Breakfast in the Eighteenth Century:

The Unexamined Meal




Jim Chevallier


© 2003 James B. Chevallier


NOTE: This is an early version of a paper that was subsequently revised and expanded for publication


                Imagine a person having breakfast in eighteenth century France, around, say, 1760.

                If you're at all familiar with France, you'll probably envision them having a continental breakfast - that is, coffee, chocolate or tea with a roll or some bread, joined perhaps by cheese and cold meats. And yet, how accurate is such a picture? Coffee, after all, had only come to France in the previous century. While coffeehouses were well established, was coffee already part of breakfast? And even if it was, what had come before that both as food and drink?

                The question seems simple enough and when it occurred to me, I went to the obvious sources: histories of French private life and my battered copy of the Larousse Gastronomique. The latter, with its convenient dual indexes - one in French, one in English - lists no entry in either language for 'breakfast' Among his numerous volumes on the history of French private life, Alfred Franklin has at least three on the subject of food and meals. Yet none devote a chapter to breakfast. Nor does Grand d'Aussy, whose three volumes on French food are the prime source for many later writers, list the subject anywhere in the very detailed indices to each large volume.

                The journals and travelers' diaries from the period, which so often itemize even simple meals, tend to pass unhelpfully over the first meal of the day with comments such as 'I had breakfast and then...' or 'After breakfast, we...' Not, as we shall see, that details are completely absent. But the subject is more neglected than not.

                In histories of this, the very century when France began to develop the culinary refinement for which it is known[1], breakfast, it seems, remains the unexamined meal.


                Having presented this issue to members of a C18-L, an Internet list whose focus is the 18th century, I confirmed that whatever data most dix-huitièmistes have on the subject is indeed piecemeal. But the groups’ collective efforts, and my subsequent research, have provided sufficient matter to begin answering some questions, and to begin asking others. This paper is a very preliminary review of the results.

                The core question here is, simply, when did breakfast in France start to become as it is today and what did it consist of before that? But this quickly gives rise to some other questions:


·         Was breakfast always a distinctly different sort of meal?

·         Did breakfast – often referred to today as the most important meal of the day – play a special role in hygiene and/or nutrition?

·         How did breakfast differ between classes?

·         How different was the French breakfast from that of other countries?


All this, it should be emphasized, is in relation to Western history. Even today, Asian cultures, for instance, have very different ideas of breakfast from Europeans or Americans. But that is a much larger subject, for another time.

                Those then are some of the questions. What follows offers the start, but only the start, of some answers.


Breakfast – just one more meal?

                A visitor to Colonial Williamsburg[2] reports being told that: “the rich of Virginia in the late 18th C[entury] (they target 1774 in particular) did not have any differences between lunch and breakfast foods, save that breakfast foods were usually the cold leftovers from yesterday's meat.” While this seems to only be part of the story at Williamsburg (whose archives record some specific breakfasts), it does raise a simple question: has breakfast always been viewed as a separate meal? And if so, has it been thought to play a special role?

                It is a nutritional truism that breakfast is not only a distinct meal, but, because it begins the day, the most important meal we eat. But before asking what people ate for breakfast in earlier times, it is useful not only to ask if they considered it a special meal, but did they think of it as a separate meal at all?

                The answer to that question is mixed. Even without further evidence, common sense suggests that anyone living at a bare subsistence level – as the earliest colonists might have at times – does not have the luxury of dividing meals into any other categories than ‘present’ and ‘absent’. Yet by the time America was being colonized, breakfast had long existed as a separate meal in Europe.

                It may be misleading to cite classical sources, since Western history has not proceeded in an unbroken line from its earliest sources. But it is worth noting that Xenophon, in Anabasis[3], refers repeatedly to the Greek armies either having or missing breakfast. The meal’s importance is underscored by this rather humorous passage: “And now, being face to face with the ambassadors, he questioned them as to what their wishes were. They replied that they had come to arrange a truce, and were persons competent to carry proposals from the king to the Hellenes and from the Hellenes to the king. He returned answer to them: "Take back word then to your master, that we need a battle first, for we have had no breakfast; and he will be a brave man who will dare mention the word 'truce' to Hellenes without providing them with breakfast."”

In Cyropaedia [4], Xenophon also frequently mentions the Persians’ breakfasts, generally in conjunction with an evening meal, suggesting that the norm for this culture was two meals a day. But he also hints at more sober habits in former times: “Again, from the first it was their rule only to take a single meal in the day, which left them free to give their time to business and exercise. The single meal is still the rule, but it commences at the earliest hour ever chosen for breakfast, and the eating and drinking goes on till the last moment which the latest reveler would choose for bed.” This passage raises one point that comes up in regard to later cultures as well: the idea that an increased number of meals corresponds to luxury and decadence. Note too the (apparently unique) idea of having a single meal at the start of day in order to, effectively, get the business of eating out of the way.

                Writing in 1632, Guy Patin[5] finds proof that the Biblical Israelites had breakfast in Genesis 18: “The holy writings teach us that our first parents after being chased from the earthly Paradise, worked the earth and killed victims, whose flesh and viscera they could eat; but it is difficult to know how often they ate: nonetheless there’s good reason to believe it was twice a day since we read that Abraham in Genesis:18 begged three angels to stop and to take their refreshment at his house: I will give you (he said) bread to fortify your hearts, after which you will go; which he undoubtedly would not have done if it hadn’t been the custom to eat something in the morning to maintain the body’s strength:”. However, the original passage refers to ‘the hottest part of the day’, which seems to suggest a later hour. Exodus 16 might offer better, if still inconclusive, evidence:


“8 And Moses said, This shall be, when the LORD shall give you in the evening flesh to eat, and in the MORNING bread to the full; for that the LORD heareth your murmurings which ye murmur against him: and what are we? your murmurings are not against us, but against the LORD.


12 I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel: speak unto them, saying, At even ye shall eat flesh, and in the MORNING ye shall be filled with bread; and ye shall know that I am the LORD your God.”


Though the bread here proves to be miraculous, the passage does seem to suggest that the Israelites did not feel properly fed unless they had had bread in the morning and meat at night.

                Having established that the concept of breakfast extends back to classical times, let us now skip the potentially rich terrain of intervening centuries and move closer in time to modern Europe.

                Doctor Louis E. Grivetti of the University of California at Davis has written an in-depth study of the Anglo-Saxon roots of the American breakfast[6]. In it, he states: “The first use of the English word breakfast (= breaking the fast) is relatively recent and probably does not predate 1463.”

In France, already in the thirteenth century, breakfast was being cited as a separate meal[7]: “At the end of the thirteenth century, the fuller went to work at break of day. They had their breakfast at their masters at six in the morning…The statutes granted to the cloth workers in 1384 stipulate that workers would arrive at the workshop ‘at sun-up’. They would take breakfast at nine.”

What’s more, it was already being considered in terms of health. At least one royal doctor – that of Henri IV[8] -, having instructed his monarch to relieve himself immediately upon waking, also suggested consuming prune juice or bouillons made of salads in case of obstruction.

More often though, medical opinion seemed to favor skipping it, as when Jean Sulpice says (in Civility, published in 1483): “I do not approve of beginning to eat and drink as soon as you’re out of bed. …One should set an hour for taking meals, for example six or seven hours after getting up and taking sufficient exercise for the mind and body.” To which Rabelais has Gargantua respond: “Breakfast gives a good memory, and makes dinner even better.” (Rabelais, it should be noted, was himself a physician.)

