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Second breakfast, American style

First breakfast is for us. Quiet, private, solitary. A cup of coffee and a lonely banana. Second breakfast happens when we get to work. Social, engaging, and sometimes more substantial. This meal is not new. It descends from European customs, most notably German gabelfrustuck, or "fork breakfast." The French, Viennese, and Russians traditionally incorporate second breakfast into their daily meal plan.

What time is second breakfast?
Generally around 10AM. The fact this timing coincides with standard USA morning coffee break is not by accident. Business managers in the early 20th century saw they were losing productivity when their workers ducked off premesis for coffee and rolls. Up sprung company cafeterias, staff kitchens, mobile catering trucks, and lobby carts.

Why do we eat it?
Because we're hungry! Second breakfast is provided to school children because studies show improved learning outcomes. We also eat second breakfast when we're not hungy. Campaigning politicians make several stops daily. If well planned, they can fit in 2nd or 3rd breakfast before lunch. It is important to note: research indicates people who eat second breakfast do not necessarily eat more than people who stick to the "basic three" meals a day. They just eat less at each meal. The person who skips breakfast(s) is more likely to eat a heavier lunch and dinner.

Who eats second breakfast?
This meal cut across all socio-economic lines. Business people, farmers, factory workers, school children, hikers, politicians, soldiers, models & movie stars traditionally consume this meal. Vacationers often take coffee in their rooms before venturing forth to hotel breakfast bar.

What do we eat?
While traditional Europeans consider this a more substantial meal than first breakfast, we Americans are all over the map. We can actually eat the same thing we did for first breakfast. We can also incorporate energy bars, hot fast food sandwiches, full-on eggs, bacon & pancakes or a slice of cold pizza.

We wonder: If you don't eat first breakfast are you eligible for a second?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines "second breakfast" this way:
second breakfast n. a light meal taken late in the morning or early in the afternoon.
1775 J. Woodforde Diary 2 Jan. (1924) I. 144 We stayed at Whitney and made a second breakfast, we treated the maid at Whitney.
1802 M. Nugent Jrnl. 15 Jan. (1907) ii. 72 Had fruit for the children at 10; then second breakfast a little after 11.— Dined at 3.
1967 O. Hesky Time for Treason xi. 83 Barzilai was regretting that he hadn't utilised this period by having a ‘second breakfast’, a habit dear to the stomachs of those raised in certain parts of Europe.

Second breakfast through time

[1816]
"On our way we called on the Marshal, and took a second breakfast with him."
---"Buonaparte," extract from a letter written by an officer of his Majesty's ship Newcastle to his friend in London, The Courier [London], September 17, 1816 (p. 1)

[1875] "During the trial which has just taken place before the Paris Court of Appeals the following document, being a contract between the steward of the ex-Queen of Spain and the cook to the Royal household, was read:...The ordinary service (chocolate expected) is understood to comprise the breakfast, second breakfast, and dinner of her Majesty...The second breakfast is to consist of five dishes, besides soup, fruits, cheese, and preserves."
---"The Household of Queen Isabella," The Week's News, [London], August 28, 1875 (p. 1103)

[1880]
"Early hours are kept in the household; nobody is out of bed after 10 at night, and M. Taine is at work in his study by 7 in the morning. Before the first breakfast, at 8:30, he has written several pages of manuscript; before the second breakfast, at 11, he has performed a good day's work. After the latter meal he is ready to take a walk in his garden...At the second breakfast, which is an ordinary English breakfast and luncheon combined...The second breakfast and dinner are the two occasions when the family meet together during the day, and they afford convenient opportunities for conversing about subjects of general or personal interest."
---"M. Taine and His Family," London World, January 27, 1880 (p. 2)

[1891]
"American breakfasts partaken of between 8 and 9 o'clock have long been the subject of more ore less disagreeable criticism on the part of foreigners. Frenchmen in particular, shrug their shoulders and spread their palms over d'jeuner a l'Americain. They are willing to accord much of our national nervousness to this habit we have of breaking our night's fast with a long and heavy list of edibles. It is, however, hot realized how widely the foreign fashion of a 'tray breakfast' obtains new in private houses in New-York. In many such, a dish of fruit, with a roll and coffee, is all that is served, and this is usually carried to the person. Eevn if it is preferred to meet about a common board no more elaborate menu is presented. The second breakfast, at 12 o'clock, is prompt in its appearance prodigal in its nature, combining the breakfast grille with the luncheon salad. In country houses and watering-place cottage life the custom is now as persistent that it is accepted as universal. The practice is one recommended by physician and students of hygienic laws."
---"Her Point of View," New York Times, June 4, 1891 (p. 12) [NOTE: This "second breakfast" resounds of Brunch, a term allegedly coined in 1895

[1899]
"Some Americans complain they have no appetite for breakfast. Then do not eat any. Whole nations do not eat any substantial breakfast before 10 or 11 o'clock. The Germans and the French both take something very light--a cup of coffee, chocolate or milk and a roll, and later take a hearty meal. The Germans call it a second breakfast, and the French, 'breakfast with a fork.' The Americans think that something is wrong if they do not want a heavy meal the first thing, and force it down when they would be much better off without it until hours later."
---"Care of the Body: Valuable Suggestions for Acquiring and Preserving Health," Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1899 (p. 29) ?

