Bacon and eggs as a morning staple is a relatively modern convention, only dating back to the 1920s. As with so many American customs it is simply the result of a compelling marketing scheme. However eggs and bacon separately have histories dating much further back.
Keep reading to find out how the two foods came together, the history of morning meals, and a brief look at breakfast around the world!
A Brief History of Breakfast
As with most things, morning meals have fallen in and out of vogue throughout history. These changes in cuisine can be attributed to numerous things including societal norms, food security, and even moral panics (looking at you Kelloggs).
The first record of a daily morning meal comes from Ancient Egypt. Peasants would consume beer, bread, and onions in the morning before going to work. It was typically a heavy meal as they would not eat again until the end of the day.
During the Middle Ages breakfast was not commonly eaten as it was seen as gluttonous by the Catholic Church. Typically only the old, sick, children, and labouring men ate breakfast as they did not have the strength to make it to the typically large midday meal.
The term breakfast originated in 15th century Europe but eating in the morning didn't become a daily ritual in Europe until the 1600's as this is when many people began going to work each day.
Bacon and Eggs Before They Got Together
According to food historians, humans have been eating eggs for about 6 million years, originally eating them raw from the nests of wild birds. Jungle birds were domesticated for egg production in India by 3200 BC, and it is thought that Ancient Egypt and Ancient China were the first societies to domesticate hens.
Bacon can be dated back to 1500 BC, making it one of the oldest cuts of meat. The phrase 'bringing home the bacon' originated in 12th century England. If a married man could testify in front of God that he had not argued with his wife in a year he would be awarded a side of bacon. It was a great honour to 'bring home the bacon'.
When Did Bacon and Eggs Become Breakfast?
Funnily enough, bacon and eggs for breakfast can all be traced back to the founding father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. He just really has a way of inserting himself in American culture. His nephew, Edward Bernays, inspired by his uncle's work was a founder of propaganda and public relations and is credited with the introduction of bacon and eggs into the American breakfast.
In the 1920's Americans typically ate light breakfasts of coffee, orange juice, rolls. In order to increase bacon sales Bernays wrote to 5,000 physicians asking whether a heavy breakfast was better for health than a light breakfast. 4,500 physicians wrote back confirming that a heavy breakfast was better for health as the body is depleted of nutrients after a night of sleep. He had this 'study' published in newspapers across America, conveniently presenting bacon and eggs as the ideal choice.
Breakfast Around the World
While bacon and eggs can now be found almost anywhere, it is not the first thing that comes to mind as breakfast in most countries.
In Japan miso soup, white rice, and fish are common breakfast items. Breakfast is usually a light meal and is often accompanied with green tea.
Breakfast cuisine in India varies by region but is typically similar to foods eaten at lunch or dinner and may include roti, dosa, spiced potatoes, or various chutneys.
Nordic countries typically eat open faced sandwiches for breakfast with cold meats, fish, cheese, or vegetables.
Shakshuka is a breakfast dish originating in Northern Africa which is now popular throughout the middle east. It consists of eggs poached in a tomato sauce and is typically served with warm pita or naan.