A doctor’s regime for Henry III, noted in 1585, omits breakfast entirely, going (in summer) from waking at five to dining at nine, supping at five and retiring at nine. This varied by an hour or two between seasons, but always leaving four hours between waking and the first meal (of two). Later, Louis XIII’s doctor set similar hours for him while he was still a boy. And Montaigne seems to have followed a similar schedule.

The details given above for workers suggest that some, but not all, delayed eating for several hours after rising. If nothing else, though, the physical effort many exerted would have made it hard for all to limit themselves in the same way. But nor was the idea of leaving a large interval between rising and eating limited to royalty. Rabelais quotes an old proverb:


“Rise at five, dine at nine,

Sup at five, to bed at nine,

Makes man live ten times nine.”


On the other hand, the lack of food at the start of day may have led to liquid replacements: “…probably the habit of replacing the first meal of the day with spirits goes back to this period.”

Overall, in France at least, there seems to have been a long period when skipping breakfast was actually considered healthy. While this may seem like one more erroneous idea from the past, it’s worth noting that some new research does suggest that eating less may prolong life[9]: “A calorically restricted diet — including all necessary nutrients but 30 percent fewer calories than usual — has been found to extend the life span of rodents by 30 to 50 percent. Scientists hope, but do not yet know, that the same will be true in people.”

 So the intuition that eating less was healthy may have been valid. It was the choice of the meal to skip that today would be considered questionable. If anything, if they did in fact limit themselves to one morning meal, it was the early Persians who came closest to emerging concepts of nutrition.

It should be emphasized too that the fact that the first meal of the day was regarded as different in kind does not necessarily mean that it was different in substance (i.e., the same person who ate bread for breakfast might also have it for supper).

“Déjeuner” – a special case

                When researching and discussing breakfast in eighteenth century France, a special linguistic quirk must be considered.

                In modern French, there is a word that means almost exactly to ‘break fast’. That word is déjeuner ( – roughly, ‘to leave, quit or undo’ and jeûner –‘to fast’.) Inconveniently, as even speakers of phrasebook French will know, this word means… ‘lunch’. The modern word for breakfast is petit déjeuner, which would appear to mean, logically enough, ‘little lunch’. But in fact, historically, this isn’t quite true.

                Here’s how one list member explained it[10]: “The answer I'd always received was that it came about during our period, as the aristocratic classes in the large cities tended to stay up gradually later, until many of them didn't go to bed until 3 a.m. or later, after a night of playing cards and gambling. They would have their déjeuner later and later in the morning, until the time of it coincided with "le dîner" or the noontime meal. Their servants, however, continued to get up early, having a déjeuner in the morning, a dîner (which was a large meal) in midday, and a "souper" (more or less literally, a smaller meal usually consisting of bread and soup and some leftover meat and perhaps vegetables).”

                While both Franklin and Le Grand hardly mention this shift, they do discuss a similar shift in the hour for ‘dinner’ time – that is, in modern American terms, lunch. Le Grand[11], writing in the eighteenth century, says that dinner had always been between nine and ten, and supper at four, but that in the seventeenth century dinner moved to eleven (noon for the king) and supper to seven. Then, as people wanting to see the king found themselves obliged to wait until one o’clock, many households adapted the later hour. He then says that at the start of the eighteenth century: “…the custom of sitting down to eat at one o’clock was generally established among people of quality. Imperceptibly, for the convenience of business people, to favor the laziness and the dressing of the ladies, people waited until two. …. Presently… it is almost three o’clock and in many places near to four when one dines.”

                Clearly, the ‘forgotten’ meal – breakfast –would have followed these shifts, at least among ‘people of quality’. Without tracing the steps before it, Franklin finally says that: “Since 1800,… a meal much neglected until then has taken on a great ‘importance’, that is breakfast, and it is served at noon.”[12]

And so, by the end of the century, we have déjeuner firmly established as a noontime meal, even if it is still considered breakfast. But what about those whose days continued to begin at sun-up? Though neither author speaks much about them, Le Grand[13] has this note on workers’ dinners: “…still today…pavers, masons, stone cutters and others… according to the old customs… dine at nine in the morning.” And presumably breakfasted somewhat before, having what those more comfortable would consider a ‘little breakfast’ – petit déjeuner.  While it’s rare to see the noon meal described as the ‘big breakfast’ – grand déjeuner –, Mercier[14] does use exactly that term in referring to one of the two meals workers have in the late century, having replaced the morning meal with coffee.

A French-English dictionary published in 1870 still translates déjeuner as ‘breakfast’.[15]

As a practical matter, in considering mentions and portrayals of déjeuner in the eighteenth century, it seems safe to interpret the word as meaning ‘breakfast’. But, in upper class settings at least, the later the reference, the more likely that it refers to the kind of late-morning, expanded breakfast that Americans would now call ‘brunch’.

The hot trio: coffee, tea and chocolate

                The modern idea of a Western breakfast cannot be separated from the history of coffee and its cousins, tea and chocolate. To determine what came before the vision of breakfast as a caffeine drink[16] and any number of foodstuffs, it is useful first to determine when these drinks established their ubiquitous roles in Western culture.

 Randle Cotgrave’s very thorough English-French dictionary, published in 1611, does not mention any of these drinks. Nor does Nicot’s French-Latin dictionary from 1621. In France, as late as 1666, the Abbé de Choisy served liqueurs after a meal, “because we were not familiar then with either coffee or chocolate, and tea was just appearing.”[17]

Chocolate[18] had first been brought to France either by Spanish nuns who introduced it to Cardinal Alphonse de Richelieu (died 1653) or later in 1661 by Maria-Theresa, Louis XIV’s Austrian queen, who knew it from Madrid. The Spaniards in turn had brought it from Mexico around 1510, despite their distaste for the Aztec version of the drink (which included corn meal and hot spices, among other things). Having modified its preparation to suit their tastes, they quickly adopted it as a favored drink. In France, it took some time to spread beyond Paris, and seems to have been regarded more as a (potentially dangerous) drug than as a normal drink. By 1682, however, the king was already serving it at Versailles and in 1684 a Paris doctor said: ‘Chocolate, well made, is so noble an invention that it should be the food of the gods, rather than ambrosia or nectar.”. By the time of the Regency (1715 - 1723), it was sufficiently established for favored courtiers to be invited to the chocolat du Regent – a breakfast of chocolate with the Regent. The chocolate equivalent of coffeehouses – chocolate-houses – also appeared.

The preparation of chocolate evolved differently in different countries. The Spaniards, having put vanilla and sugar in it, still took it with water. One authority credits the English with adding milk to chocolate – as well as eggs, Madeira, etc. In the late eighteenth century, says Le Grand, “we place the chocolate of Paris in the first rank, in which enters absolutely nothing but cocoa, vanilla, sugar and cinnamon.”

Soon after a Portuguese priest encountered tea[19] in China in 1565, the Dutch – then linked with Portugal – became aware of it and the Dutch West Indies Company began to bring it from China. It was mentioned in France since at least 1636. Writing in 1680, Madame de Sevigné mentions another person’s unusual habit of putting milk in tea (and suggests that her daughter use it in coffee as well). But by the end of the eighteenth century, it is still favored most by the Dutch and the English. “It seems …that the thick air they breathe there, that the food and drink they consume make some such corrective necessary”. The Encyclopedia’s entry on tea says that eight to ten million pounds of it are being sold in Europe. In 1762, a commercial dictionary says that the Dutch bring most tea into Europe[20].   Le Grand however cites figures from 1766 naming England as the first importer of tea, followed by the Dutch, then the Swedes and Danes, and in last place the French. “One must be surprised…that the French consume the least; but we know that among us coffee has prevailed and that tea is far from being as general a fantasy.”

