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Breakfast: A History

(The Meals Series)

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  146 ratings  ·  30 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, First, 230 pages
Published May 2013 by AltaMira Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  146 ratings  ·  30 reviews

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Jun 30, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
sarah gilbert
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: writers-i-know
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 ...more
Mar 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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? ...more
Mark Russell
Apr 17, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
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. ...more
Aug 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: microhistories
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
Jul 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.

Feb 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Art Edwards
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Reine Gentozala
Apr 14, 2015 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Nov 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing

An awesome little micro history. A surprising amount of serious, dramatic history behind what many consider a sedate, quiet meal.
Aug 26, 2018 rated it liked it
(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
Sep 19, 2020 rated it liked it
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.
More than you'll ever need to know about the history of this meal! Tons of facts :) ...more
Catherine Moonan
Aug 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
Hated the last chapter, skip that on a re-read, but lots of fun facts and generally engaging.
Robert Peate
Aug 22, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Danielle T
Nov 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: food, history
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).
Jerry Cheung
Feb 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
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.
Jul 26, 2013 rated it liked it
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.
Sep 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Jan 16, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: food, history
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.
Nov 26, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, food
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.
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.
Nov 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: food-and-drink
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.
Oct 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Interesting info, poor writing. It got better after the first couple of chapters.
Jun 28, 2014 rated it it was ok
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. ...more
Mills College Library
394.1252 A747 2013
Yet another microhistory! This one did a nice job discussing the "most important meal of the day": breakfast. ...more
Dec 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Neat look at the history of breakfast.
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Heather Arndt Anderson is a Portland, Oregon-based writer. She writes about food and culinary history.

Heather is the author of Berries: A Global History, Chillies: A Global History, Portland: A Food Biography (Baltimore: Rowman & Littlefield Studies in Food and Gastronomy, 2014) and Breakfast: A History (Baltimore: AltaMira, 2013). She is a contributing writer to the magazines ,i.TASTE, Portlnad

Other books in the series

The Meals Series (5 books)
  • The Picnic: A History
  • Lunch: A History
  • Brunch: A History
  • Barbecue: A History

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