Whether it is a “continental” breakfast with croissants, jam, and coffee, a “full English” with baked beans, black pudding, and grilled tomatoes, or the tongue-in-cheek joke, the “breakfast of champions,” which is also known as cold pizza, we all eat something at a point after we wake up from a night’s sleep.
Regardless of what special names we have for it or even what foods are being consumed, it is breakfast. Given, most of the time, many of us are either too hungry or still not sufficiently awake enough to appreciate this word or the meaning behind it, so maybe you should read this after you have eaten your breakfast and had that first cup of coffee. Go ahead, we can wait.
Congratulations! You have just broken the fast of the previous night, which is where our word break-fast originates. First used in English in 1463 and originating in the Christian idea of fasting between the last meal of the day and receiving Holy Communion the following morning, the extended length of time between meals was meant to teach faith and honour God. In more real and literal terms, we may be thankful that, though the word itself is Middle English, it relates to the Old English idea of breaking the fast, which, literally is brecan-fæstan, and not to the Old English words for the first meal of the day, underngeweorc or undernmete.
Breakfast is important
In modern times, we are all accustomed to hearing that breakfast is “the most important meal of the day.” While its status of being “the most important meal” is debatable, studies show that skipping breakfast can lead to obesity, cardiac problems, and issues with metabolism. Interestingly, though the research regarding this claim may be new, the concept certainly is not, Sir Henry Ellis’ 1824 work of Original Letters, a 1594 letter from Lady Russel to Lord Cecil: “Because I hear your Lordship means to be gone early in the morning, I am bold to send your pale thin cheeks a comfortable little breakfast.”
Still, just because it is breakfast it does not necessarily mean that it has to be in the morning. Less than a century after the word was first used, it had started to be used in a more general sense of breaking any period of fasting, starting with Tyndale’s Bible in 1526, which translates Heb. 12:16 as: “Esau which for one breakfast solde his right.”
Whenever you are breaking your fast and (hopefully) remembering the meaning of the word itself, try to do it with a combination of healthy foods which to power up your day.