Tea was also the basis for a bavaroise, which in the eighteenth century referred to a mixture of tea and maidenhair syrup.

 Later, Le Grand says, “It’s a singularity worth noting, that of the four hot drinks used in France, the people have only adopted one. Tea they only consider a remedy in case of indigestion. They’ve never heard of a bavaroise; as far as chocolate goes, they’ve always viewed it with disgust; but almost everywhere, and down to the lowest classes, you see them seeking out, for their morning meal, coffee.”

Though the first café was opened in Marseille in 1671[21], coffee had a very uneven history for a long while and was even accused of causing impotence[22]. Coffee was introduced by a Turkish ambassador in 1669[23] and then unsuccessfully promoted by an Armenian peddler starting in 1672[24]. And when Louis XIV established the guild of limonadiers  - lemonade-vendors - in 1676, they were authorized to sell coffee unground, ground and as a drink[25]. As time went on, coffee was sometimes viewed as a beverage, sometimes as a kind of tonic with various medicinal properties: “coffee, then, was regarded as a medicine rather than an agreeable drink.”[26]. But even as coffeehouses became ubiquitous in France, coffee’s role shifted in importance. Undoubtedly, some households would have started offering it as an after dinner staple and many individuals must have started having it with breakfast over the years after its introduction. As a German living in France, the Princess Palatine may not be considered typical in her tastes when she complains in 1712[27] that, rather than tea, coffee or chocolate, she would rather have a good beer soup, but “the beer in France is worthless.” Still, when she says in 1716 that “I rarely have breakfast and when I do, all I have is a tartine au beurre. …I take neither chocolate, nor tea nor coffee”, it’s clear that those around her do take such drinks with breakfast. It would seem that at the highest levels of French society, the modern ‘continental breakfast’ was already widespread, if not necessarily the norm, at the beginning of the century. Other milieus seem to have adapted it more slowly. Decades later, in 1744[28], a Swedish visitor to French Canada remarks that at breakfast, in addition to bread and brandy, only some were having chocolate and (especially the ladies) coffee. But it was from 1750 on, says Le Grand[29], that coffee was established in its now familiar role in French private life: “Since 1750,... the consumption of coffee in France has tripled. There is not a bourgeois household where, at dinner, one does not offer you coffee. There is no shop girl, no cook, no chambermaid, who, in the morning, does not have a cafe au lait for breakfast. This taste, it seems!, has reached even the lowest classes. In the public markets, in certain streets and passages of the Capital, women have established themselves who sell to the populace what they call cafe au lait; that is, bad milk, tinted with the dregs of coffee they bought from the officers of great houses, or from coffee dealers."

Though this date should probably be regarded as approximate, given the universal influence of French culture on Europe at this point, it seems reasonable to assume that most people of any means across Europe regarded coffee or another hot liquid as part of breakfast by 1760. Though this still leaves us with the question of what people ate with their drink, it at least establishes a timeline around what many today regard as the essential start of their day: “My morning coffee.”

                With this approximate date in mind, we can now look backwards from this vantage point and ask, ‘What did Europeans have for breakfast before coffee?” Also, while the question concerns a beverage, a finite number of foodstuffs have been associated with it: breads, rolls, cheeses, meats and various enhancements (jams, sauces, mustard, etc.) to these. Did these become common with coffee, or were they commonplace before?


Breakfast B.C. (Before Coffee)

                In ancient Rome, the working classes began the day with bread soaked in wine[30]. Whether this combination persisted or simply reappeared, it seems that it still formed the most common breakfast once a large part of the Roman Empire had become Europe. At the start of the eighteenth century, the prisoners in the Bastille – some of whom were surprisingly well fed – were still given bread and wine for their breakfast[31].

                It is not surprising that for the poorer classes breakfast would have consisted of bread with some form of fermented drink. Several work contracts from Louis XI’s time, for instance, make mention of bread and/of wine for the workers, though some got additional meat or fish[32]. But these two items would have formed the most basic allotment. Wine, beer or brandy would have been more or less available in different areas, but the mention of meals of one or the other with bread is not surprising. The fact that some had only liquids for breakfast might be due to the early ideas on nutrition mentioned above or, more prosaically, on the need to husband limited amounts of food.

                Whatever the reason, it does seem that in France, at least, breakfast was frequently limited to a liquid of some sort. Le Grand is quoted above on the idea that the lower classes often replaced breakfast with spirits. Tobias Smollet seems to confirm this when he has a Picard peasant girl serve Roderick Random chocolate and spirits for breakfast[33]. Since he’s writing around mid-century, the ‘modern’ chocolate has been added to the meal, but it does document spirits as a breakfast mainstay. It’s worth noting though the debate as to whether chocolate broke a fast or not.[34] In this case, chocolate might have been considered the food and the spirits the drink. Finally, the 1744 account from Canada seems to refer to brandy – here with bread – as the most popular choice, even with other options available.

                Even at mid-century, Louis XV invariably had a bouillon made of one old capon, four pounds of beef, four pounds of veal and four of mutton[35]. Since members of the court had long been having coffee, tea and chocolate for breakfast, it’s tempting to think that this was for medical reasons. But not only did he have this regularly, his dinner and supper were substantial enough to indicate a healthy appetite. The bouillon prescribed centuries earlier for Henri IV clearly does have a medical function. It’s less clear if other less laxative bouillons might also have been one of the king’s breakfast options.

                This fairly thin data gives some idea of the earlier forms of breakfast in France. While further research would undoubtedly uncover more scattered details, at this point more information has appeared for other countries, England in particular. This is in part because the contributors to this exchange are generally more familiar with England. But it may be too that the more centralized and stratified nature of Old Regime France means that less writers thought it worth recording the habits of any but the most dominant classes. Arthur Young was shocked[36], in a rural context, by the lack of familiarity between the classes (a familiarity he portrays as common in England.) Such distances would presumably impact the historical record as well.

                It may be too that some of the information for other countries can be reasonably extrapolated for France as well, as in the mention again of bouillon in this information (summarized from a German dictionary[37]): “The author reminds his readers that having breakfast is especially common among young people and those who work with their hands. Alcohol should be consumed with care, as it might be detrimental to one's health. The milder solutions are oriental drinks such as chocolate, coffee and tea. As the most convenient solution drinkable soups are recommended: a bouillon of meat or chicken to be enjoyed especially by all who do not eat at night and who do not want to weaken their stomachs on their way to lunch. Common people usually take a beer-soup, Marperger lists a number of north German beers as especially appropriate. If one adds spices and an egg such soups are comparable with any soup made with wine when it comes to giving physical strength. A wet stomach should prefer bread with butter or toasted white bread drenched in sect or Spanish wine. Some people enjoy sweets - things preserved in sugar like ginger or cherries, others dislike them because of their sweetness, so that everyone has to experiment in order to find out what goes well with his stomach.”

The fondness for beer soup however seems specifically German (confirmed by the Princess Palatine’s preference as well.) The list of items here is also a useful reminder that breakfast was probably as subject to individual variations in taste (for those who could afford to indulge them) as it is today. And it is also clear that the ‘oriental’ drinks mentioned were already making inroads in Germany in the early part of the century.

                The readiness to fortify a breakfast soup hints at something that is yet more explicit when turning to England: as is still true today, the breakfasts in these countries seem to have often been more substantial than the usual breakfast in France. (Later in the century, Arthur Young[38] mentions that his French host prepared him a dejeuner a l’anglaise.)

