Brunch; such a lovely sounding word, conjuring up mouth-watering images of lavish spreads designed to keep hunger at bay until dinner, and a word that somehow sounds far more refined than breakfast or lunch. Brunch has become something of a culinary tradition, and not just in the US, but when were the words ‘breakfast’ and ‘lunch’ first combined to create brunch?
Well, it would appear that there is no unequivocal evidence of exactly when brunch was first created and enjoyed. There are those who believe it to have originated among the English upper classes in the 19th century, where it was designed as a means of feeding the huntsmen after a hard fought morning hunt. The huntsmen’s tired taste buds were tickled with a vast array of meats, egg dishes and alcoholic beverages during an early lunch, after which many of them would snooze the afternoon away and rise again for their evening meal. Then there are others who suggest that it arose when Catholics used to fast before mass and would then sit down to a slap up feast.
Evidence to support the theory of brunch having originated in England, lies in the first known appearance of the word in a British publication entitled ‘Hunter’s Weekly’, in 1895. The piece was written by a man named Guy Beringer, in which he promotes the benefits of a light meal with friends on a Sunday, instead of the more traditional large, late and heavy meals commonly served in households throughout the United Kingdom. The article was reprinted by the world renowned British Periodical ‘Punch’ and many believe that this was when brunch as a concept, really took hold and became popular in England. The trend was then picked up in the States in the late 1920’s, with Chicago being the first known city to promote brunch in its restaurants. The elegant hotel, The Ambassador, was home to the Pump Room which quickly became a popular Sunday mid- morning brunch haunt of the rich and famous.
Then there was World War II, and with fewer people attending church, the public wanted something else to do to pass the time. Instead of saying prayers and singing hymns, people began spending their Sunday mornings relaxing with friends and family, and brunch seemed a far more convivial way to sit, eat and be merry together. Convenience foods had not long been on the scene either, helping to make brunch a less laborious task.
Social changes in America played a part in the popularity of brunch, too, as after urbanization and industrialization, Sundays became the only real day in which families could spend some quality time together. There was also an influx of married women looking for work after the war, and after a hard week’s graft, the last thing these ladies wanted to do was slave over an oven for hours on end; instead they would dine out and have brunch in local restaurants.
So there we have it, the history of the brunch in brief, and if you haven’t been for one yet, well why ever not; you don’t know what you’re missing!