[1912]
"President Taft will be Boston's guest in the celebration of St .Patrick's Day. Upon his arrival at the South Station about 7 o'clock to-morrow morning President Taft will be escorted by Mayer Fitzgerald and Samuel J. Elder to the City Club, and after a 'continental' breakfast will receive the club members. The President will be the guest of the city at a second breakfast at 9:30."
---New York Times, March 18, 1912 (p. 5)

[1913]
"We're always late to breakfast. You know that variety of guest and so do I!...I may be mistaken, but I have a strong prejudice in favor of the family all getting to the breakfast table within a reasonable length of time after the meal is announced. Promptness means an unspoiled repast, the leisure to eat comfortably, the absence of gulping and consequent indigestion which are unavoidable for train-catchers and school-goers who are late at breakfast. Although my guests were aware of my opinions on this matter they were never on time once during the fortnight they spent under our room. In vain did I ask them at bed-time the hour at which they would be ready for breakfast and fix it to suit their desires, even taking the trouble to have prepared and served two meals--one for those who had appointments to keep, and the other for our luxurious visitors. The second breakfast dried and spoiled while I awaited the young pair and my only course was to put the porridge in a double boiler at the back of the stove, leave the fruit in its place on the dismantled and re-set table and then have coffee, toast, and eggs cooked after the belated ones were actually seated at the board. Did they show mortification or distress? Not for a minute!"
---"Common Sense in the Home: Make Yourself a Welcome Guest," Marion Harland, Los Angeles Times, March 23, 1913 (p. VIII6)

[1915]
"For breakfast we have cocoa prepared with skim milk; for the second breakfast sandwiches with cottage cheese or home-made plum jam."
---"How Germans Make Both Ends Meet," New York Times, November 8, 1915 (p. 14)

[1916]
"With the reasonably generous breakfast of the American family, the lunch or supper is likely to be moderate and the dinner generous. On the other hand, it is natural enough that with the light breakfast of continental Europe there should go either the second breakfast and supper or the hearty lunch as well as the dinner. Apparently the number of meals take does not greatly influence the amount eaten per day, for the man who goes without his breakfast is very likely to make up for it at dinner or supper, while the man who eats an early breakfast and then a second breakfast will be likely to take a moderate lunch or a light dinner. Good food habits do not permit of gluttony."
---"Good Food Habits," The Pointer [Dolton IL], August 4, 1916 (p. 3)

[1920]
"Because the neighborhood house workers found it so difficult to induce the mothers to change the coffee diet to nourishing milk and cereals, the 'supplementary breakfast' was instituted. Then the system was expanded and each child was given, in addition to breakfast, a nourishing luncheon and midafternoon crackers and milk."
---"Delicate Children Aided: Malnutrition Class Organized at the Greenwich House," New York Times, September 12, 1920 (p. E8)

[1925]
"The supplementary breakfast promises to become an accepted adjunct of the gastronomic program of this metropolis. Ten o' clock coffee is rapidly achieving the prevalence--possibly the social significance--of the 5 o'clock tea. If is a far more leisurely repast than the orthodox breakfast, the latter usually being gulped against time. Its menu is modest, almost meagre, and seldom includes more than the conventional coffee and the conventional pocket-size coffee-ring; but it is seasoned with sprightly conversation, as two-breakfast votaries are lavishly gregarious. The auxiliary meal is a thriving institution in the ready-to-wear trade during the lull between the busy season. Its devotees include salesmen, designers an models. Proprietors do not protest, because after a glance over the morning's mail, they themselves join the hungry host. The waiter serve on sight, being fully aware of their patron's second-breakfast preferences. Coffee-cup parking space on the counters of the soda fountains of the Seventh Avenue drug stores is at a premium."
---"Latest Think is Breakfast," Bertra Reinitz, New York Times, July 19, 1925 (p. XX2)

[1929]
"Who Ate the Mysterious Second Breakfast in the City Sheik's Skyscraper Apartment?"
---display ad for book, The Skyscraper Murder, Samuel Spewack, Circleville Herald [OH], July 26, 1929 (p. 3)