                Louis Grivetti’s paper on Anglo-Saxon breakfasts states: “Medieval English breakfasts consisted of alcoholic beverages, cold meats, dark bread, and frumenty. From this developed the Classic English breakfast that expanded to a very wide range of foods, high in fat and high in calories, …. three grains, barley, oats, and wheat became the basis of Anglo-Saxon breakfast. Barley, the "poor-man's wheat," was "drunk" at breakfast as ale or beer, until replaced by coffee and tea during the 18th century.”[39] In a related article, Grivetti describes a town-dweller’s pattern from 1577:  “breakfast was eaten between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m., and typically consisted of bread, slated or pickled herring, cold meat, pottage, cheese and ale.” For a wealthy family in the 17th century, “Breakfast typically was eaten between 6:00 and 7:00 am and usually consisted of meats, dairy products, fish, and an alcoholic beverage – specifically, cold meats, fish (salted or dried herring), cheese, and ale or beer. An alternate pattern typically provided consumers with cold meats, anchovies and wine.”[40]

Again, the most basic breakfast seems to consist of a fermented drink, with or without bread. The same paper notes breakfasts recorded from 1512 to 1525 which again fit the pattern of bread and alcohol, but with the added element of mutton or boiled beef.

Writing in the Tatler in 1709, Addison too suggests that a traditional English breakfast had – like every other meal – long included beef[41]: “The tables of the ancient gentry of this nation were covered thrice a day with hot roast beef' and I am credibly informed, by an antiquary who has searched the registers in which the bills of fare of the Court are recorded, that instead of tea and bread and butter, which have prevailed of late years, the maids of honor in Queen Elizabeth's time were allowed three rumps of beef for their breakfast.”

As late as 1731[42], a writer says of the children at London’s Christ's Hospital: "They have every morning for their breakfast bread and beer, at half an hour past six in the morning in the summer time, and at half an hour past seven in the winter.” It should be noted that, for London, the children’s breakfast was already slightly old-fashioned by this time, when numerous records from the Old Bailey mention not only coffee and tea but a wide range of meats and other solid foods as breakfast items (discussed below). However, like Louis the Beloved’s breakfast of bouillon, this is a reminder that habits from previous times persisted for reasons of class, personal preference and geography.

Sir Walter Scott provides an extreme example in The Antiquary[43], which he introduces in this way: "The present work completes a series of fictitious narratives, intended to illustrate the manners of Scotland at three different periods ....the Antiquary refers to the last ten years of the eighteenth century. I have, in the two last narratives especially, sought my principal personages in the class of society who are the last to feel the influence of that general polish which assimilates to each other the manners of different nations." While he credits his character’s archaic habits to class, it seems probable that geography (and possibly national pride) play a role here as well: “We must now request our readers to adjourn to the breakfast parlour of Mr. Oldbuck, who, despising the modern slops of tea and coffee, was substantially regaling himself, more majorum, with cold roast-beef, and a glass of a sort of beverage called mum---a species of fat ale, brewed from wheat and bitter herbs, of which the present generation only know the name by its occurrence in revenue acts of parliament, coupled with cider, perry, and other excisable commodities. Lovel, who was seduced to taste it, with difficulty refrained from pronouncing it detestable.”

Though Smollet’s description of a Scottish peasant’s breakfast dates from mid-century, it seems as untouched by current fashions: Their breakfast is a kind of hasty pudding, of oat-meal or pease-meal, eaten with milk.[44]” In fact, it resembles an account from 1597: “Their custom is to make their bread of oats and barley… They take a little of it in the morning, and so… content themselves therewith.”[45]

Conditions probably varied across the ‘Colonies’. As a general note, Grivetti says: “Since the Middle Ages into the 20th century rural life in the British Isles has been characterized by intense hard work, 12-15 hours of heavy labor, set within a climate of severe winters defined by intense cold and damp. As a result, breakfasts evolved that were high in protein, high in fat, and high in caloric content. …working-class citizens of the 17th century served as the workforce in the British colonies of Massachusetts and Virginia – and they brought with them to America their typical English breakfast pattern high in calories, fat and protein.” In 1635, Harvard students had beer, beef and bread for breakfast[46]. They also had two “bevers” (beverage periods), the first of which was early in the morning and later became breakfast. Beer and bread was served at both bevers. Wealthy families might supplement these with butter or cheese.

                One of the few diarists who does mention his breakfast regularly is the American William Byrd[47]. This entry, from October 1709, is typical of innumerable others: “I rose at 6 o'clock and said my prayers and ate milk for breakfast.” The fact that he ‘ate’ milk (with great regularity) suggests that it was very thick and/or boiled. While references to people breakfasting exclusively on milk are rare, it seems a natural choice for a farmer. It may be that it was simply considered too familiar an item to merit mention.

One of his rare mentions of chocolate comes under special circumstances: “[September 1709] . . .About one o'clock this morning my wife was happily delivered of a son, thanks be to God Almighty. I was awake in a blink and rose and my cousin Harrison met me on the stairs and told me it was a boy. We drank some French wine and went to bed again and rose at 7 o'clock. I read a chapter in Hebrew and then drank chocolate with the women for breakfast.” Both the wine and the chocolate seem celebratory here, suggesting that he saved these for special occasions. Was this simply because, in the earlier days of the American colonies, these were hard to obtain?

The following passage on the Wetherburn’s Tavern[48] (in Virginia) does not explicitly mention breakfast, but does refer to ‘every meal’, and the author says coffee and tea became widespread later, so it may hint at what some Virginian taverns offered for breakfast: “Tavern meals generally consisted of hearty dishes made of ingredients that were readily available: pork, chicken, fish, eggs, and bread. Vegetables were also served but these were rarely mentioned. After passing from Virginia into Maryland in 1774 Nicholas Cresswell cried out in his Journal: "Have had either Bacon or Chickens every meal since I came into this Country. If I still continue in this way shall be grown over with Bristles or Feathers." Generally small beer which was made locally was served with the common diet.”

In Europe, the other liquid option seems to have been bouillon. It’s not clear if one replaced the other or if they were both included in the same meal, though, with beer soup, the Germans came close to combining the two.

                Finally, a Flemish phrasebook from 1589 provides a rare mention of eggs in the following dialogue[49]:

“A.    We go to the Church. Prepare in the meane While the breakefast.

C.       What shall I prepare for you? It is today a fish day.

A.   How?

C.    It is Saint Bartholomews even: it is a fastyng day.

A.    I did not think on it truly: I know not that it had been fastyng. Prepare us then a dosen of new layde egges rosted in the imbers, new hot cakes, and sweet butter…”


Since the author makes a point of this being a fast day, it seems reasonable to assume that on other days meat would have been part of this breakfast (replacing the eggs?). It should also be noted that the same dialogue was ‘borrowed’ by an 18th century English printer[50] for a much leaner phrasebook, suggesting that English readers too would have found this a normal breakfast.

An anecdote about Isaac Newton[51] also revolves around his absent-minded handling of an egg brought for his breakfast. It seems clear that both the Flemish and the English were already including eggs as part of breakfast at the start of the century. It is less clear, however, when eggs took on the importance they have in modern American breakfasts.

The modern breakfast begins

                Having looked both at the introduction of caffeine drinks in Europe and at the elements of breakfast before these became widespread, we can better understand how the modern idea of breakfast emerged and the degree to which it represented a change.

