In societies that have multiple planned meals within a day, breakfast is the first meal of the day.
Most Americans eat foods such as cereal, bacon, sausage, eggs, pancakes, toast or ham, together with orange juice and coffee. In the 19th century Europeans were astonished to discover Americans ate such heavy meat-filled breakfasts, which usually featured pork that was overcooked and covered in gravy or syrup, washed down with strong coffee and perhaps whiskey.
The $10 billion-a-year breakfast cereals industry is of major importance in shaping the American early morning diet, with a heavy advertising budget. Since the 1980s Americans have been going much more often to restaurants for breakfast. The fast food chains now open early to serve the clientele, complete with drive through windows for commuters who eat on the highway.
In other countries, breakfast can consist of very different food items. In Germany, for example, a breakfast of cold meat and cheese with bread is often popular, while a "continental" breakfast common in France can consist of pastries, preserves and other sweet foods.
Common drinks served with breakfast include tea, coffee and juice. Alcoholic drinks are uncommon.
- Harvey A. Levenstein. Revolution at the Table: The Transformation of the American Diet (2003) 275 pages; excerpt and text search