A Brief History of the Sunday Brunch

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There are few meals that get people as riled up or excited as this one. People love to hate to just love to enjoy the mid-morning/afternoon meal known as Sunday brunch. The meal itself has undergone a number of transformations over the years. While a traditional brunch menu includes dishes such as Eggs Benedict, breakfast sausage and bacon and an array of sweats, more and more ethnic foods have become part of the weekend dining experience. In 2015, these kinds of foods were the preferred options for about 67% of people who were surveyed. Common ethnic brunches include dim sum, scrambled eggs with chorizo and pancakes with coconut milk.

The start of bunch has a few stories. Some people believe that the larger meal was put in place by Catholics who fasted before church services on Sunday. When they returned home after the religious services, they were more hungry and ate a bigger meal. Some food historians trace the meal back to the United Kingdom. Upper class families would host the brunch to accommodate the appetites of the men who went out hunting.

During the hunt, which was always held on Sunday, families would gather to indulge in an array of decadent dishes. They dined on dishes made from eggs, a variety of meats, an assortment of sweet treats and an abundance of alcoholic beverages. The meal mixed lunch and breakfast fare for the first time.

Writer Guy Beringer was the first to coin the word, “brunch,” in an article he wrote for the English magazine, “Hunter’s Weekly.” This appeared in the publication in 1895. Beringer liked to enjoy a Sunday Brunch meal but thought it would be better to make the cuisine that is offered for this meal be lighter and more healthy. Beringer’s article was later reprinted in another English magazine, “Punch.” This is what got more people interested in the meal. Of the meal known as brunch, Beringer wrote, “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It 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.”

Brunch did not cross the pond to the United States until the late 1920s. It may come as a surprise to many people but the meal first gained popularity in Chicago. At the time, the rich and famous would take the train from one coast to the other. One of the natural stopping points was Chicago. When these people would roll through the city on a Sunday, they were disappointed to find the restaurants were closed. Many of the better hotels, however, kept their dining establishments open. The Ambassador Hotel was one such business. Their famous Pump Room served Sunday brunch. Some of the more notable people who dined with them for this meal were Clark Gable, John Barrymore and Helen Hayes.

Interest in the Sunday meal started to build. After World War II, churches saw attendance drop. Many people started looking for some other social activity to fill the void. Interest in the family brunch spread into the middle class as people started to think of Sundays as a day, not to worship, but to spend time with friends and family and to unwind from the week. All of a sudden, having a Bloody Mary or a mimosa sounded appealing to a lot more people.

Today, the meal has extended even further. People enjoy brunch on both Saturday and Sunday. The meal is most popular on the coasts and still in Chicago. Parts of the middle of the country have yet to warm to the idea of day drinking. Part of this is the amount of time that people devote to this mid-morning or afternoon meal. Once restaurants started seeing how people were no longer attending church as much, they began offering a number of options for brunch.

Spring time is a popular time of year when people enjoy indulging in the local brunch special. There are some holidays, such as Mother’s Day, which people like to celebrate with brunch. Easter is another holiday that is often celebrated with brunch. While chefs may not like it, people around the country love relaxing over a brunch meal.

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