Breakfast, lunch, or brunch?

by Betty Wrenn Day - Posted on Jul 10, 2013 - 11:25 AM

Photo: Eggs Benedict, one of brunch’s most popular dishes, is believed to have been invented for brunch only. Mark Letchworth, executive chef, Troy Randall, sous chef, and Kasey Haywood, pastry chef, all of the Mathews Yacht Club, created this plate of Eggs Benedict. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

Eggs Benedict, one of brunch’s most popular dishes, is believed to have been invented for brunch only. Mark Letchworth, executive chef, Troy Randall, sous chef, and Kasey Haywood, pastry chef, all of the Mathews Yacht Club, created this plate of Eggs Benedict. Photo by Betty Wrenn Day

The strange world of brunch has expanded over the years. Each generation has added a new life form of this pre-noon event.

Brunch or bruncheon is a combination of breakfast and lunch, and is eaten between normal hours for breakfast and lunch. It’s considered a substitute for both of these meals. It is often served after a morning occasion or prior to an afternoon one, such as a wedding or sporting event. A common misconception is that after midday, the meal is a luncheon. However, this is not true so long as a breakfast has not been eaten.

The origin of the name has always been controversial. According to Punch magazine, the term was introduced in Britain around 1895 when Hunter’s Weekly described it as a Sunday meal for "Saturday night carousers"; then it became the slang of students. Other sources claim the term was invented by a reporter of the New York Sun, Frank Ward O’Malley. This theory is based on the typical mid-day eating habits of a newspaper reporter. Another theory stems from Christianity; as members of some denominations are required to fast before mass on Sundays, a tradition evolved of eating a large meal together after church. Still another theory credits brunch with being a means to an end for those who could not afford to eat three full meals a day.

Whatever the origin of its name, enjoying brunch was possibly limited to the upper classes in Britain, but starting in the 1920s the word began its journey in the United States. Restaurants started serving brunch menus especially popular with hotels. Women’s magazines started discussing brunch as a way to see and be seen. But the custom of serving brunch, especially on Sundays, reached its peak following World War II. The rest is history.