Dinner is a prominent running gag in Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin dislikes what his mother usually cooks for dinner, and this often annoys his parents. Many other running gags exist involving Calvin's dinner.
Running gagsCalvin often plays with his food. For instance, when his parents are looking elsewhere, he pretends his meal is attacking him, much like during lunch at school. When his parents return, the food is scattered over the table, walls and floor and smothered on Calvin's face. When Calvin is in a less rambunctious state of mind he may simply stir his food to idle the time away before eating it. Once, he fashioned a grotesque head-shaped sculpture out of various food items, much to his father's outrage.
Frequently, Calvin is reluctant to eat his dinner. In one strip, he gagged at the green food while thinking "toad stroganoff." In another, he pictured his mother cooking an assortment of repulsive items such as a rotten octopus, a shrunken head, and gasoline, which to him explained how his dinner tasted. Calvin tends to overreact to his dinners, choking and convulsing on the floor after a single taste or sniff. Instead of forcing their son to eat, as in some early strips, Calvin's parents usually prefer to identify the meal as a disgusting or inedible product such as toxic waste or maggots. His curiosity piqued, Calvin then proceeds to eat his dinner. The other parent, however, tends to get disgusted at mention of the made-up meal. A few times, Calvin has suggested pizza and fast-food hamburgers as an alternative to his mother's cooking. In fact, he even once ordered pizza secretly after being sent to his room for disrespecting his mother's cooking.
Calvin sometimes opposes dinner out of prejudice. At the mere mention of tortellini being for dinner, he threw a fit despite not even knowing the nature of tortellini. Also, when he had hamburger casserole, he dramatically gagged and flopped around after the first bite, only to eat it normally upon being told what the meal was.
On a few occasions, Calvin's dinnertime has clashed with his TV schedule, interrupting or overriding shows he would have liked to see. In addition, his early bedtime further reduces his TV time, leading Calvin to complain about the amount of time he gets to watch.
Calvin's manners at the dinner table are the object of much criticism from his parents. Calvin tends to burp loudly at the table; afterwards, instead of apologizing, he praises his "performance". Calvin also chews loudly with his mouth open.
These are meals prepared for dinner by Calvin's mother, with a few noted exceptions. Some of them were identified differently, to encourage Calvin to eat them.
- Oatmeal (may be a lunch),
- Lima beans,
- Stuffed peppers, identified as stewed monkey heads,
- Hamburgers (grilled by Calvin's father),
- Waffles (cooked by Calvin's father),
- Vegetarian meal,
- Creamed corn,
- Rice soup, identified as maggot soup,
- Pasta (possibly manicotti),
- Unidentified fish,
- Chocolate pudding,
- Eggplant casserole,
- Salad (may be a school or home lunch),
- Grilled cheese sandwich,
- and french fries.
Also, an unnamed meal was falsely identified by Calvin's mother as spider pie.
Outside mealsCalvin's family has eaten out on several occasions. Three distinct eateries have been featured throughout the strip; one is a pizzeria, the other is a formal restaurant, and the last is a hamburger restaurant the family went to while camping. Due to Calvin's typically embarrassing behavior in public, Calvin's parents eat out alone in later strips. These evenings lead to the babysitting story arcs.
- In one strip, it was stated that dinner lasts an uninterrupted 40 minutes.
- Various dinners have been portrayed as a chunky green slime (occasionally other colors). This is likely the reader seeing the meal through Calvin's eyes, as it may show what children think of any meal they find disgusting.
- One time, Calvin's mother told her son the family would be eating stewed monkey heads. Subsequently, at the table, Calvin actually fooled his father into thinking the same. Calvin's father must have learned from this experience, as he later made up meals himself to get Calvin to eat.
- For an odd reason, Calvin makes odd names when he won't eat it, but when his parents make the gross name, he'll eat it. One exception includes eating hamburgers, where he learned cows are in burgers from his parents.
- It seems as if whenever Calvin likes what his mother makes, his father tends not to like it.
- The first time the toxic food gag was introduced, Calvin's dad was the one to say it. However, later his mom would be the one to do this.