The History of Breakfast For Dinner

You might remember when asked as a kid what you wanted for dinner, your triumphant response: “Cereal!” There is something about breakfast foods for dinner that puts a smile on our faces. However, this hasn’t always been the case. In many ways, 20th century America was a traditionalist culinary society in which breakfast foods were to be served at breakfast, lunch foods for lunch, and dinner foods for dinner. Even before that, during the days of the Roman Empire, having a meal at any time other than midday was seen as gluttonous, physically unhealthy, and immoral. Yet, just as all societies change, so too has ours. We no longer live in a world in which the tyranny of meal orthodoxy goes unchecked. Today, breakfast-for-dinner cuisine is experiencing nothing short of a golden age, and there is no better place to experience it than in Los Angeles.

So, when did breakfast-for-dinner cuisine begin?

First, we must pay our respects to the forerunners of breakfast-for-dinner cuisine. On the forefront of such cuisine in Los Angeles last century was the 24-hour café or deli. Notable examples of such venues include downtown’s The Original Pantry Café, which has stayed open serving the same breakfast around the clock for more than 90 years. At such venues, Angelinos could go in, regardless of time of day (or night), and get food made-to-order, irrespective of what time the particular food was traditionally served at. Likewise, the advent of brunch in the late 19th century and its subsequent rise to prominence as a daytime venue for consuming mimosas and Blood Mary’s during the age of Prohibition undoubtedly helped break down the culinary rigidity of the past, allowing for our current breakfast-for-dinner scene to prosper.
Nowadays in Los Angeles, from the Westside to East LA, the sign “BREAKFAST SERVED ALL DAY” has become a much welcomed sight in diners, cafeterias, established restaurants, hole in the walls, coffee shops, and more… and for good reason. Breakfast is a youthful meal—when one eats breakfast, one is greeting the day with freshly-opened eyes. As where lunch meals traditionally represents mid-day stability and a temporary respite from the day’s activities, and dinner represents a particularly heavy-footed acceptance, breakfast symbolizes freshness, optimism, forward-thinking, and even fun. Regardless of our age, when we eat breakfast for dinner, we make the statement to ourselves that we are youthful; we enjoy life and are confident in how we live it, even if we don’t play by the same rules as everyone else, and even if our style might look unorthodox to some. The truth of the matter is, any meal can be eaten at any time of night or day. The days and meals are limited, and thus, the important question boils down to where and how we spend them.

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