Family History: Our ancestors’ breakfasts


Over lunch, in the MyHeritage office, a few of us – from different places, cultures and backgrounds – were discussing the breakfast menus of our birth countries.

It might seem like a mundane lunch topic, but it was interesting to learn what people eat first thing in the morning. For example, there’s the “full English” with sausages, beans, bacon, toast and eggs, served up with a ginormous mug of breakfast tea. For the Americans, waffles and pancakes are a regular feature.

Chileans eat various breads with avocado or cheese spreads and a Swedish colleague had a bowl of porridge oats every morning.

Today, most people grab a quick slice of toast or bowl of cereal.

What about our ancestors? Did they eat the same foods? Did they have the same diets?

Most of today’s foods weren’t available then, such as skim milk, sugary cereals and prepared foods with preservatives and additives.

Generally, our ancestors’ diets would have been simple foods, not today’s processed varieties.  

Fresh baked bread would have been on the menu. In some places, they might have had beer as a “soft drink” (even the children!). There may not have been a major difference between foods for different meals. Oats and bread could have been for breakfast, lunch or supper.

The class system might have been a major factor. Our wealthy ancestors would have enjoyed lavish breakfaste, while our other ancestors ate more simply.

Of course, those in the Mediterranean region – regardless of income – would have had easy access to fresh fruit most of the year, while those in colder climes had more limited choices.

What about your family? Do you remember what your grandparents enjoyed for breakfast? Has your family history research revealed the eating habits of your ancestors? Let us know in the comments below.

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  • Anne Stewart Ball

    June 20, 2012

    Think rolled oats was a main breakfast food for my Scottish forebears. Salt on the made porridge rather than sugar.
    Grew up with words ” start the day with a hearty breakfast and the day will work well “

  • cathy walters

    June 21, 2012

    My grandfather,Gottlieb Rossin enjoyed his giant sized chocolate chip cookie with coffee in the morning,1874-1956. Farmer once of kreis Mogilno to Elgin,MN

  • Anne Marie

    June 21, 2012

    When my sister and I were little our mom would occasionally make mock chocolate cereal for breakfast. First she would gently brown flour in a tray in the oven. Then mix the “chocolate” flour with milk, a dab of butter, and some of my granddad’s honey and cook in a pot. It was such a treat. I also remember the “coffee” my grandmother always had on made from barley. It smelled heavenly first thing in the morning.

  • Irene Dillon

    June 21, 2012

    My great grandparents, both from farming families in Australia, remembered breakfast as the most delicious meal of the day. In each of their households it was a ‘fryup’, a combination of the previous evening’s meal formed into patties of mashed potato with the vegetables and meats. Their families had no way of preserving cooked food so it all had to be consumed in a tight time frame. They always had wood fuel stoves (in those days apparently a metal sheet fitted halfway up the kitchen fireplace could serve this purpose). The meat was usually boiled rabbit or lamb. They always said the fryup was better than the fresh cooked evening meal and it gave them energy for most of the day.

  • Kerrie Anne Rawson Hayes

    June 21, 2012

    My grandmother on my fathers side always made porridge, rolled oats as it was also called, over the fire place, made with salt in it, I hated the faked that it had salt in it as the other half of the family never salted the porridge, but I remember it well. So mumma would reduce the salt intake when I was there. I would add extra suger to my serving to cover up the salt taste.

  • Graham AE Gall

    June 29, 2012

    My father and his father always made porridge in the morning. It had salt and was eaten with brown sugar. The other items were toast and “jam” plus tea. In fact, my dad liked to have tea five times a day – three meals plus two “coffee” breaks. All Scots!