Book Review: Breakfast: A History

The following book review was originally published as “Booknote: Breakfast: a History” in the blog The Itinerant Librarian. It is reposted here with permission from the author. The original review refers to an e-book edition. Now that Hutchins Library has recently acquired this book, you can find it in the General Collection (Third Floor) under the call number 394.125 A747b 2013 (Click on call number to view record in BANC, the library’s catalog).

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Heather Arndt-Anderson, Breakfast: A History. Lanham: Altamira Press, 2013. ISBN: 9780759121638.

Genre: History
Subgenre: Microhistory, Food and epicurious

BreakfastaHistoryCoverAs my four readers know, I really enjoy reading the genre that is often known as microhistory. These are books that go in-depth on a single subject, and this book fits the bill nicely. The author presents a very comprehensive and ambitious history of the meal we know as breakfast. She also gives a lot of facts and trivia to satisfy trivia buffs as well as foodie readers.

The book is organized into five chapters. The first chapter provides history and social context. For instance, we learn that breakfast was not always welcome or desirable. Breakfast had to overcome prejudices and church opposition to become the morning meal we know. That’s just part of the story. I personally found interesting the discussion of the hygiene and health movement in the U.S. featuring people like Kellogg and the rise of cereals.

The second chapter looks at breakfast around the world. There is a lot more than eggs and bacon out there, and Ms Arndt-Anderson does her best to show us. The author goes food item by food item, say breakfast cereals, types of breads, and meats, then looks at the history of a specific item in the breakfast meal. This chapter runs in short but very informative sections that I think readers who enjoy trivia will definitely enjoy. This was a part of the book I found interesting as well seeing what people eat around the world for breakfast.

The next three chapters look at breakfast in different locales and settings. Chapter three shows how breakfast evolved as a meal in the home. For example, learn a bit more about how cereals and children became a big market for children. Part of it had to do with women going into the workplace. Chapter four looks at breakfast outside of the home, including the rise of the breakfast sandwich in fast food among other things. The final chapter looks at breakfast in the arts and media. Art, film, television, literature, pop culture, and more are covered here. Pop culture readers will certainly enjoy this chapter. Need to know about films that feature a breakfast scene? This is the chapter for that.

The author has done extensive research, and it shows This is a scholarly and very informative work. It is also very accessible and easy to read. The book’s arrangement in small sections means that the content is not overwhelming. There is a lot of material as the author strives to cover a lot of ground, but she does so well. I enjoyed reading parts of it during my lunch hour at work. I found it to be an easy and interesting book to read. This book will likely become a solid history on the topic of breakfast, the kind of book that others will refer to down the road. It is definitely a good book to read over coffee and breakfast, no matter what time of day you eat your breakfast.

For academic libraries with pop culture collections and interests, this would make a good addition. I think public libraries may want to consider it as well for their history readers.

Disclosure note: This review copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley as an e-book copy in exchange for an honest review. There, we have appeased The Man once more.

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