Three Square Meals

I was curious about the origin of this expression and did a little research. Sailors used to be fed their meals on square wooden blocks. The blocks were practical because they stacked easily when not in use and wouldn't shatter when seas got rough. Lacking modern storage methods, supplies went bad quickly and food shortages were not uncommon. Meals became nutritionally unbalanced causing scurvy and other deficiencies. When supplies didn't spoil and food was plentiful, the sailors received three square meals a day.

The healthiness of eating three square meals a day is now in question. My mother, however, was a firm believer. Breakfast was not grabbed on the run. The family sat down together at the start of our day. We headed to school with bags containing well-balanced lunches. Dinner was leisurely and it's shared conversations are one of my favorite memories. The food is not.

Mom was a skilled ICU nurse and a generous volunteer. She was not a gifted cook. Indeed, she had a total lack of imagination when it came to preparing meals. Hamburgers, boiled potatoes and a vegetable were served for at least four dinners each week. She had the butcher grind extra lean meat for the burgers to remove the unhealthy fat. Concerned that some remnant of fat had escaped notice, she cooked them until nothing was left but a hard, dry, tasteless lump. The occasional roast or pasta dish was such a welcome diversion that we scarcely noticed the lack of seasoning.

When my dad retired, he gradually took over the cooking. Surely in self defense. He tried recipes that he found in the newspaper. If he liked a dish that someone else served, he was quick to ask how it was made. He grew increasingly inventive and tried varying spices, ingredients and cooking techniques. He became an accomplished cook.

My mother was less than gracious about this transition of duties. Although she readily admitted that she didn't enjoy cooking, she couldn't accept that Dad was the better cook. Each meal had some flaw. She'd sift through a casserole and remove tiny pieces of onion or spice, claiming that they gave her indigestion. She'd analyze the ingredients and point out how unhealthy they were.

After awhile, we barely noticed. Sound heartless? Don't worry. Despite the complaints, each meal would find her heaping her plate and going back for more.

After all, a person needs three square meals a day.



  1. Informative post! I almost did mine on how I want to start eating square meals to help me lose weight this year. Maybe more in line with your dad's cooking. Hehee.

    Thanks for playing =)

  2. Interesting history on the origin of "three square meals". I would love for someone to take over cooking duties every once in a while. I think being a working mom, cooking was just one more chore for her. I find that now that I am a stay at home mom I tend to think more about providing variety and making meals appetizing for my kids.

  3. Good HOTs... like the trip down memory lane with the dinners at your house while you were growing up... my HOTs is here:

  4. I try to eat 3 a day and limit the snacks. All that advice on multiple small meals just has me eating all day. But I do like to "bundle" my veggies and do 4-5 for lunch--relieves a lot of guilt for supper dessert.


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