Food & Beverage

Apr 1, 2017

BREAKFAST - START THE DAY EATING

Breakfast benefits to health have not been consensual throughout history, and even today it is discussed what kind of food should be eaten in the morning and whether or not these should be dependent on physical or intellectual activity. The variation of food in this meal is not only linked to local agricultural specificities but also to beliefs and habits. 

We have all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But it was not always so. Eating habits have changed throughout history, framed by changes in other social activities. The history of breakfast is intimately related to sleep, work habits and obviously is also related to the historical variation of agricultural, commercial or economic production.

The original term breakfast, or breaking of the fast, is applied in most European languages. For example, in French Déjeuner, or in Spanish desayuno.

Although our eating habits are influenced by biological rhythms such as the number of hours of sleep or the type of activity performed throughout the day, they are also determined by the type of food obtained. Until the agricultural revolution, or Neolithic, the hunter-gatherer man was subject to the food that existed around him and the hours of eating were determined by the opportunities at his disposal.

With the development of agriculture and the sedentary lifestyle, the first traces of the moments of daily feeding begin to appear. The Neolithic implied not only changes in the type of food available, caused by domestication of animals, consumption of milk and cereals, but also altered the organization of work and its daily periods. So, the Egyptians, for example, consumed in the morning, after waking and before going to work the fields, bread and beer. Beer is also the favorite drink for the breakfast of the poor in the middle ages, as Heather Arndt Anderson tells us in her breakfast story.

In Greece, the Iliad of Homer contains several references to ariston, a meal taken not long after sunrise by the workers and, later, came mention of the akratisma also taken in the same period, which consisted of bread soaked in wine, olives and figs. The Romans called it jentaculum and, beyond bread and olives, it contained raisins, nuts, and remnants of meat from the previous meal. Already the soldiers took the pulmentus, which was a kind of cereal porridge.

During the medieval period and until the XIV century breakfast was only taken by workers, children, and old or infirm, who ate cereal porridge with milk or water and, as was already mentioned, beer and bread. At this time the church considered that eating in the morning was synonymous with gluttony and, therefore, sin. It was also a sign that lower status, poor and hardworking. There was no shortage of wise advice that linked health problems to food consumption in the morning. From the year 1500 onwards we can find in the literature several records that testify the resumption of this food habit.

With the discoveries and at the height of mercantilism, new types of food, mainly beverages, were "inserted" in Europe. Tea, coffee, and chocolate became so much a part of the breakfast of the courts and the bourgeoisie that, Cardinal Brancaccio, declared in 1662, that the drinks did not violate the fast.  

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