                It should already be clear from the previous section that this change was not uniform across countries or even classes. Further research would probably reveal other individuals like Sir Walter Scott’s Scottish country gentleman who stubbornly resisted fashions which had taken firm hold elsewhere. Le Grand’s note on coffee suggests that it was mid-century before the common classes in France had fully adopted it, and the traveler’s note from Canada shows how widely options varied among French colonists. Yet already in 1709, Addison says that a standard breakfast of “tea and bread and butter”[52] has prevailed in England in recent years.

                In 1763, Smollet says of a Parisian breakfast: “one breakfasts deliciously upon their petit pains and their pales of butter, which last is exquisite.[53]”. While a drink can be assumed here (he mentions the excellent tea at Boulogne[54], in regard to breakfast), the rolls and excellent butter seem here to be the extent of solid food. En route to Lyons, he later says, “About ten in the morning we stopped to breakfast at some auberge, where we always found bread, butter, and milk[55].”  A bit later, Mercier says, “At nine o’clock, the lemonade-vendors’ boys…. carry coffee and bavaroises to furnished rooms.”[56] To accompany whatever else had been bought for breakfast or were these drinks breakfast itself?

Brillat-Savarin, writing in the next century, recalls more substantial breakfasts in the middle of the eighteenth century: “Ordinarily, we breakfasted before nine o’clock on bread, cheese, fruits, sometimes pâté  and cold meats.”[57] At the least, this shows that some French families did have more substantial breakfasts, even if Smollet and Mercier’s descriptions are more typical of other milieus.

But the variations – allowance made for financial means – did not seem dependent on class. Marie Antoinette (a light eater overall) had only café au lait and “a sort of bread she'd grown used to in Vienna” for breakfast[58]. Yet in 1799 Madame de Genlis, in a phrasebook for émigrés – largely aristocrats –, offers an escalating variety of choices[59] before switching to requests for supper and dinner:


“I would like for my breakfast, tea, chocolate, coffee. Fresh butter, wheat bread. Milk-bread. Black bread. Rye bread. Fresh eggs from today. Today’s eggs, soft-boiled.

Don’t overcook the soft-boiled eggs.

I would like hard-boiled eggs and fresh milk, good cream, very thick and sweet. I want the cream cold or warmed in a double boiler. Cooked or cold milk. Chocolate without vanilla or spices, or so-called health chocolate. Toasted slices of bread. Buttered bread. Bring us powdered sugar, lump sugar, sugar candy, coarse salt, fine salt, pepper, nutmeg, cinnamon, mustard, anchovies, capers, chopped herbs, radishes, soft cheese, cream cheese, Gruyère, Gloucester cheese, Sassenage cheese, Dutch cheese, parmesan, etc.

Little raw artichokes, sausages, cervelas, dried sausages, ham, streaky bacon, cold veal, cold mutton, to make a sandwich.

Punch, lemons, oranges, Seville oranges, biscuits, cakes, preserves, lemonade, orangeade, almond milk, orgeat, salad, compote, fresh oysters, green oysters, Muscat wine, white wine, beer, pastries, dry pastries, old bread, fresh bread.

Do you have fruits? What fruits do you have?”


The breakfast section then ends with an exhaustive list of fruits.

                Bearing in mind that a comprehensive phrasebook must offer every reasonable possibility, this selection of options seems to indicate both that the most likely options (those listed first) are simple enough but also that some of her mainly upper-class readers would have had fairly luxurious breakfast habits. It’s interesting however that the long list of meats does not include beef, which appears so frequently in English breakfasts.

                While this is certainly not an extensive list of examples, it does suggest that French eighteenth century breakfasts could be substantial, but, for the poorer classes, especially, more often resembled the continental breakfasts of today. This may seem to be stating the obvious. But there is some evidence that English breakfasts for the same period were more likely to be substantial across all classes.

                Testimony from the Old Bailey in the 20’s and 30’s provides ample evidence that English breakfasts already included coffee or tea as a matter of course, and that they were already more substantial than the ‘continental breakfast’. In one case, a woman was accused of attempted murder after leaving a silver coffee pot for a man, filled with coffee for his breakfast. The various foods mentioned as part of breakfast include milk porridge, sheep’s tongues, venison hash, steaks, and bread and butter. The drinks include not only coffee, tea and milk, but punch and beer.[60] Writing at mid-century, Smollet has Roderick Random consume a variety of breakfasts in the English countryside[61]: “we breakfasted with our host and his daughter on hasty-pudding and ale”; “he carried me into an ale-house, where I called for some beer, and bread and cheese, on which we breakfasted.”; “rising, and breakfasting with my comrades on biscuit and brandy”. Clearly the habit of alcohol for breakfast was still widespread even then. (He also describes the breakfast in Boulogne of some Dutch sailors: “In the kitchen, five Dutch sailors sat at breakfast with a large loaf, a firkin of butter, and a keg of brandy, the bung of which they often applied to their mouths with great perseverance and satisfaction.” While they are obviously happy with this breakfast, it is less clear if it is more typical of their French hosts or of their own tastes.)

                Louis Grivetti sums up the English breakfasts for this period as follows[62]:


“By the 18th century six categories of English breakfast may be identified:


Wealthy Rural Pattern 1: Breakfast at 9:00-10:00 A.M. that consisted of tea, coffee, or chocolate, with wheat cakes, followed by biscuits and sherry;

Wealthy Rural Pattern 2: Breakfast at 9:00-10:00 A.M. that consisted of fillets of beef, fish, mutton cutlets, poultry and wild game, sausages, omelets and eggs; bread (white and brown flour varieties), fancy breads, jams, orange marmalade, fruits in season; cold meats including beef (spiced), ham, tongue, wild game, and especially game pies;

Wealthy Town/Urban Pattern: Breakfast at 10:00-11: A.M. that consisted of tea or chocolate with bread or toast and butter;


Artisans and Workers Pattern: Breakfast early morning that consisted of bread and butter, cold meat and cheese, and beer;
Workhouse (Urban Poor) Pattern: Breakfast early morning, and food items defined by day of the week, usually only bread and cheese, or broth and bread, sometimes with butter and treacle;

Orphanage Pattern: Breakfast early morning, and food items also defined by day of the week, and usually only broth, gruel, or bread with butter.


(NOTE: Dr. Grivetti’s paper and articles cover the subject of Anglo-Saxon breakfasts far more thoroughly and with greater authority than is possible here. Readers with a specific interest in that subject are advised to consult these.)

The above list does not include bacon and only briefly mentions eggs. A list member, on the other hand, says: ”Certainly by 1811 bacon and eggs was an established basis of a meal, either supper or breakfast.  Moy Thomas, on his tour of the Isle of Wight frequently records the excellent quality of the Island bacon, "We got a rasher of Bacon and some good poached Eggs" occurs on several occasions.  Moy, from the Metropolis, was 23 when he wrote this diary which is still in manuscript.”[63]

In 1774, a Scottish lady in the West Indies says of the breakfast there[64]: “Breakfast, which here as well as in Scotland is really a meal.” Grivetti confirms this[65]: “The array of foods presented at an 18th century Scottish breakfast…. was highly caloric and diversified: smoked beef; cheese; fresh eggs; hashed and boiled herring; butter; milk and cream; porridge; cold milk mingled with egg yolks, sugar and rum; currant jelly; tea; coffee; three varieties of bread; and Jamaican rum.” On the Isle of Skye, during his tour of the Hebrides with Boswell in 1773, Dr. Johnson noted a lighter variant of the Scottish breakfast: “Johnson notes that 'A man of the Hebrides, for the women's diet I can give no account, as soon as he appears in the morning, swallows a glass of whisky'. Johnson goes on to say that 'Not long after the dram, may be expected the breakfast, a meal in which the Scots, whether of the lowlands or mountains, must be confessed to excel us. The tea and coffee are accompanied not only by butter, but with honey, conserves and marmalades.”[66] Like Roderick Random’s Picard breakfast, however, this again combines ‘modern’ hot drinks with alcohol.

