The History of Brunch

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Ok so Brunch is like, the best thing ever, right? It’s the best of both worlds – sweet and savory, breakfast and lunch, hot and cold. It’s nearly impossible to miss because the hours it’s served can range from as early as 8 or 9am to as late as 3 or 4pm. Want eggs, potatoes, a sandwich and to get day drunk off bottomless mimosas all at the same time? You’re in luck! Brunch now makes that socially acceptable.

Brunch is kind of like the middle sister of breakfast and lunch that they’re always jealous of because she’s way too gorgeous and has the most fun. It’s evident that in the past few years the popularity of brunch has reached an entire new level of craziness. What I knew in grade school as a nice calm meal after church full of waffles has evolved into a beast of reservations, waiting in line, bloody marys and dissecting all of last night’s adventures.

There are literally hundreds ofbest brunchlists and intense competition between restaurants to see who can draw the largest crowds on weekend mornings. But where does it all come from? Why brunch and not liner?

While its exact origins may be a bit hazy, there are a few outstanding theories, all of which point towards brunch originating in England in the 19/20th century and rising to popularity in the US. Likely the answer lies in a combination of all of these origins.

One of the largest origins of brunch comes from, like many things in food history, the traditions of the upper classes. Largely associated with the morning after weekend festivities or early morning hunts, in the 19th century the wealthy would often gather for a late morning meal. The richer the British Empire grew, the more brunch grew; eventually resembling something more like diner, with more complicated dishes and everything placed on the table at once.

Another theory stems from Christianity, pointing out that since Catholics are required to fast before mass on Sundays, a tradition evolved from eating large meals together after church, sometimes even on the premises of the church itself. Yet another theory credits brunch being a means to an end for those who could not afford to eat three full meals.

The origin of the word “brunch” itself has been the subject of controversy, but can be traced back to one of two articles. The practice of what we know as brunch today certainly existed before the word was spawned. British writer Guy Beringer used the term in 1895 in his essay “Brunch: A Plea” where he advocates for the wonders of this unusual meal. According to this article, Beringer stated “[Brunch] is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” Another article from Punch, dated August 1st 1896, discusses that the proper and fashionable word to describe this combination meal should be “blunch” not “brunch”.

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Somewhere along the way, brunch staple Eggs Benedict was invented, and the rest is history. Many credit Eggs Benny to a Mrs. LeGrand Benedict asking for something different from her usual meal at the legendary Delmonico’s in 1893. Others say it was the work of a Mr. Lemuel Benedict in 1894, requesting a combination of poached eggs, Canadian bacon, English muffins, and Hollandaise sauce in an attempt to recover from a hangover.

Starting in the 1920’s and well into the 40’s, brunch began picking up speed in the US. Restaurants in New York began serving actual brunch menus, most popular with hotels, and women’s magazines began discussing brunch as a popular way to see and be seen. After World War I, there were even occasions of famished partygoers having mini-brunches in between dinner and breakfast in order to replenish themselves for a few more hours.

Whatever the exact origins of brunch, i’d like to personally thank the universe for its existence. Now somebody buy me that shirt.

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About Joanna Harkins

co-founder and editor-at-large of inconnu

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