History of breakfast
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Breakfast is the first meal taken after rising from a night's sleep, most often eaten in the early morning before undertaking the day's work. The Old English word for dinner, disner, means to break a fast, and was the first meal eaten in the day until its meaning shifted in the mid-13th century. It was not until the 15th century that “breakfast” came into use in written English to describe a morning meal,:6 which literally means to break the fasting period of the prior night; in Old English the term was morgenmete meaning "morning meal."
From evidence at Epipaleo sites in present-day Jordan, dating to before the discovery of agriculture, archeologists have recently found that the Natufian culture baked mixed-flour flat breads carefully made from wild einkorn wheat, wild rye, wild oats, lentils and club-rush tubers in tandoor-like stone ovens as well as on flat stones. Besides bread, these wild flours were made into porridge.
From further archeology at Neolithic sites we know that there was an early reliance on cereal grains once agriculture had begun. Neolithic peoples used quern-stones to grind the hulled grains, then boiled them to make a kind of porridge. The domesticating of crops is thought to have begun in the Fertile Crescent around 7000 BC. Three of the eight so-called founder crops are cereals – emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, and barley. Rye and oats were cultivated in Europe starting in the early Neolithic in Anatolia before spreading to the rest of Europe in the Iron age and Bronze Age.
In Greek literature, Homer makes numerous mentions of ariston, a meal taken not long after sunrise. The Iliad notes this meal with regard to a labor-weary woodsman eager for a light repast to start his day, preparing it even as he is aching with exhaustion. The opening prose of the 16th book of The Odyssey mentions breakfast as the meal being prepared in the morning before attending to one’s chores. Eventually ariston was moved to around noon, and a new morning meal was introduced.
In the post-Homeric classical period of Greece, a meal called akratisma was typically consumed immediately after rising in the morning. Akratisma or (ἀκρατισμός akratismos) consisted of barley bread dipped in wine (ἄκρατος akratos), sometimes complemented by figs or olives. They also made pancakes called τηγανίτης (tēganitēs), ταγηνίτης (tagēnitēs) or ταγηνίας (tagēnias), all words deriving from τάγηνον (tagēnon), "frying pan". The earliest attested references on tagenias are in the works of the 5th-century BC poets Cratinus and Magnes. Another kind of pancake was σταιτίτης (staititēs), from σταίτινος (staitinos), "of flour or dough of spelt", derived from σταῖς (stais), "flour of spelt". Athenaeus in his Deipnosophistae mentions staititas topped with honey, sesame and cheese.
Romans called breakfast jentaculum (or ientaculum). It was usually composed of everyday staples like bread, cheese, olives, salad, nuts, raisins, and cold meat left over from the night before. They also drank wine-based drinks such as mulsum, a mixture of wine, honey, and aromatic spices. First-century Latin poet Martial said that jentaculum was eaten at 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, while 16th-century scholar Claudius Saumaise wrote that it was typically eaten at 9:00 or 10:00 a.m. It seems unlikely that any fixed time was truly assigned for this meal.
Middle Ages (500–1500)
In the European Middle Ages, breakfast was not usually considered a necessary and important meal, and was practically nonexistent during the earlier medieval period. Monarchs and their entourages would spend lots of time around a table for meals. Only two formal meals were eaten per day—one at mid-day and one in the evening. The exact times varied by period and region, but this two-meal system remained consistent throughout the Middle Ages. The literal definition of breakfast is ‘breaking the fast’ of nighttime slumber, and many written accounts in the medieval period seem to reprimand eating in the morning.
Breakfast was under Catholic theological criticism. The influential 13th-century Dominican priest Thomas Aquinas wrote in his Summa Theologica (1265–1274) that breakfast committed “praepropere,” or the sin of eating too soon, which was associated with gluttony. Overindulgences and gluttony were frowned upon and were considered boorish by the Catholic Church, as they presumed that if one ate breakfast, it was because one had other lusty appetites as well, such as ale or wine.
Breakfast in some times and places was solely granted to children, the elderly, the sick, and to working men. Anyone else did not speak of or partake in eating in the morning. Eating breakfast meant that one was poor, was a low-status farmer or laborer who truly needed the energy to sustain his morning’s labor, or was too weak to make it to the large, midday dinner. Because medieval people saw gluttony as a sin and a sign of weakness, men were often ashamed of eating breakfast.
Noble travelers were an exception, as they were also permitted to eat breakfast while they were away from home. For instance, in March 1255 about 1512 gallons of wine were delivered to the English King Henry III at the abbey church at St. Albans for his breakfast throughout his trip. If a king were on religious pilgrimage, the ban on breakfast was completely lifted and enough supplies were compensated for the erratic quality of meals at the local cook shops during the trip.
In the 13th century, breakfast when eaten sometimes consisted of a piece of rye bread and a bit of cheese. Morning meals would not include any meat, and would likely include ¼ gallon (1.1 L; 0.30 US gal) of low alcohol-content beers. Uncertain quantities of bread and ale could have been consumed in between meals.
By the 15th century breakfast often included meat. By this time, noble men were seen to indulge in breakfast, making it more of a common practice, and by the early 16th century, recorded expenses for breakfast became customary. The 16th-century introduction of caffeinated beverages into the European diet was part of the consideration to allow breakfast. It was believed that coffee and tea aid the body in “evacuation of superfluities,” and was consumed in the morning.