[1931]
"...second breakfast. In New Orleans, properly speaking, 'early morning coffee' comes an hour before breakfast..."
---"From Breakfast Pies to Orange Juice," H. I. Brock, New York Times, July 19, 1931 (p. SM6)

[1932]
"Because her husband, Alexander S. McGillivray, who worked nights, assertively made her eat a second breakfast with him on arising, Mrs. Ella McGillivray went before Superior Judge Scheinman yesterday and won a divorce. She declared she would retire early, arisen and partake of her breakfast, and that her husband, who arose much later, would insist on her eating again."
---"Excess Breakfasts Result in Divorce," Los Angeles Times, October 4, 1932 (p. A18)

[1947]
"The mid-morning 'second breakfast' has become an institution in the American business world. Even the boss does it now. Chicago bosses say they've given up resistance to the 10 a.m. exodus for coffee. In fact, now that most of them have taken up the habit, they think it's a good idea...Restaurateurs estimate 90 per cent of Chicago's office workers duck out for coffee in the morning that 30 per cent probably have had an earlier breakfast and that most of them eat something with their coffee. The report a penchant for sweet rolls among the women, while hand and eggs is the most popular 'snack' among the males."
---"Businessmen Like Second Breakfast," Troy Record [NY], February 15, 1947 (p. 5)

[1952]
"The first breakfast is sometimes just a sandwich. There may be sausage and cheese, but no sweets. The Mayerhofers like something for breakfast that is very unusual in Germany--toast. They also like soft-boiled eggs. The second breakfast is 'mostly a sandwich' served of course with coffee which goes with every meal."
---"Germans Eat Five Meals Daily; Visitor Here Finds U.S. Foods, Customs Strange," Carroll Daily Times [IA], July 28, 1952 (p. 5)

[1953]
"Anyway, who--except possibly the English, with their pause for afternoon tea--would have guessed a few years ago that many Americans would be serving, or letting caterers serve, second breakfasts in their plants and offices these days? Personnel managers have even been known to mention this 'incentive' in their search for help. The Second World War, with the ten-minute 'break' for men not in the fighting lines, no doubt furthered the trend. And then, afterward, some business managements saw so much 'going down for coffee' that they reasoned that time and money could be saved by taking the stuff to the bench and desk. The rules and the arrangements vary, just as other 'fringe benefits do.' Some employers pick up the tab; some let caterers roll tray-laden wagons among employes to sell snacks. Some shops allow beverages only, mindful of the clock and maybe the mouse that ran up the clock."
---"Topics of the Times: Tea Wagons Oil Wheels of Industry," New York Times, January 10, 1953 (p. 16)

[1955]
"Whenever a playwright becomes intensely harassed trying to measure exact amounts of religion, politics and sex into one character, the chances are good that tickets have been printed for a new play about that canonized habitude of Broadway, Joan of Arc. In this instance, the distressed writer, Lillian Hellman, was trying, between mouthfuls of a second breakfast in her hotel room...The last chunks of egg and bread vanished between strong jaws..." ---"Shaping the New Joan," Murray Schumach, New York Times>, November 13, 1955 (p. Xi)

[1957]
"When you breakfast on the Eastern seacoast and arrive at the Pacific in time to cine, the myth is overwhelmingly plausible. Very soon the jet-liners will get you there in time for a second breakfast, and then the matter will seem beyond argument."
---Themes and Variations: Discovering America," Wall Street Journal, July 23, 1957 (p. 10) [1958] "At 3 A.M. we were rudely awakened by a sepulchral voice at the tent door, 'Breakfast in five minutes!'...It was still too dark to really se what was on for breakfast. Someone said one pot contained porridge. On pouring some of the contents into our mug, we found it did indeed. We swallowed some coffee, located bacon in the frying pan and devoured bread and jam... By 8 o'clock we were ravenous and halted for a second breakfast."
---"The Road to Becoming An Alpinist," Ruth Robinson, New York Times, August 31, 1958 (p. X21)

[1961]
"There are many things that 'show folk' must do from which folk in other occupations are exempt. Most of them require strict discipline...When I get up at 5 a.m., I have breakfast. It consists of 8-ounces of orange juice, a large bowl of cereal with heavy cream, two eggs, six slices of bacon, several pieces of toast with jam naturally, a couple of cups of coffee with four lumps of sugar and a lot of cream. While I'm nibbling away at this I make at least a couple of sandwiches which I carry in what might be called a purse-lunchbox. When I arrive at the studio, I have a second breakfast of hot rolls, coffee, and anything else that isn't nailed down."
---"Movie Stars Require Strict Discipline," Deanna Millay, UPI, Aiken Standard and Review [SC], July 25, 1961, women's page.