Though none of these sources cites it as a Scottish food, it should be noted that Janet Schaw (the Scottish lady) says[67] that, following an inundation, she found “the last of our poultry, a poor duck, squeezed as flat as a pancake.” The reference shows that Scots knew of pancakes, but not, alas, when they ate them.

                A Web page also quotes Dr. Johnson’s 1776 account of the kind of “simple breakfast” that a London hostess (Margaret Dodds in this case) might offer to a group of guests in her townhouse[68]: “ ‘even though the meal was served on a large buffet table, there were nine servants in attendance, five to fill our plates when first we went to the buffet and four to ensure that our plates would never again be empty.’ The supposedly simple breakfast consisted of oatmeal with sweet cream, smoked herrings, sardines with mustard sauce, grilled trout with white butter sauce, cold veal pies, grilled kidneys, sausages with mashed potatoes, beef tongue with hot horseradish sauce, and, in Dr. Johnson's words, "enough bacon to feed a hungry army". There were also three kinds of fresh bread and four kinds of rolls, all of which were accompanied by butter, honey, orange marmalade, and jams made from raspberries, cherries and apples. The beverages offered included French and Spanish brandies, fresh apple cider, tea and coffee.” Did French dejeuners a la fourchette (“breakfast with forks”) correspond to meals of similar scale (if differently composed)?

To understand why the preceding might reasonably be called “simple”, compare it to the following feast given in Ireland in 1768, which is more reminiscent of certain large French banquets than of any French breakfast that this research has so far uncovered:


“Nov. 9 A breakfast was given to the friends of the Marquis of Kildare, at the Round in the New Gardens, at his seat in Ireland, of which the following is a bill of fare:


100 rounds of beef, 100 neats tongues, 10000 sheepe ditto, 100 baked pies, 100 sirloins of beef, 100 geese roasted, 100 turkies ditto, 100 ducks ditto, 100 pullets ditto, 100 wild fowl, 1000 French loaves, 2000 large pints of butter, 100 weight of Gloucester cheese, tea, coffee, and chocolate, in abundance, 2000 saffron cakes, 40000 plain ditto, 50 hams, 2500 bottles of wine, and a most splendid and large pyramid of sweatmeats in the middle of the dessert in the center of the room; likewise a great number of stands of jelly, and a curious fountain playing, handsomely ornamented with ivy, etc.”[69]


The American colonies seemed to develop breakfasts that were combinations of ancestral traditions with use of available products. The same Swedish traveler whose account of French Canada appears above was in New York in June 1749: "Breakfast among the Dutch was served at 7; it consisted of bread, butter, thin slices of dried beef, and tea without milk, rarely coffee. The sugar was not put in the cup, a little piece was brought to the mouth while drinking."[70] Though this might reflect some Dutch influence, it already resembles something like a modern American breakfast. Meanwhile, the account of Virginian taverns quoted above suggests that these changes were slower to come to the South (or at least Virginia): “By the latter part of the century, …. other beverages such as coffee and tea were served at some taverns--particularly at breakfast. One often fared better or worse depending on the circumstances of the tavernkeeper. Chastellux, who arrived late one evening at Colonel Boswell's tavern in the Piedmont, found Boswell "ill prepared to receive strangers." Supper was "rather frugal" but "breakfast the next morning was better; we had ham, butter, fresh eggs, and coffee with milk to drink."[71]

                Now (in the indeterminate ‘latter part of the century’) we have a breakfast that would seem perfectly modern today: ham and eggs and coffee. The butter, presumably, went on some form of (unmentioned) bread.

                In 1774, too, John Adams records a breakfast that seems frankly modern[72]: “1774. Wednesday. Sept. 21. Captn. Callender came to breakfast with Us. Coll. Dagworthy and his Brother Captn. Dagworthy breakfasted with Us. Mrs. Yard entertained Us, with Muffins, Buck Wheat Cakes and common Toast. Buckwheat is an excellent grain, and is very plenty here.” Was all this washed down with coffee, or the more traditional beer?

                At Montecello, Thomas Jefferson’s Virginian estate[73], “breakfast was served at 9:00 am and consisted of varieties of hot breads served with cold meats, bacon and eggs, fried apples, and batter-cakes.” Note the use of the last term for pancakes, though the modern term seems to already have been in use.

                While significant variations in breakfast probably existed in each area (especially those populated by different national groups), these few examples show that the American idea of breakfast was already well established before the country per se existed.

                Finally, Benjamin Franklin not only provides a rare example of the use of breakfast for polemic but lists (in 1766) a broad catalogue of American breakfast options, in this defiant response to an English critic[74]: “VINDEX PATRIAE, a writer in your paper, comforts himself, and the India Company, with the fancy, that the Americans, should they resolve to drink no more tea, can by no means keep that resolution, their Indian corn not affording "an agreeable, or easy digestible breakfast." Pray let me, an American, inform the gentleman, who seems quite ignorant of the matter, that Indian corn, take it for all in all, is one of the most agreeable and wholesome grains in the world; that its green ears roasted are a delicacy beyond expression; that samp, hominy, succatash, and nokehock, made of it, are so many pleasing varieties; and that a johny, or hoe-cake, hot from the fire, is better than a Yorkshire muffin -- But if Indian corn were as disagreeable and indigestible as the Stamp Act, does he imagine we can get nothing else for breakfast? -- Did he never hear that we have oatmeal in plenty, for water-gruel or burgoo; as good wheat, rye, and barley as the world affords, to make frumenty; or toast and ale; that there is every where plenty of milk, butter, and cheese; that rice is one of our staple commodities; that for tea, we have sage and bawm in our gardens, the young leaves of the sweet white hickery or walnut, and, above all, the buds of our pine, infinitely preferable to any tea from the Indies; while the islands yield us plenty of coffee and chocolate? -- Let the gentleman do us the honour of a visit in America, and I will engage to breakfast him every day in the month with a fresh variety, without offering him either tea or Indian corn.”

Conclusions and Questions

Though this paper is meant to be more exploratory than conclusive, even the uneven data underlying it seem to support a few conclusions:


·         Breakfast has been a distinct meal since classical times (though not necessarily continuously since then)

·         The most common form of Western breakfast until early modern times consisted of bread in combination with some form of alcohol

·         The introduction of the three major caffeine (xanthene) drinks into Europe significantly changed the nature of breakfast across the Continent and in the British Isles


It seems true as well that national variations in breakfast have existed since before the modern era, but equally true that certain aspects of the meal remain constant across boundaries - notably, the use of alcohol before the modern era and the use of hot caffeine drinks since.

