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Clarissa Dickson Wright reveals the origins and development of the British breakfast, from early records of choirboys at St Paul's through to today's packet cereals.

Clarissa Dickson Wright's latest culinary adventure reveals the origins and development of our three daily meals - breakfast, lunch and dinner. As a nation, we take them for granted, assuming that they have always existed as they are now. But unpick each of these eating rituals, trace their lineage back through a thousand years of British history and you find fascinating and surprising stories of social upheaval and shifting class structures, of technological developments and gastronomic revolutions.

The origins of breakfast are the most mysterious of all. We all understand what we mean by a 'proper breakfast', but the particulars of our first meal of the day have changed dramatically over the centuries. From the earliest records of choirboys at St Paul's breaking their night's fast with bread and ale, through the heavily-laden morning tables of Jane Austen's era and the Edwardian age to today's mass-produced packet cereals, our breakfasts have been profoundly influenced by religious strictures, ideas of social status and, of course, the opinions of those self-appointed experts who claim to know what is best for us.

Some of our historic breakfast specialities, like plover's eggs in aspic, deep fried Dover sole or, Edward VII's favourite, a hollowed-out onion filled with chicken livers, cream and brandy, are now long-forgotten. Other present-day staples were accidental inventions. The combination of bacon and eggs came into being as an unintended consequence of the medieval Church's rules on fasting during Lent. Centuries later, Dr Kellogg discovered the secret to making cornflakes only after he mistakenly left his recipe to go mouldy - and Clarissa joins in on a recreation of the original experiment that produced the very first breakfast flake.

As she charts the evolution of our morning meal across the centuries and the origins of our best-known breakfast ingredients, Clarissa uncovers a story of lost traditions, culinary discoveries and extraordinary excess.

1 hour

Last on

Fri 9 Nov 2012 19:00

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Role Contributor
Presenter Clarissa Dickson Wright
Series Producer Paul Tilzey
Series Producer Paul Tilzey
Director Paul Tilzey
Director Paul Tilzey


  • Wed 7 Nov 2012 21:00
  • Thu 8 Nov 2012 02:00
  • Fri 9 Nov 2012 19:00

Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Have we always eaten them?

Breakfast, lunch and dinner: Have we always eaten them?

Three square meals a day seems like a normal eating pattern, but it wasn't always that way