80 years of morning meals

An exploration into British breakfast habits
What do you enjoy for breakfast? Are you a cornflakes person? Cured bacon? Perhaps a continental croissant?

To celebrate 80 years of the English Breakfast Tea, expert tea company Twinings have looked back in time to explore how our breakfast habits have changed from the 1930s until the present day. From the indulgence of the Art Deco era, to post war austerity, to the health fever which gripped at the turn of the millennium, it is fascinating to see which dishes have stood the test of time, and which turned out to be no more than a foodie fad.

Twinings have taken this breakfast bonanza one step further and predicted what we'll all be eating in 80 years' time. Beware: it's less croissants, more dried crickets...

1930s: Deco Decadence

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The 1930s was a decade of dreams for some, with an unprecedented property boom, increased consumer spending on the home and growing car ownership, contrasted with despair for others as unemployment and its associated privations soared. Britain still ruled an empire that influenced many aspects of life at home, while extremes in politics would end the decade with armed conflict.

Kedgeree has its roots in Indian cooking as khichari, a humble dish of rice and lentils. But thanks to the British Raj the dish was adopted, adapted and brought to Britain where it became a stable of the British breakfast table. It is one of many breakfast dishes that, in the days before refrigeration, could turn yesterday's leftovers into a hearty and appealing breakfast dish.

Art Deco was an influential design style, emerging during the interwar period when rapid industrialization was transforming culture. It embraced technology and combined the imagery of the machine age with rich colours and bold, geometric shapes. Art Deco represented one aspirational extreme of the period - luxury, glamour and exuberance – together with faith in social and technological progress.

1940s: Austere Times

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Although the Second World War in Europe ended in 1945, the drastic effects of the conflict lasted for the rest of the decade and beyond. Britain’s economy was exhausted and the country was a spent international power. However, the post war government introduced radical social reform and welfare state agendas with the intention of creating a new Britain from the ashes of war.

Rationing, introduced with the war to deal with extreme shortages, affected most foodstuffs, including the basics for the British breakfast table - bacon, butter, cheese, sugar, jam, breakfast cereals, eggs, milk, canned and dried fruit and tea.

Austerity encouraged ingenuity, and the Ministry of Food issued many nutritional and cooking leaflets, often dedicated to specific topics such as the magic of carrots, supported by demonstrations in stores and short films at the cinema.

Some aspects of rationing became stricter for some years after the war. Indeed, bread was not rationed until 1946 when the National Loaf of wholemeal bread replaced the ordinary white variety for two years. This was considered the height of austerity and led to protests by the British Housewives’ League and the Master Bakers’ Federation.

The style of this period exhibits all the contradictions that can arise from a society in a general state of shock and unsure of what the future would hold. People had to manage with less and manufacturing reflected these austere times.

1950s: New Look

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The drive for modernity in rebuilding Britain changed the nation forever. The Festival of Britain in 1951 presented a progressive view of the future, while the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 heralded a nation’s hopes for a brighter future, leaving behind the privations of the past. Things did slowly improve, and by 1957 Prime Minister Harold Macmillan announced that "most of our people have never had it so good”.

Rationing in Britain did not completely finish until 1954: tea was still on ration until 1952, sugar and eggs until 1953, and cheese and meats finally came off ration in 1954.

‘Go to work on an egg’ was an advertising campaign introduced in 1957 by the United Kingdom's Egg Marketing Board to promote eating an egg for breakfast as the best way to start the working day.

As the 1950s progressed, Britain experienced a boom in consumerism. For many, especially those setting-up home for the first time and the young, it was out with the old and in with the new. The influence of Scandinavian design, characterized by simplicity and functionality, became increasingly important. However, traditional floral patterns remained the mainstay.

1960s: Fashionable Convenience
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The 1960s was a time of increasing anti-establishment feeling, young people openly questioning and opposing the older generation. Pop music became a dominant form of expression for this increasingly vociferous generation, and sexual attitudes changed, heralded by the publication in 1960 of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover by Penguin Books. And throughout the decade immigration from former British colonials into the UK began to escalate, the start of the road to multicultural Britain.

The first supermarkets opened, mainly in larger town centres, and tinned foods continued to be the most common convenience food, providing out-of-season fruit for consumption all year round. The large white sliced loaf became ever more popular after 1961 when a new method of aerating bread to create the standard slice was invented.

Also during the 1960s margarine started to be packed the way we know it today, soft and spreadable in tubs, while at the end of the decade the first low fat (40%) margarine was launched.

Science fiction was a huge influence on design in the 1960s – the future was going to have lots of gadgets to make life easier in the house. Design utilised new manufacturing techniques such as moulded plastics and metals, creating household goods with clean, lines, whether smooth curves or sharp, square edges.