In terms of the original query that prompted this research – what was breakfast like in France in the eighteenth century? – the data, while illuminating, remains light. Tentatively, it seems that:


·         By the start of the century, the upper classes were already having something much like a modern continental breakfast

·         This idea of breakfast spread unevenly across other classes during the first half of the century

·         By mid-century, the dominant idea of breakfast as (at minimum) café au lait with bread was firmly established across all classes

·         The more comfortable classes would sometimes have had more substantial breakfasts (which should not however be confused with English breakfasts, except when these were specifically prepared as dejeuners a l’anglaise)

·         For the same classes, breakfasts could vary widely as a matter of individual taste and choice (perhaps more so than for other meals, since they were more likely to be consumed privately)


In regard to other countries, both separately and in relation to France, several other points can be made:

·         Specific caffeine drinks were more popular in different countries (tea in England, coffee in France, chocolate in Spain), but not to the exclusion of the others

·         The general population in England seems to have already adopted not only tea but coffee and chocolate as breakfast drinks early in the century (though not by any means to the exclusion of the more traditional alcohol)

·         The English also consumed a far wider range of foods (but usually meats) for breakfast

·         American breakfasts broadly reflected English traditions (especially in quantity and the inclusion of meat), but seem to have also evolved somewhat separately, not least because of the relative availability of imported and local products (eggs and buckwheat being two examples of the latter)


Far more questions than answers, however, arise out of this exploration of very incomplete data. To suggest just a few:


·         How did breakfast evolve in the rest of Europe (which is underrepresented here)?

·         What different elements account for the differences in breakfast between countries?

·         How did different breakfasts correspond to the health and productivity of different populations?

·         How did the change from local to imported breakfast drinks affect national economies?

·         How did the increased use of caffeine affect behavior and health?

·         Did the shift in breakfast have any negative effects?

·         Did breakfast (which is now more uniform across classes) become a democratizing element?


What the research so far suggests is that there is undoubtedly a wealth of additional data to be found in diaries, travel journals, correspondence, newspaper articles, medical treatises, household accounts and other sources. It also seems that different specialists could cast very different lights on this under-studied subject – economists on breakfast’s interaction with trade and national economies, nutritionists on the changes in diet, sociologists on its impact on private life, art historians on representations of the subject, etc.

Finally, in terms of eighteenth century studies per se, it is interesting to see that yet another aspect of modern life became established in that period – a humble and little-considered aspect perhaps, but one that makes a difference in many people’s days.  Is this change worthy of study? At the very least, the subject has proven multifaceted. Perhaps with time, it will no longer be possible to call the eighteenth century breakfast – in France or elsewhere – ‘the unexamined meal’.


The original purpose of this paper was to summarize the collective work of members of the C18-L mailing list. Specific references used here were either provided or indicated by list members Stewart Abbot, Carol Barton, Ted Braun, Joan Greenleaf,  “Juliann”, Olaf Simons, and Bella Stander. Other contributors to a wide-ranging discussion that went from England and France in this period to modern events at Battle Creek included Lisa Berglund, Brycchan Carey, C Chen, Kate Deimling, Roy Flannagan, H Gill, Gil Hardwick, Sabina H, Allan Hollan, “Maria- Elena”, Ellen Moody, C.Paillard, Betty Rizzo, Jon Seven, Linda Troost, Tim Underhill, Tamara s. Wagner, Miriam Wallace, and Richard G. Williams.


My special thanks to Kevin Berland as well for providing this forum.


I would be grateful to Dr.Louis Grivetti of the University of California, Davis, if he had done no more than post his own very useful work on-line. As it is, he went to some effort to provide me with copies of the accompanying articles in Nutrition Today, which have proved very useful. My thanks to him for his kindness.



Adams, John, Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1 AUGUST 1774 - AUGUST 1775: John Adams’ Diary

Addison, Joseph, The Tatler No. 148 From Saturday, March 18, to Tuesday, March 21, 1709-10

Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du goût, ou Méditations de gastronomie transcendante, page 245

Byrd, William, The Secret Diary of William Byrd  [From Louis B. Wright and Marion

Tinlin (eds.), The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1709-1712 (Richmond, Va.: Dietz Press, 1941), pp. 80, 90-91, 146, 159, 197, 210-11, 488, 492, 499.)] , , ,

Chéreul, A., Dictionnaire Historique des Institutions, Moeurs et Coutumes de la France, Seconde Partie, Paris, 1899

Chocolate Information Center (supported by Mars, Incorporated) site -

 Colloquia et Dictionarium Septem Linguarum, Belgicae, Anglicae, Teutonicae, Latinae, Italicae, Hispanicae, Gallicae, 1589

Cotgrave, Randle, A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, London, 1611 (reprint Hildesheim – New York, 1970)

Duruy, Filon, Lacroix and Yanoski, Italie Ancienne: Institutions, Moeurs et Coutumes, Paris, 1851 [p 582]

André Joubert, Etude Sur La Vie Privée au XVe Siècle en Anjou, Angers, 1884

Franklin, Alfred, La Vie Privée d’Autrefois:“le Café, le Thé et le Chocolat”, Paris
La Vie Privée d’Autrefois: ”La Cuisine”, Paris, 1888
La Vie Privée d’Autrefois:“l’Hygiène”, Paris, 1890
La Vie Privée d’Autrefois:“Les Repas”, Paris, 1889
La Vie Privée d’Autrefois:“Variétés Gastronomiques”, Paris, 1891

Genlis, Madame de, Manuel de Voyage à l’Usage des Francois en Allemagne, Berlin, 1799

Georgian Index site: English Breakfast page -

Gonzales, Don Manoel, London in 1731, London?, 1888 (From the introduction: “The book is one of those that have been attributed to Defoe, who died in 1731, and the London it describes was dated by Pinkerton in the last year of Defoe's life.”)

Le Grand d’Aussy, Histoire de La Vie Privée des Francais, Volume III, Paris, 1782

Grivetti, Louis  - on-line paper at
– This on-line post is one version of a paper that was originally presented in Milan and subsequently published as part of the series of articles in Nutrition Today
Nutrition Today,
Vol. 30, number 1, January/February 1995 and Number 3, May/June 1995

Lavine, Albert, Archives de la Bastille: La Vie a la Bastille, 1709

Manuel Historique, Geographique et Politique des Négocians, Lyons, 1762, Tome III Marpergers, J. J. Kitchen's Dictionary,(Hamburg, 1716 (paraphrased)

Mémoires de la Société historique de Montréal

Mercier, Tableau de Paris

Nicot, Jean, Thresor de la Langue Francaise, Tant Ancienne Que Moderne, Paris, 1621 (reprint Paris, 1960)

Patin, Guy, Traité de la Conservation de la Sante par une Bonne Regime, Paris, 1632,

Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674 to 1834 (trial proceedings from December 1714 to December 1799) -

Sadler, Percy, Petit cours de versions : or, Exercises for translating English into French, 1870

Schaw, Janet, Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776, Edited by Evangeline Walker Andrews, in Collaboration with Charles McLean Andrews, Farnam Professor of American History in Yale University, [i-iii], 341 p., ill. NEW HAVEN: Yale University Press, LONDON: Humphrey Milford, Oxford University Press,1921.

Scott, Sir Walter, The Antiquary, from`Waverly Novels - The Centenary Edition', volume 3, Edinburgh, 1870

Smith, J. Douglas, Wetherburn's Tavern Historical Report, Block 9 Building 31, (originally entitled: "Wetherburn's Tavern Interpretation"), 1968, pp. 26-27 -

Smollet, Tobias, Expedition of Humphry Clinker
Roderick Ransom
Travels Through France and Italy

Spiers, A., Spiers and Surenne’s French and English Pronouncing Dictionary, New York, 1870

Three Dialogues in Six European Languages, (Thomas Taylor, printer), London, 1723

Virginia Gazette, February 11, 1768

Wade, Nicholas, The New York Times , “Study Spurs Hope of Finding Way to Increase Human Life”, August 25, 2003

Xenophon, Anabasis

Young, Arthur, Travels in France During the Years 1787, 1788, 1789, London, 1889




[1] Alfred Franklin, La Vie Privée d’Autrefois: ”La Cuisine”, Paris, 1888, page 207. He quotes several different sources to the effect that the refined cuisine under Louis XV was unknown under Louis XIV.

