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The Brief History of Breakfast

“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

We all have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Many American's zoom through (or skip) this meal to get to work, while other countries tend to savor this time with their families. Breakfast foods and traditions widely vary from locations and cultures around the world. 


It is possible that breakfast started as early as the Neolithic period. Archeologists have found evidence that the people boiled, ground down cereal grains to make porridge. In Ancient Egypt, the working people would have a hearty meal consisting of beer, bread and onions. The Romans called this meal ientaculam, which consisted of bread, cheese, olives, cold meat and a wine-based drink called mulsum. 

In the 13th century, the English referred to this meal as disner. Disner was the first meal eaten in the day, and translates as: to break the fasting period of the night before. The meal often consisted of bread, a bit of cheese and an alcoholic beverage. By the 15th century, Noble Englishmen indulged in a large breakfast, which included meat. Shortly after this time, caffeinated beverages became a part of the European breakfast. The thought was that caffeinated beverages, consumed in the morning, would aid the body in the evacuation of the over indulgences of the night prior. 

The Dutch, during the middle ages, used two engraved metal plates attached to a long handle called the "wafel irons" to make a well known breakfast item. The recipes varied, but generally the mixture between the irons consisted of eggs, salt, wine, flour and cheese. The wafel irons held over an open flame, resulting in light, thin crispy cakes called wafel. The wafel was the early version of the waffle, which would be introduced to the America's in 1620 by the pilgrims, who once lived in the Netherlands. 

In 1683, Vienna was celebrating the end of the siege from the Ottoman Turks. To celebrate this monumental event, a few bakers created a pastry in the crescent shape of the field battle standards of the enemy. This pastry, called Kipferl, is the German word for crescent. 

Early in US history, pioneers consumed hearty, cornmeal-based breakfasts like Johnnycakes and ashcakes. The name ashcakes sound less than appetizing but it was simply a method for cooking cornmeal. The cornmeal was wrapped in cabbage leaves and cooked in the ashes of a campfire. Okay, that still sounds gross. Over the years, breakfast found other variations including meat based meals and  the breakfast sandwich. Popcorn cereal became popular around the time the Clean Living Movement started to take off. This movement's (1830-1860) focus was a lifestyle change; exercise, avoidance of tobacco products, and eliminating coffee, tea, sugar, meat and spice from a diet. The movement believed breakfast had to be cleaner; eating bacon, eggs, pancakes and hot coffee was far too indulgent. This movement lead the way for Dr. John Harvey Kellogg's introduction in 1878 of a cold breakfast cereal item, called granola. Kellogg's granola was the first brand-named breakfast cereal in the US. 

Consider this a reminder to eat breakfast! It is too good not too. 

#breakfast #foodhistory #AThymeandPlace

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