My family is basically Southern... East Tennessee to be exact, though my mother's side has some really great pretensions of Greatness in
Our Southern Identity was important to us. My parents made SURE we replied "ma'am" and "sir" (which was ridiculed as we got older), and help our selves to a high moral and social standard of honor. An important part of that Southern heritage is that my mom can COOK. Our house practiced True Southern Hospitality and was a frequent destination for co-workers of my father, sorority sisters of my mother, all our friends as kids, and sometimes the odd loose ends (like the Czechs that came for a cowboy shoot with no hotel room, or the old lady and her grandson from Scotland who had been mis-informed by Disneyland about what was included in "all-inclusive", or the poor guy walking the street who was just trying to sell us a newspaper...). Ours was a hospitable household.
The core of hospitality is FOOD. There is no question that my mother was/is a very talented cook, and she could make all kinds of wonderful things, but Southern Hospitality is not just about content, it is about format. As I got older and saw how other families lived, that format became more obvious... and it clearly was a good thing, or my friends wouldn't be there for dinner every other night! (‘cuz they could have come for leftovers after school, but they came for dinner.)
Now "dinner" was/ is a charged word at our house/ my parents' house. It conotates all that subcontext of appropriate grooming & dress, poised dining skill, and polite conversation. We ate with gusto, but we stayed at the table for the social aspects of dinner. As I understand it, this is a dying practice in the world today... certainly my family (as in now, 2 kids + husband) practices it far less frequently than I did as a kid.
Part of the peculiarity of dinner at my house was it's time. The family down the street from us had dinner at 5:30, every day. At our house dinner was at 8 pm. When I grew up, I learned how very Spanish that was of us (in timing, not in food volume), but it occurred for us as a function of my father's job. My father was a Police Officer, for 30+ years, and a night owl by nature, so he chose to work the graveyard shift for nearly 25 of those years. My father left for work at around 9 pm, returned around 7 am the next morning and slept while we were at school all day (we had to be very quiet after school). The noise level at our house picked up around 6- 7 pm (sunset) and then came the commotion of dinner, followed by the ceremony of dinner, and then dad left and we cleaned...
Now an 8'o'clock dinner is pretty hard on a kid who gets lunch at 12, so my family refined the practice of the "hold-me-over" snack. After school (3-4 pm) we got a snack, sometimes hors d'oeuvre type things, sometimes leftovers (in high school), sometimes popsicles, but a snack. Effectively, I ate 4 meals a day growing - up: breakfast, lunch, hold-me-over, and dinner.
Fast forward: my parents are now deservedly retired, and I have the habit of using their flexibility of hours to heavily supplement the management of my homeschooled spectrum children. Old habits die hard, and my mother does not even consider cooking dinner until it is dark outside, and my father routinely has a "hold-me-over" in the late after noon (a late tea time/ happy hour-ish), especially when the grandkids are visiting - since my Asperger's kid is a grazer (has been since BIRTH - the lactation expert in the hospital told me he'd eat that way the r-e-s-t o-f h-i-s l-i-f-e... nursing had a steep learning curve for me) and eats like a hobbit - every 3.5 hours. Now, my Asperger's kid has added hold-me-over to his vocabulary.
EXAMPLE: 4:30 pm- I have just cooked rice & pork chops - 7 yo looks at it and says, "No thank you Mom, I am going to have a hold-me-over instead" as he is holding the container of leftover Chinese rice.
EXAMPLE: 1:30-ish pm - I have just put the dishes in the dishwasher from lunch, gone upstairs to relieve myself, and return to the kitchen to find him at the table with a Tupperware of cold tortilla soup - "How do you like my hold-me-over, Mom?"
EXAMPLE: I am in the computer room checking on all the support pages for even more info and insight into Asperger's while the kids are playing Wii, when I hear a very stealthy opening of the cupboard. Wait for it... a strong odor wafts in to me..."Child, What are you eating?" " It's OK Mom, I am just having this packet of tuna fish for a hold-me-over"
Today I called my father and thanked him heartily for increasing my child's vocabulary.