The Evolution of Breakfast

The New York Times recently wrote an article on ‘How Has Breakfast Evolved?’ featuring the history of breakfast in the USA from 1811 to 1961 (shot by food photographer Magnus Nillson).

See below a short history of what was common at the time: From leftover leg of ham, fried fish, biscuits to the breakfast staples that currently rule on our kitchen table.

What an upper-middle class New Yorker might have found on his morning table through the ages:

Breakfast served in 1811: Popcorn and milk, anyone?


In the early 19th century, people ate “dinner” at midday and a lighter “supper” in the evening. Breakfast consisted mainly of leftovers, and it was served cold so as to not require a fire. Among the delicacies: a picked-over carcass, fruit pie and — a precursor to Corn Pops — stale popcorn in milk.

The binge breakfast in 1861: Fried trout & left overs-anything goes!


By the mid 19th century, men no longer went home for the midday meal, so breakfast became the family meal. Nearly everything was potential morning fare — fried trout, broiled ham, eggs, muffins, rice waffles — and served in quantities that would make a Denny’s waitress blush.

The continental breakfast in 1911: Cornflakes, eggs & bacon


The breakfast binge was followed by a kind of repentance diet. Few foods have transformed the American table quite so significantly as cereal, which began accompanying a larger meal made up of foods that are now breakfast staples — bacon, eggs, pancakes — in reduced portions.

The speedy breakfast in 1961: Cereal and frozen O.J.

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With more women entering the work force, cereal became the easiest breakfast option. By the ’50s, cereal companies were removing fiber and adding sugar. Citrus companies, meanwhile, were concentrating juice (using heat and vacuums), which put frozen O.J. on nearly every table.

And as a big fan of the BBC television show The Supersizers… about the history of (mainly British) foods, my first thoughts were… where is the ‘Claret’ ?

Ref: New York Times, Thanks Savi!