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Food Culture: Daily Meals


The first meal of the day in the United States can be a simple cup of coffee or an elaborate meal. Cold cereal with milk, scrambled and fried eggs, and omelets are breakfast staples. Toast and bagels are served with a selection of jams, cream cheese, butter, and other toppings. When time permits, pancakes, waffles, French toast, or skillet potatoes are commonly served alongside crisp bacon or sausage. Coffee, tea, milk, and fruit juices—especially orange juice—are typical breakfast beverages.


On weekends, brunch is widely popular. Taking place in the late morning and early afternoon, brunch is typically a leisurely meal that is most commonly served at restaurants because it involves many different types of foods. Popular brunch foods include eggs benedict, waffles, omelets, and hamburgers with free-flowing mimosas, coffee, and sodas.


The midday meal is usually a quick meal of on-the-go food. Lunch breaks typically range from a half hour to an hour between noon and 1 pm.  Homemade sandwiches or packed leftovers from dinner are popular and economical options, but many also opt for ready-made meals. Lunch service is big business at food trucks, grocery stores, restaurants, and fast-food chains in the United States.


Dinner is the largest meal of the day in the United States. Taking place between 5 and 8 pm, dinner typically consists of a meat entrée with a starchy side—often potatoes—and, sometimes, vegetables. Fish is available in coastal areas, but chicken and beef are some of the highest-consumed foods in the United States. Roasted or fried chicken, steak, meatloaf, and hamburgers all pair well with mashed, roasted, or au gratin potatoes and French fries—sometimes smothered with a rich gravy. Pasta and rice dishes appear in a variety of cuisines, including jambalaya, fried rice, cold pasta salad, spaghetti, various Asian noodle dishes and soups, and macaroni and cheese. Salad and canned, sautéed, roasted, and grilled vegetables are common side dishes. Breakfast foods at dinnertime are a popular treat sometimes eaten for convenience. Many Americans choose the further convenience of restaurant take-out, frozen dinners, fast food, or delivery dinners.  Dessert usually follows dinner, with almost endless options including ice cream, cookies, cake, and pie.


Snacking is prevalent in the United States, and both sweet and salty treats are eaten between meals. Popular savory snack foods include popcorn, chips, granola bars, trail mix, and crackers, while sweet options include an array of candies, cookies, flavored yogurt, and fruit. More formal snacking is available at restaurants and bars during “happy hour,” which usually occurs between 5 and 6pm. Drinks and finger foods are the popular fare. Americans also enjoy late-night, or so-called “midnight,” snacks before going to bed.

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