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The History of Brunch

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Some people love the meal and some people hate it. It seems that many people have a strong opinion about Sunday brunch. Some people see it as an excuse to drink during the day and others see it as a way to celebrate certain holidays such as Mother’s Day.

When did brunch begin?

Food historians place the first bunches as happening in England in the 1890s. The world itself was first used in a piece written for “Hunter’s Weekly” in 1895. British writer Guy Beringer penned a piece for the magazine with the title, “Brunch: A Plea.” He wanted to see people take in a meal on Sundays that was lighter than the traditional Sunday supper. The supper meal was very heavy. Beringer called the meal, “cheerful, sociable and inciting.” In his piece he talked about how it was a good way to wipe away, “the cobwebs of the week.”

When the periodical, “Punch,” published Beringer’s article from “Hunter’s Weekly,” the meal started to gain popularity. “Punch” was very popular at the time. Brunch, the combination of breakfast and lunch, did not catch on right away in the United States. It was not until the 1920s that people across the pond began enjoying brunches.

Many experts in food history say that the early brunches were for weekly hunts in England. The hunt breakfasts were basically meals made up primarily of meats, stews, eggs, sweet goods and fruits. While there is no consensus that this is what the early brunches featured, many food historians believe that formed the basis of early brunches in England. There are some historians who believe the tradition started with Catholics in England who fasted before church every week. After church, they would have a large meal to make up for missing breakfast and they say this is how the brunch was started.

Chicago was the first city in the United States to enjoy brunches. When the wealthy and famous traveled by train from one coast to the other, Chicago was often their half way point. When people arrived in the city, they often looked for a good meal to have in the late morning. Higher end hotels catered happily to these passengers. While most of the Chicago restaurants were not open on Sundays, hotel restaurants, such as the Pump Room, located at the Ambassador Hotel, obliged these people by serving Sunday brunch and having brunch specials for the people who were making that journey.

The people who tended to enjoy those early American brunches in the 1920s were the wealthy and people with a certain celebrity status. It was socially acceptable for them to drink alcohol during the day. As a consequence, they did just that. Even during prohibition, people enjoyed a decent amount of booze during their brunches. In the 1930s, cookbooks were published with instructions for running a successful brunch. People who hosted these meal were encouraged to serve alcohol to their guests. When people did not want to drink they made fake cocktails that looked like their alcohol filled counterparts. A mixture of clam juice and tomato juice was often consumed in the place of Bloody Marys.

The cocktail called “Bloody Mary” has been said to have been developed in the name of Mary, Queen of Scotts (there is some disagreement among historians about this point). The cocktail was originally created in France but it took some intrepid New Yorkers to make it what it is today. Bartenders at the King Cole Bar spiced it up to appeal to an American audience. Many people liked to drink these at Sunday brunch because they were following the practice of drinking alcohol to help people deal with a hangover. People also saw tomato juice as being very healthy. These cocktails are also often enjoyed after people play golf.

By the early 1950s more people began to embrace the practice of drinking during the day. This is when the American middle class began to enjoy some alcohol with their family brunch. As post World War II families began looking forward to the meal to offer them a break for the week. This is when women started getting in on the act as more and more women were working and felt they needed a stress reliever on the weekend.


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