MUNDANE MYSTERIES: What Makes A Breakfast “Continental”?

Let’s be honest: the best part about staying in a hotel isn’t the free toiletries or the crisp sheets on comfy beds…it’s the free breakfast. The best place to start your day is at an all-you-can-eat buffet, after all. But what makes a continental breakfast “continental”.

American-style waffles & bagels don’t have anything to do with it. “Continental” breakfasts were actually modeled after the light morning meals common throughout the European continent. Hence, the word “continental.”

As hotels popped up across the country, they began offering a lighter alternative to our usual, heavy American breakfasts, serving up things like coffee, juices, breads, pastries, and fruits. It was a 100% win-win situation for everyone involved: not only did the buffet please European tourists’ palates, but it was also cheap & easily provided by pretty much all hotels.

This wasn’t the kind of meal that we Americans were used to, though. In fact, when hotels first began serving light breakfasts in the late 1800s & early 1900s, American eaters were outraged. They wondered, “Where are the greasy, juicy sausages…along with the copious amounts of eggs?” Thanks to advice from the national publication Harper’s Weekly, though, those thoughts were ultimately banished from American minds (and stomachs). U.S. travelers eventually warmed to the idea, and thus “Continental” breakfasts became the hotel staple we’ve all come to know & love.

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