Sunday brunch, a cherished weekly ritual for countless individuals, combines the best of two meals in a relaxed, unhurried atmosphere. People gather to enjoy delectable dishes that range from hearty breakfast classics to savory lunch items, often washed down with cocktails like mimosas or Bloody Marys.
However, this beloved tradition didn’t emerge out of the blue — you have Guy Beringer to thank. His advocacy for this unique mealtime paved the way for the leisurely, indulgent brunches you look forward to at the end of every week.
Where Sunday Brunch Started
In 1895, an English writer, Guy Beringer, penned an article titled “Brunch: A Plea” in Hunter’s Weekly. He proposed an alternative to the heavy, post-church Sunday meals, which he believed was not conducive to those who indulged too much on Saturday nights.
Instead of waking up to an early Sunday breakfast or waiting for the afternoon dinner, Beringer championed the concept of Sunday brunch — a more relaxed, later morning to early afternoon meal. This idea was revolutionary in a society steeped in tradition, where the Sabbath was a day of rest, reflection and formal meals.
Beringer’s brunch is a cheerful, social and enticing mealtime. He wrote, “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings.”
He believed brunch allowed people to share stories from the previous evening, bond with loved ones and alleviate the woes of last week. In many ways, Beringer designed brunch for those who wished to escape the strictures of traditional meal times and enjoy food and company without any rush.
Beringer’s Brunch Goes Worldwide
While Beringer might have been the voice behind the concept, it took a while for the idea to catch on. The tradition eventually crossed the Atlantic, where American urban centers — notably New York and Chicago — embraced and refined the brunch culture.
The Prohibition era in the United States — with its clandestine daytime drinking — inadvertently furthered brunch’s appeal, solidifying its position as a meal and social event.
Today, Sunday brunch is an institution in many parts of the world. The thought of sleeping in and heading out to a favorite café or restaurant for a combination of breakfast and lunch dishes, often accompanied by a relaxed drink, is an enticing prospect for many.
Brunch Traditions Around the World
Mindful eating — where diners savor each bite — is the norm at brunch and while the term may have been popularized in the West, the concept of a leisurely meal between the conventional breakfast and lunch hours is universal.
Different countries, influenced by their local cuisines, cultures and histories, have created unique brunch traditions. Here are some of them:
In the U.S., brunch is a weekend staple, especially on Sundays. Cities from New York to San Francisco offer various brunch options, with menus featuring pancakes, eggs Benedict, avocado toast and more.
Brunch in America is often paired with cocktails, making the meal a celebratory event. Themes — from jazz with live music to drag brunches with entertaining performances — add a distinct flair to the American brunch experience.
Australia’s brunch scene is vibrant and heavily influenced by its multicultural population. Alongside classics like avocado toast, one can find Asian-inspired dishes such as sriracha-infused scrambled eggs or Shakshuka, a nod to their Middle Eastern immigrants.
Australian cafes often pride themselves on their artisanal coffee, making a cup of freshly brewed coffee an essential part of the brunch experience.
Dim sum — a Cantonese culinary tradition — is a brunch tradition with thousands of years of history. These are small dishes ranging from dumplings to buns and pastries, traditionally accompanied by tea. Families gather on the weekends to chat and share a vast array of these bite-sized delights, turning the meal into a prolonged, relaxed affair that can go on for hours.
In Mexico, “almuerzo” is a late morning meal between an early breakfast and the day’s main meal. Dishes like chilaquiles, molletes and huevos rancheros are favorites.
In many Middle Eastern countries, brunch is a feast for the senses. An assortment of dishes like hummus, falafel, salads, olives and flatbreads are often served.
Shakshuka, a dish of poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce, is a popular choice. These meals are often family-centric, emphasizing the importance of coming together and sharing.
Thanks to its diverse population, brunch in South Africa is a melting pot of flavors. Traditional dishes like bobotie — a spiced, baked meat dish — sit alongside more universal brunch items. The country’s Dutch and British colonial history, as well as its indigenous and Indian influences, make brunch here a unique blend of flavors.
Long Live Sunday Brunch
While many factors have contributed to the rise of the Sunday brunch tradition, it’s essential to acknowledge Guy Beringer’s role in its creation. His vision of a relaxed, convivial and delicious mealtime between breakfast and lunch created a beloved global tradition.
While the name and exact format of brunch might vary, the essence remains consistent worldwide: a relaxed meal, often shared with loved ones, that combines the best of breakfast and lunch. The global brunch scene is a testament to people’s universal love for food, fellowship and the joy of leisurely savoring both.