Now that the days are getting shorter, I'm back to thinking that the third shabbos meal is really quite lame. Think about it. We're home from morning services at around noon and done with lunch at around 2 pm. Are we really supposed to sit down and shove still more food down our throats at 4:30? And this is the meal all the rabininc literature raves about? Makes no sense at all.
Also sensless is how Jews behave when Shabbos and Yom Tov (or erev Pesach) coincide. Because the Rabbis wrote ecstacticly about the third meal, Jews are loath to give it up. So they resort to fictions. For instance, last week, my own father-in-law bentched after the starter, sang a song, and then washed again for the main course. The last time Shabbos was erev Pesach he did the same thing. (On both occasions, I told him he was being ridiculous, and reminded him that he was performing a brocha she lo tzariach, but he doesn't listen to me.)
What's more likely is this: Once upon a time, Jews woke up early -even on shabbos - for services. They were home from shul before 9 AM, so the second shabbos meal was breakfast. Later in the day when everyone gathered for the Sabbath lunch, that was the third meal. And a third meal which isn't rushed, or squeezed between mincha and maariv, or eaten by people who are already bursting is something I can see the Rabbis being likely to celebrate. I can see it, because we have it. Only we call it the second meal.