Brunch, a spread of breakfast foods and lunch dishes typically served mid- to late-morning, combines an array of savory and sweet dishes. The term first appeared in 1895 in a "Hunter's Weekly" article as a plea to normalize a late morning meal that would appease late sleepers and satisfy Sunday morning church-goers. It might have been narrow in its original purpose, but brunch is a meal open for vast interpretation, depending on the region where it is served and personal taste. Brunch can include a short list of offerings or revolve around an elaborate buffet; it can include alcohol; and it isn't served exclusively on Sunday mornings anymore.
Eggs and toast are traditional and typical breakfast foods and are the anchor of a traditional brunch menu. Whether they are poached, scrambled, fried, whipped into made-to-order omelets, hard-boiled or lathered in Hollandaise, eggs are a brunch must-have. Serve eggs that suit your taste; eggs Benedict is an American classic, quiche is a French dish made of eggs and cream baked in a pastry crust, and egg frittata is a crustless, Italian egg dish that is started on the stovetop and finished in the oven.
Cereal and Grains
Thanks to John Harvey Kellogg's invention of corn flakes during the late 1800s, cold cereal became a breakfast staple and eventually became the most common breakfast food in the United States. Cereal and grains such as toast, bagels, waffles, pancakes and pastries, are also standard brunch offerings. The addition of English scones, which are easy to bake and store a day ahead, can be served with butter, honey and jam. Crepes, which are more complicated, add a French flair.
Meat and Cheese
Lunch foods, such as meats, cheeses and vegetables, are an essential brunch inclusion. Whether roast beef or corned beef hash, cheddar or chèvre, meats and cheeses offer savory substance to the brunch menu. Bacon, sausage, ham and cheese are traditional, but brunch in New England, where shellfish is plentiful, often includes crab or lobster. Southwestern brunches offer beans, baked chile peppers, tacos and barbecued pork. In California, where avocados and artichokes are abundant, fresh or grilled vegetable salads might hold a prominent place at the brunch buffet. A British-style brunch might include button mushrooms, sausages called "bangers" and mashed potatoes.
Brunch is an occasion to indulge in a long and leisurely meal, absent of the rush that sometimes typifies busy, weekday dining. However, that doesn't mean brunch must be an occasion for gluttony or guilt. Elaborate brunches of today usually include menu items for health-conscious diners such as yogurt, granola, oatmeal and fresh fruit. Serve grilled vegetables and fresh salads so brunch diners have lighter, savory dishes.
Brunch menus typically offer a thirst-quenching beverage for everyone. Coffee, tea and juices are standard, but so are blood Marys and mimosas -- a cocktail that combines champagne with orange juice.
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images