[1963]
"The Viennese...thrive on a second breakfast called a gabel fruhstuck. The key word is gabel, meaning 'fork.' Thus anything served at this second breakfast must be suitable for eating with a fork, such as a steaming portion of beef goulash."
---"Tourist Appeal in the Common Market Nations," Daniel M. Madden, New York Times, November 24, 1963 (p. 326)

[1967]
"The city government moved yesterday to expedite the civil service coffee break by bringing midmorning refreshments to offices rather than have employes slip out to get them or send time on the phone for calling for orders. Public Work Commissioner Eugene E. Hult began the new system yesterday morning when he started 14 shiny metal carts carrying coffee, milk, juices and cakes from Schrafft's on regular rounds among the 5,000 city employees in the Municipal Building...The employees will save...because the Schrafft's prices (15 cents for coffee, 15 cents for danish) average less than those charged by take-out services at neighboring coffee shops. The city will benefit...because Schrafft's will turn over 6 1/2 per cent of its sales, with a minimum of $500 a month, as a rental fee...Mr. Hult said that although thousands of manhours were lost through coffee breaks, his aim was to improve, not eliminate it."
---"Shiny Wagons Bring Civil Servants Second Breakfast," David Bird, New York Times July 11, 1967 (p. 39)

"If both mother and father work outside the home, breakfast often consists of only a cup of coffee or a glass of milk, but when the individual members arrive at their destination, either office or factory or school, they complete their breakfast with a coffee break from the food cart or at the school or factory cafeteria. If that second breakfast supplies some citrus, either such as whole or reconstituted cereals, egg, cheese or meat and milk for children, nutritional requirements can be maintained."
---"Follow 'good morning' with a good breakfast," Ames Daily Tribune [IA], September 20, 1967 (p. 13)

[1973]
"While waiting for breakfast to arrive, I get up four times to answer knocks at the door...After waiting a half-hour I call to ask what the upper-class waiting time is for breakfast. 'It's an hour and fifteen minutes (be)fore afternoon tea.'...Breakfast arrives on a tray, and at the time there is sugar...Ten minutes later a second breakfast arrives on the trolley. I realize that the Hugheses of the world like two breakfasts, the second arriving 10 minutes after the first."
---"Living Like the Hughes Is Not So Good," Israel Shenker, New York Times, May 6, 1973 (p. 637)

[1979]
"Most people 'break the fast' with a morning meal using up one-fourth of their day's calories. That breakfast habit is right on target according to recent surveys. Nutrition experts agree that breakfast is the essential meal of the day for all age groups. People throughout the world enjoy a wide variety of food, but breakfasts usually contain protein, fruit or juice, cereal and often, milk... ...In Germany the first fruhstuck (breakfast) might consist of crisp little roll; rye/dark breads, served with butter and jam; eggs-- generally soft-cooked rather than fried or scrambled. Then, between 9 a.m. and 10, they have a sweits fruehstueck (second breakfast). For children at school, this might consist of a sandwich, or plain bread, with a banana or apple."
---"Once Around the Worldwide Breakfast Table," Los Angeles Times, February 1, 1979 (p. H30)

[2001]
"Second breakfast is surely universal, although it is so much richer an idea than the American coffee break and perhaps even the British elevenses...Gabelfruhstuck is also more delightful way to say...The coffe break, squeezed in as it is among the demands of work and office chat, is all about caffeine intake, noteworthy more in a sociological than a gastronomical sense. Gabelfruhstuck (GAH-bel- froosh-took is a close approximation) is not so insubstantial. The term means literally 'fork breakfast' which suggests a meal eaten with utensils, not the fingers. And, traditionally, this was the case for workers in the central European countries who partook of a midmorning plateful of stew, sometimes called fruhstickgulasch, meaty and savory with paprika. Hearty fare, taken with or without a fork, is still the custom in that part of the world...For travelers...a second breakfast offers another opportunity...to eat, rest, observe and ruminate about the impressions and experiences of the morning...Perhaps taking time out for second breakfast is like visiting a museum to see a single painting. If it is a good painting, there is plenty to keep you occupied and satisfied for a while... Since I normally eat only the lightest of first breakfasts, coffee and the occasional slice of toast, by midmorning I'm ready to refuel."
---"A Second Breakfast Pays Dividends," Jill Knight Weinberger, New York Times, July 29, 2001 (p. TR21) [NOTE: this article references 10:30AM as time for second breakfast.]


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2011
6 October 2012