I was thinking on my drive into l’etoile this morning about breakfast and what it means to our culture here in Charlottesville and Albemarle county. Lately I have been researching food history and in particular Virginia foods and how they have evolved over the years. I thought I would share some of what I learned about our colonial history and some of the eating habits of the day. It seems not much has changed from the home table to the restaurant tables of the modern breakfast/brunch. I do think as citizens of this area of Virginia we need to revisit cider and its importance in our daily diet…. I will save that for another time.
Breakfast. The Colonial American breakfast was far from the juice, eggs and bacon of today. The stoic early settlers rose early and went straight to the chores that demanded their attention. In frontier outposts and on farms, families drank cider or beer and gulped down a bowl of porridge that had been cooking slowly all night over the embers…In the towns, the usual mug of alcoholic beverage consumed upon rising was followed by cornmeal mush and molasses with more cider or beer. By the nineteenth century, breakfast was served as late a 9 or 10 o’clock. Here might be found coffee, tea or chocolate, wafers, muffins, toasts, and a butter dish and knife…The southern poor ate cold turkey washed down with ever-present cider. The size of breakfasts grew in direct proportion to growth of wealth. Breads, cold meats and, especially in the Northeast, fruit pies and pasties joined the breakfast menus. Families in the Middle Colonies added special items such as scrapple (cornmeal and headcheese) and dutch sweetcakes which were fried in deep fat. It was among the Southern planters that breakfast became a leisurely and delightful meal, though it was not served until early chores were attended to and orders for the day given…Breads were eaten at all times of the day but particularly at breakfast.