Social Question

Dutchess_III's avatar

Why is it assumed that some kind of meat should always the focal point of dinner?

Asked by Dutchess_III (39112points) December 29th, 2010

I actually asked this same question a year or so ago, but thought of it again in response to the veggie-thread. I’m an omnivore, but when I have a dinner my biggest portions consist of the veggies and bread, and only a small portion of the meat.

Why do we have this concept that meat is the “highlight” of a meal?

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27 Answers

etignotasanimum's avatar

I think it might be because meat can be more filling. At least, it is for me. Also, if you cook it properly, it can look really pretty (like those hams with the pineapple stars and whatnot) so people like having as the focus/centerpiece of the dinner/meal.
I generally stock up on the sides too, but I used to be a big meat eater because I was really picky and that was consequently the focus of my meal.

Seaofclouds's avatar

For me it completely depends on the meal. For some meals, meat is one of the main things (like eating a nice steak and baked potato), but other times it’s just part of it (like eating a casserole of some kind).

I am very picky about vegetables though, so meats and starches make up a large portion of my diet.

Dutchess_III's avatar

At my first staff meeting in my new job, we all ordered from this little diner. I had fried okra and mashed potatoes. That’s it. They couldn’t believe it! Didn’t I want a burger or something too??

diavolobella's avatar

It’s possible that the origin of that it may go pretty far back in history. It might have been that meat was a show of plenty or a display of the skill of the person who hunted it or the wealth of the person who was able to buy it. I think it began as more of social statement.

Berserker's avatar

Must be a tradition thing, or the idea that the meat is always the more filling and nutritious ingredient, which is, as we know, far from being the truth.
Maybe it’s cuz it’s usually the most expensive, even consumerism finds its way at the dinner table, or maybe it stems from the hard work it took to hunt animals with bows and arrows centuries ago.
That whole prize factor may have been imprinted in our brains from way back when and may now be registering itself in the modern day through the upkeeping of tradition or financial ceremony…haha I have no idea. XD

diavolobella's avatar

I think it might also have been more of a treat for people back before refrigeration, so it was displayed prominently when it was available.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Meat is the mainstay for really active and hardworking people, like we used to be when we were farmers and hunter-gatherers. We needed that energy then, more than we do now. I think it’s just leftover from that.

marinelife's avatar

Meat has been highly prized by mankind since cave days when whether or not you had meat was a function of the luck of the hunt. When hunting was successful, the meal became a celebration with the roasting meat as the center piece of the meal.

SavoirFaire's avatar

It’s tradition for meat to be the centerpiece of a meal, but it’s certainly not universal. My wife and I are flexitarians. We sometimes go weeks without meat being the central part of our meal.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

Because of really good marketing. “Beef: It’s what’s for dinner,” had a much better response from the polling groups than, “Beets: It’s what’s for dinner,” and some of the other attempts.

I got a real kick out of “Tofu: It’s… WTF, man? Srsly?” and “Cabbage: Oh hell, not again!”

gailcalled's avatar

I am repeating myself because this is so perfect and should be seen by the multitudes; Roz Chast’s recent cartoon

Aster's avatar

It has been like this forever, huh? Maybe people discovered that when they ate meat they felt full. I can have a huge salad with beans and corn and lettuce and a macaroni dish and a couple hours later I’m hungry again. Not so if I eat meat. It’s just gloriously filling.
The one exception was decades ago I attended a church that served a HUGE vegetarian buffett afterwards. Everyone brought something after every service and I am telling you the food was fantastic. I ate so much I doubt I was hungry afterwards. lol

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Probably the tradition of the most nutritious/protein/important-for-survival part of the meal happened to be meat, for most people.

MyNewtBoobs's avatar

History: If you had meat, then it was special – you can go out and gather berries and pick potatoes any day of the week, but if you killed a bison, it was something to be treasured and admired (and eaten in large amounts while you could). Plus, before we had this global economy and brought different produce to different lands, meat was necessary in order to get certain nutrients.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@gailcalled Your link doesn’t work.

gailcalled's avatar

@SavoirFaire: You’re right. Try this

SavoirFaire's avatar

@gailcalled That one worked. Thanks!

Sunny2's avatar

It’s a holdover from cavemen days. Serving a large piece of meat was a sign the hunter was strong and clever. Nowadays we mostly get our meat at the market, but the really big pieces are very expensive. Whoever serves it is showing off the cleverness and/or strength it took to raise the cash to buy it. And it’s delicious to boot. So say thank you to your host or hostess and don’t let them know you know their underlying show-off motives.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Sunny2 I don’t think it’s showing off at all. Even if all you’re having are inexpensive burgers on the grill, the hamburgers are the star of the show, not the baked beans (and mine should be!) or the potato salad or the deviled eggs. It’s the burgers or the ribs. I think it’s just the way it is, probably dating back to hunter-gatherer days, when people risked their lives to get meat—which they needed to survive and be strong.

diavolobella's avatar

Apropos of nothing, this question is making me so hungry…..

Neizvestnaya's avatar


Dutchess_III's avatar

@Neizvestnaya with a drizzle of Orange Glaze!

Sunny2's avatar

@Dutchess_III You’re right. I’m just feeling a bit poor at the moment and unable to afford many cuts of meat. I was also being a bit facetious. However, my vegetarian kids have taught me that meat is NOT really necessary as a meal centerpiece. Ever had a stuffed pumpkin for Thanksgiving dinner?

Dutchess_III's avatar

What goes in a stuffed pumpkin @Sunny2?

gailcalled's avatar

Some Pepto Bismol.

Sunny2's avatar

@Dutchess III I never had it because she was living on the opposite side of the country at the time, but I think it had rice, nuts, cut cubes of pumpkin, brown sugar, dried fruit, and pumpkin pies spices in it. I can ask her, if you would like the recipe. It sounded very good to me. I’m sure you can google for other versions. I don’t think it’s an unusual thing to do, anymore.

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