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Breakfast: A History

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Breakfast: A History tells the story of how breakfast came to be the most important meal of the day. From the humble Roman times of stale bread soaked in diluted wine, to the drive-through McMuffin boom of the 1970s, Breakfast takes the reader on a lively adventure through time, uncovering the real stories behind our favorite breakfast foods. Breakfast is not just the meal Breakfast: A History tells the story of how breakfast came to be the most important meal of the day. From the humble Roman times of stale bread soaked in diluted wine, to the drive-through McMuffin boom of the 1970s, Breakfast takes the reader on a lively adventure through time, uncovering the real stories behind our favorite breakfast foods. Breakfast is not just the meal that gets us going in the morning, but a driving force in history— forever altering the lives of peasants and kings alike, inspiring great works of art, and even changing the way we build our homes. Full of wry humor and captivating anecdotes, Breakfast is a treat for students of history, gastronomes, and anyone who's ever wondered where their waffles came from.


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Breakfast: A History tells the story of how breakfast came to be the most important meal of the day. From the humble Roman times of stale bread soaked in diluted wine, to the drive-through McMuffin boom of the 1970s, Breakfast takes the reader on a lively adventure through time, uncovering the real stories behind our favorite breakfast foods. Breakfast is not just the meal Breakfast: A History tells the story of how breakfast came to be the most important meal of the day. From the humble Roman times of stale bread soaked in diluted wine, to the drive-through McMuffin boom of the 1970s, Breakfast takes the reader on a lively adventure through time, uncovering the real stories behind our favorite breakfast foods. Breakfast is not just the meal that gets us going in the morning, but a driving force in history— forever altering the lives of peasants and kings alike, inspiring great works of art, and even changing the way we build our homes. Full of wry humor and captivating anecdotes, Breakfast is a treat for students of history, gastronomes, and anyone who's ever wondered where their waffles came from.

30 review for Breakfast: A History

  1. 4 out of 5

    Mara

    This is the kind of books that as a professional translator I love. They challenge you on every phrase, they astound you with the sheer amount of knowledge they show. They make you despair at being able to reproduce the wit and sarcasm. As a reader I was bellyaching at the end. First because I had to stop and organize a serious breakfast midway through. I simply could not resist. (FYI: scones, British of course, barley salad with goat cheese (pecorino) and tomatoes, fresh cherries and strawberri This is the kind of books that as a professional translator I love. They challenge you on every phrase, they astound you with the sheer amount of knowledge they show. They make you despair at being able to reproduce the wit and sarcasm. As a reader I was bellyaching at the end. First because I had to stop and organize a serious breakfast midway through. I simply could not resist. (FYI: scones, British of course, barley salad with goat cheese (pecorino) and tomatoes, fresh cherries and strawberries, platter of cheese, plenty of tea, small buns with ham). Last because I was laughing so hard at times at her witty (and often) sarcastic repartees. I was lucky I read it during a weekend, really. Without a single recipe on its pages, Breakfast does make you want to cook. I'm not joking either on the knowledge that was poured in to it. The author moves from the linguistic and cultural to the historical and political layers of breakfast. She quotes every culture and language of the world, from mandarin to ancient Greek, from modern day Middle East languages to Germanic ones. You can't believe so much could be said on the subject. And without a single moment of boredom. If you are a food or a history buff you simply can't miss this book. ARC courtesy of publisher via NetGalley

  2. 5 out of 5

    sarah gilbert

    Like Rebecca Kelley, I was fortunate to read this book in workshop, and we would compete with each other every week to say "funny!" "fascinating!" and "I can't believe I never knew that!" in new ways. Heather is snarky and sly but does not let her sense of humor get in the way of a truly deep and intelligent analysis of the history of everything from gruel to huevos rancheros for breakfast. She plumbs the depths of classical literature and history for information on breakfasts enjoyed by great p Like Rebecca Kelley, I was fortunate to read this book in workshop, and we would compete with each other every week to say "funny!" "fascinating!" and "I can't believe I never knew that!" in new ways. Heather is snarky and sly but does not let her sense of humor get in the way of a truly deep and intelligent analysis of the history of everything from gruel to huevos rancheros for breakfast. She plumbs the depths of classical literature and history for information on breakfasts enjoyed by great philosophers and world leaders; she examines anthropological history for information on breakfasts eaten by peasants and field laborers. She makes you hungry. I suggest reading this book in small doses, after a full breakfast inspired by the previous day's reading. Otherwise you'll end up (like us) with strange cravings for granola or Johnnycakes or eggs Benedict at odd times.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This book isn't even available to the public until later this year, yet I have already managed to read the whole thing and review it. How is this possible? That's not important. The important thing is that this book is the only book about the history of breakfast you will ever need to read. Did you know eating breakfast was once considered a low-class or even immoral act? Do you know how cornflakes were invented? Do you wonder what Quentin Tarantino is doing on the pages of Breakfast: A History? This book isn't even available to the public until later this year, yet I have already managed to read the whole thing and review it. How is this possible? That's not important. The important thing is that this book is the only book about the history of breakfast you will ever need to read. Did you know eating breakfast was once considered a low-class or even immoral act? Do you know how cornflakes were invented? Do you wonder what Quentin Tarantino is doing on the pages of Breakfast: A History? If you want to know the answers to all these intriguing questions, you know where to find them.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mark Russell

