As the Simply Orange juice company has pointed out, nothing gets New Yorkers' nipples hard like indulging in gratuitously long, overpriced meals based around the pancake family. And if hurricanes can't keep us from brunch, then you can bet that a hangover wouldn't stop us either. But did you know that brunch really was specifically created to cure hangovers?
English writer Guy Beringer is credited with first proposing the idea for the meal in his 1895 essay “Brunch: A Plea." In the piece, which was published in Hunter's Weekly, he argues that brunch would serve as the perfect remedy for Sunday morning hangovers—and it could be the perfect social gathering at which to share stories of Saturday night's debauchery:
Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a post church ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well. Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, and it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.
The term brunch has a second origin in the U.S.: many credited it to reporter Frank Ward O’Malley who wrote for the NY newspaper The Sun from 1906 until 1919. It was reportedly based on the typical mid-day eating habits of a newspaper reporter. It seems O'Malley, whom H.L. Menchken called "one of the best reporters America has ever known," had a reputation for phrasemaking, with such gems as, "Life is just one damned thing after another."
Brunch finally took off in America in the 1930s in Chicago; according to Evan Jones, author of ”American Food: The Gastronomic Story,” it became popular because movie stars, celebrities, and the wealthy would stop for late morning meals while taking transcontinental train rides. After a decline in American churchgoers post-WWII, Jones explained to the NY Times why brunch gripped the nation like a fever: “We like to sleep in Sundays, read the newspapers and loll in bed. After the World War II generation went away from church altogether, Sunday became a day to enjoy doing nothing and brunch just grew like topsy”.
Of course, none of this explains how brunch went from a meal designed to help cure hangovers to an overpriced excuse to drink in the middle of the day, but sometimes it's best not to question these things too much.