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At least in North America, eggs are most often eaten (or at least stereotypically eaten) for breakfast, sandwiches for lunch, and a big hearty meal for dinner, accompanied with a sweet dessert.

I understand that this isn't always the custom around the world. However, since it is a phenomenon that is so prevalent, one must wonder if there's a reason behind it, or if it's really just coincidence.

Are there taste advantages to eating particular types of foods in the morning, afternoon and night?

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Nutrition questions are outside of our scope, the tag has a very limited use and this question fell outside of it. As an answer appeared which discusses the nutrition side of the question, I edited that part out. –  rumtscho Oct 15 '13 at 14:15

4 Answers 4

Nutrition is outside of the scope of this site, so I wouldn't discuss that part even if I knew an answer to it.

And no, there are no taste advantages. If eggs were universally tasty in the morning only, nobody would have eggs for dinner, but there are cultures where this preference is actually the other way round. So, these preferences are all a coincidence.

They probably are not a pure coincidence. There could be a socio-economic reason for that. Let me spin a theory: Eggs are eaten for breakfast in cold climates, where the fire was kept going for the whole night, and the housewife could fry them in the morning. In hot climates, fire was made in the evening for cooking, and people fried their eggs then. The theory is completely bogus (I don't even know if there is a cold-hot separation in the egg-for-breakfast vs egg-for-dinner regions), but it is an example of how whimsical the real reason could be.

Still, from a culinary point of view, there is no reason for regional preferences. They just are.

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rumtscho's answer is right (upvoted it), it's more custom than anything. In parts of Holland, they eat cheese at breakfast, quite a lot of it. Most Brits these days eat cereal grains of some sort, replacing the old, common breakfast of bacon and eggs. From a nutritional point of view, eating protein in the morning isn't a bad thing to do - it keeps you from feeling hungry for up to four hours, and if you suffer from that sluggish, I can't get going feeling when you get up, eating protein (preferably without carbohydrates such as bread) will help with that. The protein doesn't have to be eggs, can be fish, meat or cheese. Some dieticians argue that we eat the wrong way round - we should have our largest meal in the morning, then a good lunch, with a supper or tea which is significantly smaller than the other meals at the end of the day, on the understanding that you'll be active throughout the day, but not particularly active in the evening.

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"From a nutritional point of view, eating protein in the morning isn't a bad thing to do": This is the sort of answer I was looking for. I guess it isn't particularly on-topic for the site though. Thanks, +1. –  LanceLafontaine Oct 15 '13 at 14:49

Traditionally energy availability is one of the biggest factors in what we eat, what we store, how we prepare it, and how and when we cook it

Energy for light, cooking, and food preservation used to be very expensive in time and money until the last century or so. It still is for around half the world’s population

When your only clock is the rising and sinking of the sun, routine becomes more prevalent and necessary

Your modern western stereotypical breakfast/lunch/dinner is now more a factor of the working week and the clocking on the "job" requirements, than energy and time availability. Check out some independant self-employed people, and see what strange food clocks they develop :-/

For example: The switch from the main meal being in the evening instead of midday only happened in the west in the last 100 years or less. Post WWII in many cases. Some western cultures still have their main meal at midday though

Also post WWII, post "Ford" era, the midday main meal was enjoyed at home. Farmers went to their house, workers walked home as you could only work where you could walk too due to lack of energy resource (time and money again). Many more people where self-employed and worked from home too. So going home for a big midday meal was not an issue, and having a long midday break was reasonable

Cultures have changed fast in the last century, what will happen next? I am going for 3D printed food machines in your pocket, though hopefully not an iChef as that would only use a limited ingredient menu :-)

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The reasons we eat specific foods at specific times are idiosyncratic cultural issues—which is a fancy way of saying "we don't know." The reasons are lost in the details of history.

While one can make educated speculation on any particular ingredient, in a specific culture or region, many times the specific factors that lead to a specific behavior have buried in the mists of time.

Sometimes, for recent food trends, there is a documented historical event—such as an advertising campaign—that leads to a chance in food habits. A specific example of this would be the wide-spread consumption of fried chicken (specifically Kentucky Fried Chicken brand) in Japan on Christmas. The company has spent a lot of money advertising to extend and preserve a trend that started when some US expatriates couldn't get turkey, and went looking for the next closest thing.

These are interesting and legitimate questions of food anthropology, but asking it in general for every food in every place is too broad. You have to ask, why this food in this place and this time to start to get intelligent answers, if you can find credible historical documents.

See also: Why does Mexican food taste dissonant with balsamic vinegar?

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To be fair, I expect the dominant "idiosyncratic" issues are simply that people don't have as much time to cook in the morning and are likely to be out of the house for lunch. It doesn't take a lot of mysterious lost details to keep people from making a roast three sides and a dessert by 7am. –  Jefromi Oct 15 '13 at 16:18
    
@Jefromi I am sure those reasons would dominate in terms of "why is cold cereal popular for breakfast in the US in the late 20th and early 21st centuries". :-) –  SAJ14SAJ Oct 15 '13 at 16:19

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