    I'm not a "foodie." I barely know anything about food beyond what's good at the Whole Foods deli. And yet, I was utterly captivated by Breakfast. It's just the right combination of information, witty insight, and surprisingly hilarious quotes and anecdotes from history's never-ending quest for the perfect breakfast.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Annie

    Breakfast is something everyone has experienced . . . this author excepted. This book is a perfectly ordinary history of breakfast, interspersed with rather bizarre, alien-like editorializing. It’s hard to explain, and it’s subtle. But it’s definitely a thing you notice after a few chapters. Take my word for it (or read the book). What I’m saying is, Heather Arndt Anderson is a lizard person. A nice lizard person who’s good at researching. But a lizard person nonetheless. Heather, we all know th Breakfast is something everyone has experienced . . . this author excepted. This book is a perfectly ordinary history of breakfast, interspersed with rather bizarre, alien-like editorializing. It’s hard to explain, and it’s subtle. But it’s definitely a thing you notice after a few chapters. Take my word for it (or read the book). What I’m saying is, Heather Arndt Anderson is a lizard person. A nice lizard person who’s good at researching. But a lizard person nonetheless. Heather, we all know the truth. There’s no need to pretend anymore. You’re among friends here, gentle lizard. ---------COVER ART--------- I don’t typically comment on cover art, but this is truly hideous. It looks like a seventh grade Health Class textbook from McGraw Hill. You know the type: And the thing is, they had such great subject material! Breakfast has so much visual potential. I mean, compare this to the artful cover of White Bread. This was just such an artistic failure, guys. Do better. ---------FUN FACTS--------- Lizard people aside, this was a decent history of breakfast. Not the most interesting microhistory I’ve ever read, but nice enough. There are some fun facts and entertaining historical quotes to glean here. Like: —If you went out for breakfast in the 1850s in the western US, and you ordered your fry-up “with cheesecake,” your omelet comes with sexual services. —People are less likely to commit violent crimes if they eat breakfast; glucose is your friend. (Intuitive, but still a fun fact). —The “board” in “room and board” comes from the 16th-century use of a blank across one’s lap for eating, before dining tables were commonplace in humbler homes. —We all need to be much more grateful for toasters than we are. Toast used to be one of the hardest things to make (held over the fire; the timing was critical), and the sign of a truly well-kept household was halfway decent toast. Thank you, humble toasters, for letting us have perfect toast every morning. —Eleanor Roosevelt, as always, is the best First Lady. When she was chatting with GIs, she came upon a crew of cooks preparing breakfast; she saw one slapping dough against his chest. “Isn’t that a funny way to make pancakes?” she observed. “That’s nothing,” the cook replied. “You ought to see how we make donuts.” —Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. A journalist wrote in 1895 that “by eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. 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.” Damn straight it does. —An educator wrote five tips for college students in 1902: “(1) Get enough sleep; (2) exercise; (3) eat plenty of simple food, but not too much; (4) don’t worry; and (5) have fun. In a word, be a good animal.” Be a good animal indeed. I like this advice.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Angel

    Actually, I would give this 4.5, but Goodreads does not allow fractions it seems. At any rate, this is a very good book, one I think will become the "go to" book on the topic. You can read my full review of the book on my blog, The Itinerant Librarian, at the link. Link: http://itinerantlibrarian.blogspot.co... Actually, I would give this 4.5, but Goodreads does not allow fractions it seems. At any rate, this is a very good book, one I think will become the "go to" book on the topic. You can read my full review of the book on my blog, The Itinerant Librarian, at the link. Link: http://itinerantlibrarian.blogspot.co...

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Very interesting, really good discussion on breakfast. I never knew the Catholic church banned breakfast. I never really thought about why the foods we eat are considered breakfast- or more importantly that they once weren't. While I wished she had done more on none western cultures, they do make an appearance and there is a lot of fascinating stuff in a fairly fast read.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Art Edwards

    Engaging and urbane and fun, this book oozes like a broken egg yoke with Arndt Anderson's wealth of culinary knowledge, witty asides, and delicious quotes from days of breakfast yore. If you don't like this book, I'll eat beef tongue for breakfast for a month.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Reine Gentozala

    Just started and on the second page she mentions the mythical yellow emperor as Qin Shi Huangdi. Qin Shi Huangdi is the first emperor of China and Huangdi is the mythical yellow emperor. Let's see if this book will disappoint more. I guess get your China facts straight.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    An awesome little micro history. A surprising amount of serious, dramatic history behind what many consider a sedate, quiet meal.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    http://itinerantlibrarian.blogspot.co... http://itinerantlibrarian.blogspot.co...

