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What does "meal" mean in the following context? Is a meal the amount of foods for one person, or the amount of foods for multiple people at a time?

Bassey cooked nonstop from Thursday through Monday, churning out more than 55 recipes and 100 meals.

Sources:

https://news.yahoo.com/55-recipes-100-meals-100-193004227.html

https://edition.cnn.com/2023/05/15/africa/hilda-bassey-cook-world-record-intl/index.html

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  • It's not clear, but my guess is that it means 'servings of food for 100 people'. Even over five days, three meals a day for multiple people would only come to 15. Jul 26 at 14:40
  • A 'meal' could be soup or other 'starter', main course, and dessert. Jul 26 at 15:03
  • I think this is entirely a matter of opinion if we're just looking at the words themselves. Personally, I was inclined to read meals as tables here (where any given table usually has 2 or 4 diners, in, say, a normal Western restaurant). But following the link, I see this is to do with the current craze among Nigerians for getting into the Guinness Book of Records. So it's an absolute certainty that Guinness the publishers will have defined their terms precisely - but that's really just happenstance; the actual words aren't that fixed in meaning. Jul 26 at 17:14

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This usage of meal is very unclear. I find it virtually meaningless.

In general, meal has a very flexible meaning. If I say, "I prepared a meal," without further context there's no way to know if I cooked for one person, or for twenty people. This is because a meal is generally the food that is served to whoever, or however many people are eating at that meal.

There are some contexts where meal has a more fixed meaning, such as a prepackaged meal, or one with fixed portions. That is, if I were preparing airline meals (if they still existed), or school lunches, I could say, "I prepared 100 (airline) meals" and it would be clear that I meant I prepared 100 little trays of food and not I prepared food for all the people in 100 different airplanes. In the context of an in-flight meal, we sort of imagine every person eating their own meal, rather than all the passengers sharing one meal.

The problem with this context is that it's a very unusual situation. The intention of the cook was to prepare food continuously for 100 hours; the fact that people were being fed was an afterthought*.

Meal typically means the amount of food needed to feed all the people sharing the meal, but Bassey was not cooking for people - not directly. She wasn't intending to feed anyone, she was only intending to cook a large amount of food. So it doesn't really make sense to describe the food she made as meals.

The writers of those articles likely used the phrase "100 meals" because it sounded like a lot of food, and they liked the reflection of 100 hours and 100 meals.

Note that other sources describe Bassey's output as "almost 100 pots of food" (CNN) or "over 100 pots of food"(Guinness World Records). That's barely more helpful, since a pot of food could be any size. "According to Hilda, each pot of food she cooked was big enough to serve 30-35 people" (Guinness World Records).

So, in the context of the actual event, "100 meals" might mean *food for 100 groups of 30-35 people". But if so, there are surely better ways to express this.


*Apparently, the Guinness World Record rules demand that all the food that's prepared must be consumed, but they don't seem to require anything about where, when, or by whom the food is consumed (Guinness World Records).

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It can be either, depending on context:

We went to McDonalds and we each had a Happy Meal.

or

Grandma cooked a meal for all 10 of us.

In your example, "100 meals" likely means meals for 100 people, unless it was earlier established how many people were being served, or how many people each "meal" was meant to serve.

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    But the OP asked about one particular context! Jul 26 at 14:38
  • @KateBunting, edited.
    – The Photon
    Jul 26 at 15:06
  • A decent chef could knock out 100 covers - individual diners, one course or more each - in a single night if the requirements weren't too complex. Standard restaurant kitchen team requires 4 staff for every 50 covers per hour. If you google this, you find each 'meal' was actually 30 portions or so. Jul 26 at 17:30
  • @DoneWithThis., That usage of cover might be well-known jargon in the restaurant industry (in your country?) but I don't think it's well known to the general public. In any case, I wasn't aware of it. So it's not surprising that CNN didn't choose to use it. In any case the record set seems to be for hours spent cooking rather than the number of dishes or meals or covers served.
    – The Photon
    Jul 26 at 17:45
  • That's precisely why the news articles don't use it. It's an industry term. I was just giving you some numbers as to why it's extremely unlikely to be individual meals. She cooked something like 3,000 individual meals, which is a feat of endurance. 100 is just a tough shift, if you've only got a commis & plongeur [food chopper & washer-upper] to help you. Jul 26 at 17:48

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