When Did The Obsession Begin? The History Of Brunch

My mom has never really liked breakfast, and I think, deep down, that is the reason behind every argument we’ve ever had.

“How can you know what’s best for me??? You don’t even like waffles!”

Me, on the other hand, I live for breakfast. I fall asleep each night dreaming of the endless possibilities of what I could eat for breakfast the next morning—and I’m not the only one.

Americans, particularly our generation, are in love with breakfast.

The importance of a healthy breakfast is well understood. Various studies have linked eating breakfast with more stable blood sugar levels, reduced cravings throughout the day, better school performance; the list goes on and on. But why does the obsession with breakfast—and breakfast food—exist?

In fact, breakfast didn’t use to be a thing at all. I know, I cried a little too.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, farmers and laborers would grab whatever they could, usually leftovers from the previous day or bread and cheese. As times changed and people adopted a more sedentary lifestyle, the upper class began to focus on health.

Harvey Kellogg, chief medical officer at a turn of the century health spa, began pushing whole wheat, particularly corn flakes and granolas, as the ideal food to eat in the morning. Through creative marketing and endorsements, he convinced the public that cereal was quick, easy, and healthy to eat in the mornings—and thus, breakfast food was born.

Bacon and eggs, another classic breakfast meal, is a far stretch from the quick and healthy meal Kellogg endorsed. How did this become such a morning staple?

Enter the Beech Nut Packing Company, a surplus of bacon, and marketing guru Edward Bernays. Bernays convinced 500 doctors to publish endorsements saying bacon was an excellent way to start your day; the company rapidly sold off the surplus bacon and bacon became the first breakfast meat with a cult-like following.

Breakfast culture really started gaining momentum when brunch was invented and breakfast went from a necessity to an art form.  The term “brunch” first came about in 1895, when British journalist Guy Beringer published an article suggesting a late morning Sunday meal where friends and family could gather for a “cheerful, sociable and inciting” experience, that of course included all popular breakfast foods and alcohol. What could be better?

Brunch became popular with the wealthy and the movement gained momentum during Prohibition because popular brunch cocktails—think mimosas and Bloody Marys—were an easy way to disguise alcohol. Since then, brunch has spread from the Upper East Side to every hipster neighborhood in America.

From a business standpoint, brunch is practical. Diners come to restaurants outside typical dinner hours and often buy cocktails outside typical drinking hours while eating food that is relatively cheap to prepare. In recent years, fast-food and chain restaurants have noticed this and started their own versions of brunch or all-day breakfast.

So next time you’re running late and thinking about skipping breakfast, think of the decades it took to produce this perfect meal. Sit down and have a bowl of cereal, and pay breakfast the respect it deserves.

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