  12. 4 out of 5

    David

    (Unsurprisingly) reads like a dissertation — albeit a fascinating one — and is Anglican-American and European centric. personal Highlights: The author traces the root of words that have come to mean morning meal in Western European languages: breakfast from the Latin disieunare or “unfast,” almuerzo from the Latin admordere or “to bite”, petit déjeuner (small lunch / un-fast), and colazione from Latin word for supper “collationem.” And there are some fascinating tidbits in the breakfast around the (Unsurprisingly) reads like a dissertation — albeit a fascinating one — and is Anglican-American and European centric. personal Highlights: The author traces the root of words that have come to mean morning meal in Western European languages: breakfast from the Latin disieunare or “unfast,” almuerzo from the Latin admordere or “to bite”, petit déjeuner (small lunch / un-fast), and colazione from Latin word for supper “collationem.” And there are some fascinating tidbits in the breakfast around the world section: “schi da kasha — pischa nasha” (Russian proverb~ «cabbage soup & porridge are our sustenance»), fava-based فُول in Egypt, chickpea-based لَبلَابِي in Tunisia, rice cold with pickled vegetables or prescroissantserved plums in summer in Japan (see asagayu-inspired poem below), dried cornmeal mixed with water in the stomach for on-the-move Iroquois, Greek meals being bread and “opson” (“everything else”), fried dough with congee in much of China, and croissants coming to France from the Austrian “kipferl in the 1830s. asagayu no za kara mi ni iku yanagi kana (my morning porridge and then I’ll go see the willow blossom)

  13. 5 out of 5

    Theresafic

    The beginning of the book was the most interesting, breakfast through history. Something I take for granted breakfast, what it means, the type of food eaten, has really changed throughout time. It was interesting and informative. The end of the book was less interesting breakfast in movies and art.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    More than you'll ever need to know about the history of this meal! Tons of facts :)

  15. 5 out of 5

    Catherine Moonan

    Hated the last chapter, skip that on a re-read, but lots of fun facts and generally engaging.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Robert Peate

    Ms. Anderson presents a history of "the most important meal of the day" from antiquity to the present, highlighting the interesting stories behind what we do and what we no longer do. Did you know the ancient Greeks ate donuts? Do you know what they dipped them in? It wasn't coffee or tea. Ms. Anderson seasons her history with the perfect mixture of facts, quotations, and witticisms designed to keep the reader both educated and entertained. Her research alone is astounding, but her writing organ Ms. Anderson presents a history of "the most important meal of the day" from antiquity to the present, highlighting the interesting stories behind what we do and what we no longer do. Did you know the ancient Greeks ate donuts? Do you know what they dipped them in? It wasn't coffee or tea. Ms. Anderson seasons her history with the perfect mixture of facts, quotations, and witticisms designed to keep the reader both educated and entertained. Her research alone is astounding, but her writing organization and wit are the icings on the cake. I cannot imagine a better book on the topic. Foodies will rejoice to devour this delectable discovery!

  17. 4 out of 5

    Danielle T

    Short read (took slightly longer than usual because finals and visiting family), but a good detailed history behind the first meal of the day- various cultures, different diets, etc. Still trying to figure out how my mother (born and raised in the South) never heard of chicken and waffles until the last decade, but perhaps that's because of its origins (late night/early morning food for jazz performers).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Cheung

    I grabbed this book without reading the book jacket because the cover and title. I love breakfast. Who doesn't? It was fun to skim and pick out random bits of cool trivia. But the author wasn't joking about the "a history" part. At times, it feels too academic and stuffy, like an excited professor lecturing the gritty details.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joan

    A witty survey of breakfast food and traditions, focusing mainly on western brekker (from stale bread dipped in wine to an Egg McMuffin). Fun reading, although it could have done with a bit more nutritional analysis and more inclusion of non-European breakfast traditions.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I wanted to like this book but I just found it too dry and poorly written (and I like dry history). I could not get through the second chapter. Unfortunately I just cannot recommend this book as a good read.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Debra

    Perhaps more than you really wanted to know on the social history of breakfast, chiefly but not exclusively Anglo-American. Full of fascinating trivias, I enjoyed this book but was glad to be finished as well. No recipes. Now off to try corn oysters, a dish first encountered within these pages.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Pancha

    This book has lots of interesting tidbits about breakfast the meal and breakfast food items, but some of the information really overlaps to the point that it sometimes feels like the early chapters were written as separate essays and rather than parts of a larger whole.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Courtney Stoker

    This felt like a reference book instead of a history. There are a bunch of mini-chapters devoted to different foods or media, but none tell an actual story and any references between them feel accidental. This book tells no stories and is instead and awkward collection of descriptions.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kerry

    If there was a competition for most boring food writing, this book would win an award. It reads like a dissertation or a reference book. Breakfast is a beautiful meal; what a shame to subject it to such treatment.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sherri

    Interesting info, poor writing. It got better after the first couple of chapters.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Marcella Bongiovanni

    See: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show... See: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tess

    I wasn't a fan of the organization of the book, which seem to lead to a lot of repetition. It felt like much more of a recitation of facts than a general history through time.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    394.1252 A747 2013

  29. 5 out of 5

    Janta

    Yet another microhistory! This one did a nice job discussing the "most important meal of the day": breakfast.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Hope

    Neat look at the history of breakfast.

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