[2] C-18L post by ‘Juliann’ -

[3] Xenophon, Anabasis

[4] Xenophon, Cyropaedia

[5] Guy Patin, Traité de la Conservation de la Sante par un Bonne Regime, Paris, 1632, p. 70 (All translations from French are my own.)

[6] Louis Grivetti, – This on-line post is an extract of a paper that was originally presented in Milan and subsequently adapted as a series of articles in Nutrition Today.

[7] Except where noted, the discussion that follows is derived from Alfred Franklin, La Vie Privée d’Autrefois:“Variétés Gastronomiques”, Paris, 1891, p.98-110

[8] Alfred Franklin, La Vie Privée d’Autrefois:“l’Hygiène”, Paris, 1890, Appendix: p. 12

[9] Nicholas Wade, The New York Times, August 25, 2003, “Study Spurs Hope of Finding Way to Increase Human Life”

[10] C18-L post by Ted Braun -

[11] Le Grand d’Aussy, Histoire de La Vie Privée des Francais, Volume III, Paris, 1782, pp. 264-265

[12] Franklin, “Variétés Gastronomiques”, p. 120

[13] Le Grand d’Aussy, p. 264

[14] Mercier, Tableau de Paris, 1781, p. 155 “Ainsi ils ne font plus que deux repas, le grand déjeûner et la persillade du soir”

[15] A. Spiers, Spiers and Surenne’s French and English Pronouncing Dictionary, New York, 1870

[16] These might be more accurately called methylxanthine drinks, since chocolate contains far more theobromine than caffeine (see for one of many on-line references to this). However, since the two chemicals are closely related and chocolate does indeed contain caffeine, the collective term seems appropriate for our purposes.

[17] Alfred Franklin, La Vie Privée d’Autrefois:“Les Repas”, Paris, 1889, p. 147

[18] Except where noted, the information on chocolate is from Le Grand, pp. 102-108

[19] Alfred Franklin, La Vie Privée d’Autrefois:“le Café, le Thé et le Chocolat”, p. 116 Otherwise, except where noted, the information on tea is from Le Grand, pp. 97-102.

[20] Manuel Historique, Geographique et Politique des Négocians, Lyons, 1762, Tome III, p. 439

[21] Franklin, “le Café, le Thé et le Chocolat, p. 26

[22] Franklin and Le Grand both mention medical qualms about all these drinks. In general, any innovation in diet was viewed with suspicion. The use of brewer’s yeast to make a finer white bread was also questioned by the medical establishment. However, the popularity of such bread spread too fast to allow its interdiction.

[23] Franklin, p. 36

[24] Franklin, p. 40

[25] A. Chéreul,  Dictionnaire Historique des Institutions, Moeurs et Coutumes de la France, Seconde Partie, Paris, 1899, page 668.

[26] Franklin, p. 40

[27] Franklin, p. 81

[28] Mémoires de la Société historique de Montréal,

[29] Le Grand, p. 125

[30] Duruy, Filon, Lacroix and Yanoski, Italie Ancienne: Institutions, Moeurs et Coutumes, Paris, 1851 p. 582

[31] Lavine, Albert, Archives de la Bastille: La Vie a la Bastille, 1709, p. 114

[32] André Joubert, Etude Sur La Vie Privée au XVe Siècle en Anjou, Angers, 1884, pp. 40-41, 81-85, 93-97, 109

[33] Tobias Smollet, Select Works of Tobias Smollet in Two Volumes, Philadelphia, 1851, Volume II, p. 122

[34] Franklin, “le Café, le Thé et le Chocolat, p. 178

[35] Franklin, “La Cuisine”, p. 208

[36] Arthur Young, Travels in France During the Years 1787, 1788, 1789, London, 1889, p.146

[37] C18-L post by Olaf Simons, summarizing J. J. Marperger’s Kitchen's Dictionary (Hamburg, 1716) -

[38] Young, p. 138

[39] Grivetti, op cit

[40] Grivetti, Nutrition Today, Vol. 30, number 1, January/February 1995, p.26.

[41] Joseph Addison, The Tatler, No. 148 From Saturday, March 18, to Tuesday, March 21,1709-10

[42] Don Manoel Gonzales, London in 1731  (The author may be Daniel Defoe, writing under a pseudonym)

[43] Sir Walter Scott, The Antiquary

[44] Smollet, Expedition of Humphry Clinker, “To Dr LEWIS…Yours,MATT. BRAMBLE MANCHESTER, Sept. 15.”

[45] Grivetti, Nutrition Today

[46] Grivetti, on-line

[47] The Secret Diary of William Byrd - [From Louis B. Wright and Marion Tinlin (eds.), The Secret Diary of William Byrd of Westover, 1709-1712 (Richmond, Va.: Dietz Press, 1941), pp. 80, 90-91, 146,

159, 197, 210-11, 488, 492, 499.)]

[48]J. Douglas Smith, Wetherburn's Tavern Historical Report, Block 9 Building 31,(originally entitled: "Wetherburn's Tavern Interpretation"),1968, pp. 26-27

[49] Colloquia a et Dictionarium Septem Linguarum, Belgicae, Anglicae, Teutonicae, Latinae, Italicae, Hispanicae, Gallicae, 1589, p. 243 (of the pdf file – the original is unnumbered)

47 Three Dialogues in Six European Languages, (Thomas Taylor, printer), London, 1723

[51] Percy Sadler, Petit cours de versions : or, Exercises for translating English into French, 1870, p, 22. This language workbook records the anecdote, but does not identify it further.

[52] Addison

[53]Tobias Smollet, Travels Through France and Italy, LETTER VI  PARIS, October 12, 1763.

[54] Smollet, ibid., LETTER V BOULOGNE, September 12, 1763.

[55] Smollet, ibid., LETTER VIII To MR. M-- LYONS, October 19, 1763.

[56] Mercier, Tableau de Paris

[57] Brillat-Savarin, Physiologie du goût, ou Méditations de gastronomie transcendante, page 245

[58] Franklin, “La Cuisine”, pp. 210-11

[59] Madame de Genlis, Manuel de Voyage à l’Usage des François en Allemagne, Berlin, 1799, pp. 54-56

[60] Proceedings of the Old Bailey 1674 to 1834  (on-line database) – references, respectively: t17390117-7 (January 17, 1739), t17200427-43 (April 27, 1720), t17290416-69  (April 16, 1729), t17301016-1 (October 16, 1730), t17320906-27 (September 6, 1732). t17240226-78 (February 26, 1724),  t17350416-68 (April 16, 1735), t17331205-52 (December 5, 1733)

[61] Smollet, Roderick Random, chapters X, XV, XXVI, XLI

[62] Grivetti, on-line

[63] C18-L post by Stewart Abbot -

[64] Janet Schaw, Journal of a Lady of Quality; Being the Narrative of a Journey from Scotland to the West Indies, North Carolina, and Portugal, in the Years 1774 to 1776, London/New Haven, 1921, p. 99

[65] Grivetti, Nutrition Today, p. 27

[66] C18-L post by Joan Greenleaf -

[67] Schaw, p.52

[68] Georgian index ref

[69] Virginia Gazette, 1768 (The item is listed as news from ‘LONDON’.)

[70] Mémoires de la Société historique de Montréal,

[71] Douglas Smith

[72] John Adams, Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 1 AUGUST 1774 - AUGUST 1775: John Adams' Diary

[73] Grivetti, Nutrition Today, Volume 30, Number 3, May/June 1995, p. 129

[74] Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, reference dated January 2, 1766