How long is dinner?

mixed veggies board with two cups of dip

How long is dinner?

Not to be confused with what time is dinner; how long does sitting -at-the-table, sharing-a-meal last?

We usually eat at 6pm, and its rare that we leave the table before 6:45pm. We almost always have salad, and when we do, it comes after our main course.

So, dinner at 6:00pm:

The kids help to set the table or pour the water or set out name tags, because we usually change where we sit from night to night. Everyone sits down, and we pass the dishes around to one another. If I’m still in the kitchen or someone is still washing, etc. no making your plate yet, unless you’ve been given permission. Definitely no starting to eat until everyone is sitting.

If anyone finishes especially early, quite ahead of the family, they wait. Once everybody is finished with the main course, seconds of rice, enough pieces of corn on the cob and so on, I’ll go dress the salad and bring it to the table. That can mean any number of mixed and dressed veggies: depending on the season it may be a simple cucumber and tomato salad, crisp Caesar, winter arugula-celery with roasted mushrooms, or bright fennel and clementine with pomegrante. It changes day to day.

Salad usually makes a couple of rounds as the kids pick out all their favourite bits, namely cucumber.

We often have dessert.

But that means a dessert course, which might be fruit salad or a ginger cookie. If there’s cake or ice cream there’s usually fruit as well.

Then the kids start asking to go. For awhile ‘can I go and play now?’ and ‘can I be excused?’ were mixed up by my youngest, so he’d ask to ‘go on a plate.’

And it’s easily 6:50pm. Could be later. If we have something on, like swimming lessons, or a course in the evening, I adjust so we eat a little earlier, rather than expect we’ll be done with dinner faster. Even if I plan a simple menu so we can get to the table and get out in time it’s still a minimum of 30 minutes.

Now that it’s summer, we eat most meals outside, and that lends itself to lingering longer; even if the kids are excused to go run and play in the yard, the grownups tend to stay at the table longer, maybe with a coffee, so the actual dinner clean up is even later – a longer ‘dinner’.

And never mind about when we have guests. Extended drinks, more leisurely starters, dessert after a bit… later still.

So I’m curious: what do you do? How long is dinner?

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