1970s: The Rise of the Full English

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The 1970s were desperately difficult years for Britain, both politically and economically: industrial strife, the Winter of Discontent, increasing unemployment and terrorist attacks in mainland Britain. However, most ordinary families were better off than ever before.

The cultural texture of British life probably changed more quickly during the 1970s than during any other post-war decade. As late as 1971, women were banned from going into Wimpy Bars on their own after midnight on the grounds that the only women out on their own at that hour must be prostitutes. Yet only eight years after that rule was lifted, Margaret Thatcher was walking into Downing Street as Britain's first woman Prime Minister. There could hardly be a better symbol of change.

The full breakfast is a staple of traditional British fare. First popularized by the Victorians who dallied over leisurely breakfasts, the fried breakfast of the 1970s became the standard breakfast offered by B&Bs and fuelled Britain through this period of social change.

Design in the 1970s incorporated bright colours and new shapes, reflecting the realities of the modern world forged in the crucible of mass abundance. A feeling of romanticism was evident in the arts, the ever-popular imagery of the poppy reproduced on textiles, ceramics and in TV adverts.

1980s: Continental Chic

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The 1980s is often regarded as the decade in which so much of modern Britain was formed. The government of Margaret Thatcher introduced monetarist economics, an aggressive foreign policy, the privatisation of industry and a commitment to shrinking the state and empowering enterprise, while creating a new generation of homeowners – taken together, what some now view as having encouraged a climate of individual greed.

For the ever-growing number of households where both adults worked, the increasing availability of convenience foods during the 1980s was essential, being quick and easy to prepare after a long day at work. However, for many the 1980s was also a time of prosperity and eating out. Nouvelle Cuisine was the new dining experience, focusing on fresh ingredients and perfect presentation. The influence of continental travel continued to grow, and breakfast foods reflected this.

The nation was enthralled by the romance of royal weddings, and in design modernity vied with reflective interpretations of the past, influenced by fashion. The phrase ‘designer’ added value, both monetary and symbolic, to numerous everyday items and individual designers became powerful international icons.

1990s: Influence from Over the Pond

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The 1990s was the decade of the Gulf War, the dotcom boom, New Labour and the death of Princess Diana. But for many who came of age then it is the period when Britain became a different place - or it felt like it did, at least.

There was a burgeoning club culture, a new wave of home-grown music, and Brit Art shook the world. This national resurgence of creative talent, with Euro 96 and the New Labour landslide of 1997, encouraged a widespread feeling of euphoria and optimism. Phrases like ‘cool Britannia’ and ‘girl power’ reflected this national confidence.

The food trends of the 1980s accelerated: supermarkets, takeaways and fast food restaurants increasingly took the job of preparing food out of the home.

Ironically though, as people were less inclined to use their spare time preparing food, cooking became more popular as a vicarious leisure activity. Celebrity chefs dominated many slots on TV and cookery books contributed to a boom in the book trade.

Produce became extremely varied in the 1990s, with supermarkets stocking a much wider range of exotic fruits and vegetables, and new styles of food introduced from around the world, including America, became popular.

Influenced by pop culture and youth movements, much popular design was bold, over-sized and colourful, mocking bourgeois good taste.

2000s: Healthy Indulgence
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Perhaps more than any other moment in history, the turn of the millennium and the arrival of a new decade was marked with a mixture of hope, scepticism and speculation. The decade soon experienced terror and war on a global scale, and ended with financial meltdown from which we are still reeling.

But this was also the decade that freed us up – to tweet Tony Blair, talk face-to-face through via computer or broadcast yourself on YouTube. The noughties were good for food. The biggest consumer trend was to rediscover local, honest foods that had slowly disappeared in post-war Britain: vegetables sourced from local smallholdings at the weekly farmers' market, farmhouse cheeses made from raw milk, grass-fed native breeds of beef, pork and mutton, fish from south coast day boats and foraging for wild plants, known collectively by the food industry as ‘retro innovation’.

In design, there was a backlash against the boldness and excess of the previous decade. Clean lines exemplified a new approach to life, which created a blank canvas on which creativity has since been unleashed. Plus ça change!

2093: Future Forward Breakfast

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Masterchef winner Tim Anderson has imagined a typical breakfast in 2093. By then, breakfast will undoubtedly be influenced by three emerging, enduring, trends: sustainability, technology and personalisation. But whatever the fare, Twinings tea will remain at the heart of the Great British Breakfast.

We predict the British breakfast will continue to evolve as technology and raw ingredients change. There could be a tea machine that harnesses data - including weather information, available seasonal produce, even an individual’s own energy levels, health concerns, and moods - to create the perfect, personalised English Breakfast Tea each morning.

For more information on the English Breakfast Tea and Twining's full range of teas, visit www.twinings.co.uk