the gentry, this midday meal was quite lavish and could offer many food items such as a roast or meat pie, porridge or pudding, salad, bread, ale or cider, and a fruit tart or other dessert. The evening meal, called supper, was eaten after the day's work was done. Supper foods were usually leftovers from the midday dinner.

This project was developed through a Teaching American History Grant partnership between Anne Arundel County Public Schools, the Center for History Education at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and Historic London Town and Gardens.