Lee Pitts

It can shock some people when they learn that I’ve never eaten in my life. Of course, I hardly ever miss dinner. At home we just call it dinner, not dinner. I’ve been to all 50 states and, believe me, the Midwest and the Deep South where dinner is dinner and dinner is dinner.

As far as I know, dinner has traditionally been the largest meal of the day in farming communities in the Midwest and South, where workers needed a lot of energy to work 14 hours a day. Dinner was a lighter meal in the evening, after all the work was done. Dinner was also the most formal of the day, but not at my house. I’ve never had lunch with a tablecloth, three forks for decoration, candles or napkins. I’m lucky to have a folded fork and a paper towel!

After studying the matter, I’m still confused. Lunch or dinner? Two of my favorite critics have commented on this situation. Andy Rooney said Democrats dine before sundown and Republicans after 8. But I haven’t eaten in eight years. Russell Baker said workers have dinner, but I’ve always considered myself a worker and, as I said, I’ve never eaten. He also said we can tell the eaters at dinner that they will faint if they are served artichokes.

I think, as in our society, it depends on which side of the Mississippi you live, which word you use. People in the east eat at night and call it dinner, while people in the west eat at 6 a.m. and call it dinner.

If you think traveling between states is confusing, you have to live abroad, like your wife and I did when we were in Australia for a year with the Rotary Graduate Fellowship. I had to choose every university in the world to study, and if they spoke a foreign language, Rotary paid for an intensive language course. Because I thought I was going to a country where English is spoken, I took a language course and we lived there for the first two months, I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. From the first time I heard our first invitation for tea, I walked around with an empty expression on my face.

I’ve loved tea since I’ve traveled to Texas as a pet exporter. I got addicted to Texas tea and I’ve been addicted to iced tea ever since. So when my wife and I were invited to Australia for tea, we thought we’d have a cup of tea and maybe eat some sandwiches or muffins. Imagine our surprise when we went to dinner. It is clear that tea is not only what you drink, but also what you bite and chew. It’s very confusing when you involve the British. Or as the Australians call them, the damn POMS. The initials indicate service in captivity for Her Majesty, which gives an idea of the low attitude towards the British in the country below. Bloody POMS refers to what we call high tea, what you and I call lunch or dinner, and low tea refers to breakfast. There is also what they call afternoon tea, where participants drink sherry from 3:30 to 5:00 in the morning.

You may think I’m making too much noise at this dinner, but I’ve seen it destroy houses. I think of a very mixed marriage in which my husband, a Midwestern farmer, called for dinner and my wife from California insisted on dinner. The marriage lasted until someone gave them a wedding present at the yard sale. (What did you expect from us, a complete set in sterling silver?) I knew the marriage was too big and wouldn’t last, and I didn’t intend to put so much money into it.

I think I’ve finally found a solution we can all live with. Forget dinner if you insist and go straight to dessert. We all know what it is.


Here we go:

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