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What is Brunch?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Brunch is a meal that is eaten in the late morning or early afternoon, generally between the hours of 10 AM and 2 PM. A typical brunch combines elements of breakfast and lunch, reflecting the fact that it is supposed to serve for both meals. Many people associate it with the weekends, particularly Sundays, perhaps because many people are able to sleep in on the weekends, making a late breakfast and early lunch combination more appealing. Technically, like breakfast, this meal can be served on any day of the week.

The term is a portmanteau of “breakfast” and “lunch,” and its first appearance was in 1896, in Punch magazine. Evidence seems to suggest that brunch originated in the British upper classes. Many upper-class homes gave servants partial or full days off on Sunday, so the staff would lay out a buffet spread in the morning that allowed people to graze for breakfast and lunch items. Punch originally brought up brunch to lampoon it, and the tradition of making fun of this meal endures to this day in some circles.

Any number of foods can be served at brunch, ranging from traditional breakfast foods like pancakes and sausages to more lunch-like items, like seafood cocktails. It often features heavy, greasy foods, perhaps because people might be hungover when they consume it, and such foods are treated as hangover cures in some communities. Upscale brunch is often accompanied with mixed drinks like mimosas or bloody Marys, and sometimes champagne is served as well.

Before attending afternoon events such as weddings and sports matches, some people like to eat brunch. The idea is that a single filling meal will sustain people into the early evening, when dinner will be served. It is also viewed as a luxury in some regions of the world, and it may be offered to people on their birthdays and on other special occasions. Brunch in bed in particular is considered a form of pampering reserved for particularly special days.

Many hotels serve brunch to their guests on the weekends, as do resorts, cruise ships, and other vacation destinations. Some restaurants may offer this meal, especially if they already do a regular lunch service. People can also make brunch at home, although many people view it as a meal that is eaten outside the home.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By bagley79 — On Nov 16, 2012

I get brunch served to me in bed once a year on Mother's Day. Since they do this every year it isn't a surprise to me, but I sure enjoy it. They let me sleep in and when I am awake bring my brunch to me served on a tray. I don't think it can get any better than this. This beats going out to eat any day, especially since they clean up all the mess too!

By LisaLou — On Nov 15, 2012

When my son graduated from high school some families were doing a graduation reception brunch. It seems like these receptions have become more elaborate through the years and many of them serve a meal instead of the traditional cake and punch.

Most of them served breakfast food such as breakfast burritos and some fresh fruit. One advantage of breakfast food is it is usually easy to prepare and eggs are pretty cheap.

These were held in the middle of the morning which is one reason they were called brunch instead of breakfast or lunch. I don't think the graduates cared so much as their parents did. As long as food is being served, most kids aren't that particular about what kind it is or what time of day it is being served.

By julies — On Nov 15, 2012

When we travel we like to eat a big breakfast brunch late in the morning. It is expensive to eat out all the time so we try to eat one big meal earlier in the day that keeps us full for most of the day. It is nice when you have a choice of both breakfast and lunch items. Sometimes I am hungry for bacon and eggs, but other times a burger sounds good.

By John57 — On Nov 14, 2012

We eat brunch every Sunday when we get home from church. We attend an early service and don't take time to eat before we leave the house in the morning. When we get back home around 10:00 am we are hungry and ready for a good meal.

Even though I call this a brunch it is mostly a big breakfast that is eaten closer to noon than earlier in the day. We sit down to a meal of eggs, sausage or bacon, hash browns, toast and fresh fruit. This keeps us full for the rest of the day and we end up eating something pretty light in the evening like a bowl of popcorn.

By BAU79 — On Oct 23, 2012

One of my favorite things about being in college was to be able to roll out of bed on a Saturday or Sunday at 11 in the morning and have a huge spread of brunch food ready for me in the cafeteria. Indulgent, I know, but still a real luxury.

By chivebasil — On Oct 23, 2012

There is a great little coffee shop close to me that does a killer Sunday brunch. It is great not so much because it is delicious, but more because they have tons of vegetarian options. In fact, if you are a meat eater you will probably be disappointed.

But for me, a vegetarian, to be able to go out and get biscuits and gravy with veggie sausage or to have some surprisingly tasty vegan bacon is a real treat.

By ceilingcat — On Oct 22, 2012

@suntan12 - There aren't any restaurants in my area that do a Saturday brunch either! I wish there were, because I would love to go to brunch on a Saturday instead of a Sunday.

However, I kind of understand, because brunch is traditionally a Sunday thing. A lot of people I know use their Saturday mornings/early afternoons to do errands and things like that. Most people are ready to be social by Sunday morning though!

By indemnifyme — On Oct 22, 2012

@eidetic - Yeah, brunch is one of the few times that drinking in the early afternoon is considered acceptable. In fact, most brunch menu ideas include some kind of cocktail. It's almost expected that brunch will include alcohol.

By eidetic — On Oct 21, 2012
I really like having brunch. I'm a big fan of all kinds of breakfast foods, and since most brunches are served as a buffet, it's perfect for me!

Plus, I love drinking a mimosa or bloody Mary in the early afternoon. Since drinking is usually reserved for later in the day, it feels kind of fun and a little bit naughty to have a cocktail so early in the day.

By feasting — On Oct 20, 2012

I had a college roommate who could cook really well. She always made us brunch on Saturdays, and she made the most awesome crepes.

She would always serve fresh blueberries, strawberries, and bananas on the side. The crepes ranged from savory ones filled with meat and vegetables to dessert crepes filled with chocolate and cream.

I never went hungry on Saturdays. I usually didn't even need dinner until 7:00 or 8:00 at night, either!

By Kristee — On Oct 19, 2012

The nicer restaurants in my town make a big deal about Mother's Day brunch. Even though they normally don't open on Sunday, they make an exception for Mother's Day.

I see many ads in the local newspaper in the weeks leading up to the holiday advertising brunch menu items. They also suggest that people make reservations.

I've never taken my mother out to brunch on this day, simply because she doesn't like crowds. I would rather go to brunch on a random day around 11:00 when not too many people are there yet.

By seag47 — On Oct 19, 2012

@OeKc05 – I know what you mean about craving both. If I don't wake up until 10:30 or 11:00, I feel cheated if I skip breakfast, but I'm actually hungry for lunch.

It's great that brunch food encompasses both meals. I hate to miss out on sausage and eggs, but I also want vegetables and seafood.

That's why I prefer brunch buffets. I can pick several items that do not go together without getting weird looks from the waiter.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 18, 2012

I find it strange that a brunch menu would serve greasy food. People with hangovers are usually queasy, so this seems like it would just make them vomit!

I went to brunch with a person who had a hangover once, and she just wound up ordering a couple of drinks to feel better. She ate a salad, but that was all.

In the meantime, I loaded up on waffles and shrimp cocktail. It's a strange combination, I know, but since it was late in the morning, I kind of craved both!

By suntan12 — On May 03, 2011

@SauteePan - I agree with you. I was recently looking for a good Saturday brunch restaurant and had no luck. Most of the brunch buffet restaurants offered service on Sundays and the remainder of the restaurants opened for lunch at 12 noon or at 11:00 AM.

I really wish that there were more brunch restaurants in the area.

By SauteePan — On May 02, 2011

I have to say that I love Sunday brunch. I love going to a brunch buffet because the food is so good and I don’t have to wait to be served. I also notice that when I have brunch I am not as hungry the rest of the day.

I usually have seafood like shrimp with some salad and that really satisfies me. I also like the Mimosas as well. It makes dining out more fun.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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