A Near Impenetrable Case for the 5:30 P.M. Dinner

There are two things I like about Thanksgiving. The first is it is the only holiday for which Jewish people are participants that does not require preliminary hours of synagogue, or prayer — a full day of starvation in one instance — to get to the main event: a feast.

The second is it is often consumed as dinner but held at an hour closer to lunch — like 3 or 4 or 5 p.m., which facilitates enough time to eat enough turkey to knock you out, drink enough wine to knock you out, have enough Middle Eastern pudding to knock you out (hit me up for the recipe if you’d like to taste a deadly sin in the form of confectionary maintaining equal parts processed white flour [the horror!], sugar [who?] and whole cow’s milk [nooooo!]) and, finally, indulge in about as many chestnuts as it takes to satisfy the total sum of your recommended daily caloric intake.

The thing of it is, you’re rarely actually knocked out in any malevolent way, because dinner ends early enough that by the time you’re expected to be efficient again (the next morning), you wake up feeling sprightly as fuck. Clear as a Neutrogena face. Bright as a sad lamp. But this is probably not new-news to you. There have been debates about the ideal time to eat dinner going on across various corners of the internet since, probably, that one time in 2002 when Oprah told people they should stop eating after 7 p.m. (This fact has been generated purely from a faulty memory of sitting on the floor doing math homework while her talk show ran in the background.) Ask Google whether it’s good to eat early and watch as the headlines unfold, extolling the vast benefits (heart health! your metabolic rate! your digestive systemyour cancer risk!).

Couple the breadth of these articles with the anecdotal interest I have accrued from asking my Instagram following whether they, too, like to eat early (spoiler: the answer is yes) and I must ask how it is possible that we have so wholeheartedly embraced the concept of brunch (a combination of breakfast and lunch) as a culture, but have insofar as left linner, or dunch — the next frontier of meals to prioritize on the totem pole of eating — out of the conversation completely.

Just last week I found myself nestled into a passionate echo chamber wherein a publicist and I gushed over the delight of a 5:30 p.m. dinner: You get there early enough and there is no line to beat. You can celebrate with the two-for-one happy hour special and go home with a pocket full of singles, emptying it out just before you contemplate tumbling into your bed before the clock strikes 8:30, leaving you with enough time to like, do a face mask, or watch The Little Dummer Girl, or do a face mask while watching The Little Drummer Girl. And if that isn’t of interest, you can just stick around the restaurant, talking and eating and loving your face off without wondering that time is slipping away because even though it is, you’re spending it well and the likelihood is high that you’ll be home before it’s so late that you walk in and the lights are off and it is so quiet you could hear a Repeller barrette drop and you turn the lights on but the air is still motionless and for a moment you are confronted by the reality that even if you’re not alone, you are so alone.

What? Just me? Let’s go back to face masks.

I don’t know if eating early is a product of growing up — of waking up earlier, of having lunch earlier, of valuing and therefore knowing the hours of my day differently — but I’ve been a pretty regular consumer of this 5:30 p.m. special since my daughters were born and I have seen:

-A better night’s sleep (my digestive system and the cruciferous vegetables have had enough time to figure their shit out).

-A better night’s bed time (when I eat at 5:30, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ll be in bed no later than 8:30).

-A better night’s portion of productivity (dinner typically serves as the signifier that my day is over, but when I eat so early, the illusion that the day has been extended knights me with the greatest treasure of all: found time to do more shit).

-A better night’s shot at getting that cool table at that hip new restaurants in this weird town.

Are you a fan of the 5:30 fish filet? Tell me why if so, tell me why not if not, and most importantly, tell me you’d become a regular at Man Repeller’s spinoff of Central Perk.

Photo by Albina Bougartchev/EyeEm via Getty Images.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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