Although breakfast has had a place on the morning table for almost all of modern history, the morning meal hasn’t always looked the same over the years. What was once a plate of sausage and eggs evolved to a powdered instant shake and then to some sliced avocado on toast.
But while some breakfast dishes, like eggs and bacon, have stood the test of time, there are some breakfast classics that are as frozen in history as those berries you just pulled out of your freezer to make a smoothie. These bygone breakfasts had been members of The Breakfast Club, trending for a period of time through the years, but are (for the most part) goners. Reminisce about these vintage breakfast dishes here—they likely nourished you as a child but haven’t been served since. And who knows—in 50 years, this list might even evolve to include smoothies and chicken and waffles.
See a classic milk toast recipe in the New England Cook Book.
Spam became a household name during World War II, intended to mimic meat which was rationed during the war. Affordable, it was labeled as “pork, with ham meat added” along with some salt, water, modified potato starch and a preservative. Spam was used in many recipes, not just for breakfast, although it was a breakfast staple. Today, the canned cooked meat gets a bad rap in many parts of the country, but not in Hawaii, where you still will find spam and eggs for breakfast—typically with rice added to the dish, too.
This fried cornmeal flatbread dish dates to the Native Americans. The recipe, published in the 1909 New England Cook Book, was easy: It featured cornmeal, boiled water and salt, and the end result resembled pancakes.
Johnnycakes still sometimes make an appearance on menus in the Midwest and parts of the South and are savored in Rhode Island and in some Caribbean countries, too. Who’s Johnny? Nobody knows for sure, and the belief is that most likely there was no Johnny. While one claim, published in the 1956 The New England Cook Book, was that travelers needed food to break their fast and these “journey cakes” kept him nourished, the more likely etymology is that the name is derived from the word “janiken,” which means corn cake.
You may also be familiar with “hoecakes,” which use a similar recipe to Johnnycakes. However, the main difference lies in the original method of preparation: Hoecakes were likely baked on a large iron hoe over a fire.
While they’re still pretty popular in Great Britain, if you lived on this side of the pond—especially in Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Pittsburgh—you may have had the whimsically-named dish back in the day. The eggs were cooked sunny side up, making them perfect for dipping toast into the runny yolk. The toast is sometimes called “soldier toast,” too.
Another kiddie-favorite breakfast comfort food, this dish was all about toast, butter, and cinnamon sugar. The toast was sometimes cut into fun-loving shapes or the crusts were cut off, but it was really all about the warm, buttery, cinnamon-sugar topping that tugged at hearts. This is nostalgic comfort food for sure.
Think “Yorkshire pudding,” and you’ve kinda got a popover. It’s similar to the pudding in that it is light, hollow and eggy and was especially popular in New England. Served warm with butter and jam, the popover is believed to have popped up in kitchens and in cookbooks in the 1850s. In Portland, Oregon, another version, Portland popover pudding was popular. You can find an original popover recipe in the New England Cook Book.
This instant oatmeal, flavored with maple, was an instant success when it showed up on the breakfast scene in the early 1950s. It was a novelty, and if you didn’t actually eat it, boomers probably remember the catchy marketing jingle, “I want my Maypo.” Maypo has been reimagined with a recipe that includes quinoa and is again for sale in grocery stores. But, the retro Maypo of many childhoods is no longer.
New York City is where this hot toasted wheat cereal was born in 1879, specifically in a neighborhood bakery on Mulberry Street, or so it is believed. It’s had a good run, through the centuries, and yes, it is still around, produced now in Pennsylvania. But it’s not nearly as popular as it was back in the day.