Modern breakfast (1500–present)
Traditionally, the various cuisines of Africa use a combination of locally available fruits, cereal grains and vegetables, as well as milk and meat products. In some parts of the continent, the traditional diet features milk, curd and whey products. A type of porridge is most commonly eaten. In the book The Bible cyclopædia (et al.) published in 1843, it was documented that during this time in the Arab world, Bedouins often utilized locusts mixed with butter for breakfast, spreading the mixture on unleavened bread.
In the book The Bible cyclopædia (et al.) published in 1843, it was documented that Egyptians were early risers that sometimes had a first meal consisting of coffee along with the smoking of a pipe, and did not eat breakfast until noon. At this time, it was documented that Egyptian breakfast foods included bread, cheese, eggs, butter, curds, clotted cream and stewed beans. In addition, fava beans (Ful Madamas) are an established national breakfast dish.
In the Middle East region of Asia, Middle Eastern cuisine is popular. Iftar refers to the evening meal when Muslims break their sawm (fast) during the Islamic month of Ramadan. Iftar is one of the religious observances of Ramadan, and is often done as a community, with people gathering to break their fast together. Iftar is done right after Maghrib (sunset) time. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims replace traditional breakfast with suhoor, an Islamic term referring to the meal consumed early in the morning by Muslims before sawm during daylight hours. The meal is eaten before fajr (dawn).
In Japan, it is common to eat Miso soup, and rice soup (porridge hybrid jook) for breakfast.
French breakfasts are often similar to what Americans call a continental breakfast. French breakfast pastries include apple turnovers, brioche, croissant and pain au chocolat. Croissants have been described as becoming a standard fare in French breakfast cuisine by 1875.
The word waffle derives from the Dutch word "wafel", which itself derives from the Middle Dutch wafele, and is likely the origin of the food as it is known today.
In the early sixteenth century, some physicians warned against eating breakfast, because they said it was not healthy to eat before a prior meal was digested. By the 1550s, however, there were multiple sources that claimed breakfast was an important meal. For example, in 1551, Thomas Wingfield stated that breakfast was essential. In 1589 Thomas Cogan stated that it was unhealthy to miss breakfast in the morning. He was one of the first to claim that it was healthy for those who were not young, ill or elders to eat breakfast.
The full breakfast is a staple of British cuisine, and typically consists of bacon, sausages and eggs, often served with a variety of side dishes and a beverage such as coffee or tea. Prior to 1600, breakfast in Great Britain typically included bread, cold meat or fish, and ale. Tea, chocolate and coffee were introduced to Great Britain in the mid-1600s, and in the 1700s coffee and chocolate were adopted as breakfast drinks by the fashionable. Tea eventually became more popular than chocolate as a breakfast drink.
The first groups known to have produced maple syrup and maple sugar were indigenous peoples living in the northeastern part of North America. According to aboriginal oral traditions, as well as archaeological evidence, maple tree sap was being processed into syrup long before Europeans arrived in the region.
While it has been a source of controversy where the lumberjack breakfast came from, the most cited source is that the lumberjack breakfast was first served in a Vancouver Hotel, in 1870. The breakfast consisted of eggs galore, assorted fried pork strips, slabs, slices, and flapjacks. It is said by Anita Stewart that the tradition of hearty cooking developed because of men needing the energy for manual labor.
In 1620, waffles were first introduced to North America by pilgrims who had lived in the Netherlands. Later pioneers consumed largely cornmeal-based breakfasts, and would also consume corn based meals such as oatmeal for dinner and lunch. Common breakfast products included corn pone, Johnnycakes, ashcakes, hoe-cakes, and corn dodgers. Ashcakes consisted of cornmeal wrapped in cabbage leaves cooked in the ashes of a campfire, while corn pone, corn dodgers, and hoe-cakes differed only in baking methods. After the Civil War, it became fairly common in America to eat sandwiches that were made of ham and eggs. These sandwiches were not strictly consumed in the morning. In 1897, the first true breakfast sandwich recipe was published in a cookbook.
Popcorn cereal was consumed by Americans in the 1800s, which typically consisted of popcorn with milk and a sweetener. Cold breakfast cereal has been consumed by Americans since the late 1890s, and during the 1920s a considerable number of new cereals were marketed. The reason for this movement towards cold breakfast cereals was inspired by the Jacksonian-era Clean Living Movement (1830–1860). This movement focused on a lot of lifestyle changes, but specific to breakfast it claimed that eating bacon, eggs, pancakes and hot coffee was too indulgent. The first prepared cold breakfast cereal marketed to American consumers was created by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, who introduced it in 1878 and named it granola. The product was prepared with baked wheat, oatmeal and cornmeal, and was the first brand-name breakfast cereal in the United States.
Canned fruit juice became prominent as a breakfast beverage after the discovery of vitamins. Circa 1900, orange juice as a breakfast beverage was a new concept. The development of frozen orange juice concentrate began in 1915, and in the 1930s it was produced by several companies. Additionally, mass-produced tomato juice began to be marketed in the mid-1920s, and became a popular breakfast drink a few years thereafter.
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