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A food blogger said ‘It’s called dinner. Not supper.’ The responses got a little intense

“Tell that to Jesus,” said one user on Facebook.
The offending comment.
The offending comment.The Mighty Rib via Facebook

“Never get in between a man and his supper” — or is it dinner? From the looks of things, one writer still doesn’t have a definitive answer. 

On Aug. 2, Food blogger and Little Rock, Arkansas, writer Kevin Shalin accidentally began a debate on Facebook for his blog called The Mighty Rib. In the Facebook post, Shalin innocently posted five little words that sent shockwaves through the comment section.

“It’s called dinner. Not supper,” read the post on The Mighty Rib. This one post, while liked more than 13,300 times, has a staggering 46,000 comments as of Friday afternoon with folks from his locality in the Arkansas area to as far away as Minnesota weighing in. 

“Tell that to Jesus,” said one user on Facebook.

“Jesus and his disciples did not eat the “last dinner.” I rest my case!” said another user on Facebook, agreeing with the religious connotations of the meal's name. 

“Breakfast, lunch and supper for me,” read another Facebook comment.

“Supper is at your mama’s house. Dinner is when you go out!” argued another Facebook user. 

“You can call it whatever you want, but where I come from its called supper,” said one user on Facebook. “My mother said it was called supper, and mothers are always right.”

While some agreed with Shalin’s hot take, he started receiving so many comments both in agreement and not that at one point he added, “Why are people protesting outside my house?” in jest to the comments himself. Shalin says that this one post is the most viral post he’s ever had in his over 12 years of posting on the page. 

For Shalin, the cavalcade of comments came about slowly from Little Rock-area locals until it snowballed into the raucous debate that is at the time of this writing still ongoing.

“I post several things a day, and sometimes just things pop up in my head and I’ll just go with it,” said Kevin Shalin to TODAY Food. “I never thought it would turn into this.”

Through his writings for other food publications, his Facebook page and blog, Shalin often posts lighthearted questions like “What did you have for dinner last night?” and “I’m not saying it’s the worst candy … but it’s in the conversation” along with an image of Whoppers candy, urging his nearly 30,000 fans to join in on the fun discussion that often ensues. Shalin said that to generate interaction on his page, he often has random thoughts that blossom into these discussion points. 

“I want to say it probably popped into my head because my mother-in-law calls it supper all the time,” Shalin said, speaking about his wife’s mom who hails from St. Louis. “As much as I love her … I call it dinner. So maybe she popped into my head and I thought this would make a good post. And that was really it.”

Breakfast, Dinner ... and Supper?

There were people who used the supper-vs-dinner debate stage as an opportunity to tell people who might not have grown up in more rural parts of the country that — at least at mealtime — dinner comes much, much earlier.

“No, it’s called supper. You eat dinner at noon,” said one commenter on Facebook. 

“If you come to my Southern home at 6:00 expecting dinner, you will be politely advised that you are five hours late and invited to enjoy supper with us!” said another Facebook user. “Should you still insist upon dinner, you will go to bed hungry!”

“Growing up on a farm, it was breakfast, dinner, supper. Then moved to the big city, where they called it breakfast, lunch, dinner,” said another Facebook user. “I guess it didn’t matter when the food was placed on the table, I’d say ‘come and eat.’ They come running and didn’t care what you called as long as it was food!”

Why the meaning of "supper" is different for so many of us

People Enjoying Their Dinner
Dinner time for farm hands during the wheat harvest in Centa, Ohio.Bettmann Archive

At the turn of the 20th century, “dinner” and “supper” meant two different types of meals in farming communities, with dinner taking the place of the modern notion of lunch, and supper being the last big meal a family would enjoy together over the dining room table in the early evening. In fact, during World War II, rations in the military were denoted in this way into breakfast, dinner and supper, instead of breakfast, lunch and dinner like most Americans use today.

While most Americans now treat dinner and supper as synonyms for the third meal of the day, there are some families and individuals that have carried its more vintage usage to today. And now, those folks are teaching people through the Facebook message boards a little bit about how things used to be, something Shalin said he’s taking away from this viral experience. 

“Something so simple can generate so many interesting takes on a matter that someone who originally posted it admittedly had no idea about,” Shalin said. “I didn’t think any of all this would come out of it. Even with something very simple, you can learn a lot.”