Saturday, March 23, 2013

Elevenses and More

Whenever we start a project, I try and gather the team together for a quick briefing. Since every job is unique and our teams are built as one-offs, there is usually no "usual." As such, the more everyone understands the big picture, the easier it will be to make it happen as planned, while also doing it efficiently. I let everyone know the content, the expected schedule and any special issues that might come up. And of course, I give them perhaps the most important information for any professional crew concerned with doing a complex project: what time we will break for lunch.

Like an army, our group runs on its collective stomach. And since our work requires us to be on station for long periods of time, often immediately following or coincidental with a traditional meal time, it's important for people to know when they will be able to eat. It's even more critical when those times are shifted: that is, we aren't able to grab lunch till later, or the dinner break is scheduled to start at 4:30. Say what you will: you can abuse any group with ridiculous demands, but things run a lot better if you remember that a fed crew is a happy crew.

But what to call those moments when you get to grab sustenance? If the call is to be ready to rock at 1130AM, is the meal you grab beforehand lunch? Likewise with a 430PM repast, especially if we're going to bring in pizza after it's over. Not that it really matters: lack of established nomenclature has never stopped anyone from stuffing their faces at 730PM with the leftover bagels provided to the guests that morning.

And then you have other opportunities outside the three conventional ones. On these shores, it's customary to have an afternoon coffee break. (One producer I work with always brings in what we call the “Three O’Clock Cookie.” The man is a saint.) In the UK and Ireland, morning tea is a tradition. In Bavaria, they talk of Second Breakfast, a term also found in literature, where J. R. R. Tolkien writes in "The Hobbit" that the little people prefer to eat six meals a day. And Taco Bell is pushing a late night repast, calling it Fourth Meal. It's gotten so you can eat and eat and eat, and never really stop. Come to think of it, that's what we do. No wonder we have an obesity problem.

Still, the question is how to define these disparate meal breaks. It's one that a friend asked when he went to a restaurant with his kids at 4PM. He posted the question online: what am I eating?  A number of other contacts and acquaintances chimed in with specific answers, from late lunch to early bird special. None were wrong, but all lacked context.

But thankfully one associate did put it all together, incorporating what might best be described as play-by-play and color commentary. I asked Bruce if I might print his response. He was kind enough to permit me to quote him. To wit: "By way of explanation: traditionally 'First Breakfast,' usually light enough to get you out the door. 'Second Breakfast' (the most important Breakfast of the day) is eggs, bacon, steak, ham etc. meant to fortify you for the rigors of the morning. 'Elevenses' is just at that lull in the morning digestion, light with coffee meant to get you through to lunch. ' Lunch' can be anything, preferably served with alcohol. Then of course 'Brunch,' again light, meant really as a bridge to 'First Dinner' or 'Supper' which is informal and light with alcohol. This sets you up for the grand meal of the day, 'Dinner.' Generally post 6'ish but pre 10'ish, and involves all manner of eating and drinking. It is easy to overindulge at dinner so one must be cautious, because you don't want to spoil the 'Late Snack' and 'Midnight Snack,' which the faint hearted often combine. So properly configured: 4 meals, 3 buffers and 2 snacks. I hope this has been informative and helpful."

Indeed it has, Bruce, indeed it has. We all thank you for the explanation, helping us to make sense of our non-stop chowing down. I don't want to make a big deal of it, but perhaps I can spot you a meal as a way of saying thanks: next time, Elevenses is on me.


Marc Wollin of Bedford loves to eat, and that's the problem. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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