Popularized in the 1930s, brunch had become a weekend “national habit” for many American families by the 1950s. With the post-war economic boom in full swing and pre-packaged foods making cooking easier than ever, leisurely weekend brunches hosted at home were popular in the ‘50s (though going out for brunch was becoming trendy as well).
Just what did hosting a brunch entail in the 1950s? We dug into the historical papers on Newspapers.com™ to find out. Read on for our “guide” to 1950s brunch—complete with tips and recipes!24 Apr 1958, Thu The Miami Herald (Miami, Florida) Newspapers.com
Newspapers from the 1950s are full of advice for planning a bunch.
What time should it start? From the 1954 Miami Herald we learn, “The brunch hour is hybrid, later than breakfast—11 a.m. or after—but earlier than lunch.”
Where should you serve the meal? The Miami Herald (1958) once again has the answer: “Serve brunch at the most pleasant place around the house—porch, patio or around the pool.” No patio? “Then buffet style in the dining room will serve just as well,” wrote the Tucson Citizen (1957).
One of the most common pieces of advice was to keep brunch casual and low-stress—for the hosts as well as the guests! The St. Louis-Post Dispatch in 1958 remarked, “Remember that the rule against rushing applies to the hostess too, so in planning both menu and service be guided by the motto, ‘Keep it simple.’ […] Colorful paper plates and napkins fit right into the casual air of the occasion; the menu should be one that is easy to manage. And don’t scorn the use of such convenience foods as canned or frozen juices, package mixes for hot breads, or brown-and-serve rolls.”
How to Decorate the Table1955 ad for breakfast-brunch dinette set 03 Mar 1955, Thu Press and Sun-Bulletin (Binghamton, New York) Newspapers.com
To help keep brunch simple, newspaper recommendations for decorating the table were often fairly informal.
From the previously mentioned Tucson Citizen article comes the advice that “A centerpiece of flowers or fruit is right as rain at a brunch.” A similar idea from the Montreal Star (1959) for a decorative “brunch bowl” suggested, “Just fill your prettiest bowl with smooth, mellow bananas—and add other fruits in season.”
The Norfolk Daily News (1953) advised that “A little color, used excitingly, very good ornamentation used with restraint, and a lot of quiet quality in your tableware will give your table settings a beautiful and luxurious effect.” Among the 5 table setting ideas provided in the article was one that suggested “Sunburst yellow dishes, a gray and white plaid tablecloth, with gray napkins. Centerpiece: green ivy leaves and white handmade glass tumblers. Yellow bamboo bread tray.”
What to Wear
Brunch attire depended on the tone of the occasion. The Corpus Christi Caller-Times (1956) described brunch as an “elastic” meal that could be informal and “served to guests in Bermuda shorts” or a more prim and proper affair “with the guests hatted and gloved.”1952 ad for “brunch coats” 27 Jun 1952, Fri Nashville Banner (Nashville, Tennessee) Newspapers.com
Interestingly, one popular piece of around-the-house women’s apparel in the 1950s was the aptly named “brunch coat” (or jacket). The brunch coat (as described by the Kensington News and West London Times in 1953) was “the newest ‘breakfast-to-lunch’ craze from America. So much more practical than the housecoat, they are dress-length, button-through, flared from the shoulder, or gently fitted. […] It is just as easy to put on as a full length housecoat, but so very much tidier and smarter.”
Which Foods to Serve
We’ve saved the most important for last—the menu!
General guidance from the Tucson Citizen (1957) about brunch menus noted, “Your menu can run from the simple to the sublime, depending on the amount of time, money and effort you expend. The hour of brunch also determines your menu—the closer to noon, the more luncheon type dishes.”
The Los Angeles Times (1958) advised that “In planning a brunch, remember that it’s a combination breakfast-lunch so appetites will behave accordingly. Serve well-chilled fruit or fruit juices, an interesting and substantial entree, a hot bread and, of course, lots of piping hot coffee. Most important—the menu should be easy to manage, so that you can spend time with your guests instead of being exiled in the kitchen.” The newspaper accompanied this advice with 6 brunch menu ideas!1950s brunch ideas 31 Jul 1958, Thu The Richmond News Leader (Richmond, Virginia) Newspapers.com
And finally, here are some recipes for an authentic 1950s brunch! (Click links to view recipes.)
- Casseroled Brunch Eggs (1959)
- Eggs Benedict (1951)
- Avocado ‘N’ Egg Brunch (1959)
- Brunch Pizzas (1958)
- Waffled French Toast (1951)
- Peachy Maple-Nut Waffles (1958)
- Glazed Coffee Ring (1957)
- Honey Coconut Muffins (1956)
- Raisin Scones (1953)
- Fruit Salad Mold (1953)
- Bloody Mary (1952)
- Spiced Cranberry Tomato Cocktail (1954)
- Chilled Fruit Cocktail (1959)
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