Brunch has become such a widely adopted part of the American culinary experience and like so many food traditions, its existence cannot be nailed down to one exact moment. There was no year B.B. (before brunch) and no A.B. (after brunch) but food historians and brunch experts believe that the meal originated in Great Britain’s hunting culture. Large, multi-course breakfasts were prepared for sizeable hunting parties and included pork, eggs, fruit, pastries, and other hearty foods. However, it is possible to pin down the origin of the word “brunch”, which is obviously a combination of the words “breakfast” and “lunch.” It was first printed in an 1895 Hunter’s Weekly article by Guy Beringer titled, “Brunch: A Plea.” In the article, Beringer argued against heavy, post-church Sunday meals, in favor of a lighter meal during the late morning hours—one that encouraged a cocktail or two. ”Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” Beringer wrote. ”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 became popular in America prior to World War II—supposedly because of the whims of Hollywood celebrities. In the 1930s, before transcontinental flights existed, the wealthy and famous would take cross-country train trips—stopping in Chicago for a late morning meal. Hotels became the first real proponents of brunch as, in those days, many restaurants were closed on Sundays; the Pump Room in the Ambassador Hotel was known to host the most famous faces on late Sunday mornings.
Where restaurants once relegated brunch service to unlucky young chefs (while the higher-ups slept in after a late dinner service), now kitchens see the meal as a way to innovate. Brunch has become such a popular food trend that some restaurants see lines out the door for a late Saturday or Sunday morning table. There are brunch-only restaurants, brunch blogs, brunch cookbooks, and brunch specific cocktails. And at this point, there are millions of photos of waffles, omelets, Bloody Marys, and mimosas across the wide horizon of social media.
It appears that brunch is here to stay.