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To the ancient Egyptians who laboured on the Pyramids, it was their main meal of the day: bread, beer and onions. For ancient Britons, it was often a kind of porridge made from ground-up grains of barley or wheat. Ancient Roman soldiers also started the day with a kind of porridge, similar to today’s polenta, made from wheat or barley. In Britain today, it ranges from a bowl of cereal – of which more later – to pastries and “the full English” (or Scottish, or the “Ulster Fry”). It’s been described as the most important meal of the day, a way of replenishing a depleted body with calories, fats and protein. 

And yet for several centuries in Britain, breakfast almost disappeared. This was thanks to the religious beliefs that held sway in the Middle Ages, in particular those of St Thomas Aquinas, the influential Italian priest and philosopher, who believed that “breaking the fast” too early in the day was to commit the sin of gluttony. So for many medieval people, there were just two meals in the day. There were exceptions: labourers, for instance, who needed the calories, were permitted to eat breakfast (perhaps some bread, cheese and ale), as were children, the elderly and the infirm. But it was not something to be enjoyed, and it was certainly not a social event.

Incidentally, the drinking of ale or beer for breakfast was not a sign of mass drunkenness – ale and beer during this period were relatively weak. Drinking this “small beer” (hence the phrase) was a much healthier alternative to water, which carried all kinds of risks.

Breakfast comes back

As time went on and the authority of organised religion began to wane, breakfast grew in popularity. The arrival of chocolate from South America was also a major event – people across Europe loved drinking it so much, the Catholic church was forced to relax its strictures, ruling that “liquid doesn’t break the fast”. Products such as bacon from Wiltshire began to make their way on to the nation’s breakfast tables, paving the way for today’s traditional breakfast. 

The industrial revolution sealed the status of breakfast as an essential meal. A day’s hard labour in the factories required calories that could only be provided by a substantial breakfast. Bread, dripping, gruel and perhaps some fish (which was a relatively inexpensive source of protein) would have been a typical breakfast for working people. 

Meanwhile the middle- and upper-class Victorians saw breakfast as a way of displaying their wealth and status, giving rise to epic breakfasts featuring kidneys, kedgeree, porridge, bacon, eggs, and so on, served from sideboards and eaten around a grand table. This high-status breakfast began to trickle down the class system; the classic “greasy spoon” fry-up that became popular in workers’ cafés is essentially an imitation of the English upper-class breakfast. 

In Victorian and Edwardian Britain, these worker’s “caffs” were part of every high street – a place where the early-rising working classes could set themselves up with a breakfast of eggs, bacon, fried bread, tea and toast (coffee was still seen as something a bit “posh”). They were also popular among late-night revellers seeking an early-morning hangover cure. These cafés were simply furnished with rows of wooden tables and chairs, later with Formica table-tops and counters. 
Though changes in working patterns mean that many of these places have closed down, some classic examples remain – among them the Regency Café in central London, which has featured in films such as Layer Cake and Brighton Rock.

Regency Café in central London

A flaky inventor

In America, the connection between breakfast and religion resurfaced in the late 19th century in the curious beliefs of John Harvey Kellogg. Seventh Day Adventists believed in a bland vegetarian diet that would suppress “passions”. Kellogg, himself an Adventist, set to work creating a breakfast cereal that would meet these requirements. Cornflakes were the result, and Kellogg hoped that his invention would reduce excessive sexual intercourse and other habits. (Kellogg later created Rice Krispies, whose exciting “snap, crackle and pop” seemed to be at odds with his desire for a life without passions or stimulation.)
Like many American inventions, cornflakes spread across the world, and today cornflakes and other cereals are an essential part of many breakfast tables. There is even a chain of hipster cafés, the Cereal Killer Café, serving a huge range of breakfast cereals in eclectically-furnished surroundings. The chain has two cafés in London, as well as branches in Kuwait City and Dubai.

Continental style

Meanwhile as people travelled and adopted more cosmopolitan eating habits, the continental breakfast began to take hold: fresh orange juice, Danish pastries, croissants, and of course coffee. When coffee first arrived in the UK it was not seen as a morning drink – the coffee houses that thrived in the 17th and 18th centuries were open all hours. But the continental European habit of drinking coffee at breakfast began to take hold throughout the 20th century. 

Continental breakfast

Another major influence on our breakfasting habits has been health. These days, fewer of us are manual labourers, so we need fewer calories; a greasy spoon breakfast made to be burnt off in a day’s heavy work is not ideal for a sedentary desk job. There has also been a backlash against sugary cereals – a 50g serving of a typical cereal contains at least two teaspoons of sugar. Hence the emergence of healthier, lower-sugar cereals such as granola and muesli – and the resurgent popularity of porridge.

Bringing back breakfast

For several decades, even centuries, breakfast was a meal shared by the family at the start of the day. Changes in working habits, the rising number of working women and the time-pressed nature of modern life have changed this, so that today around 28 per cent of us eat breakfast “on the go”. Many of us wait until we are at our desks, grabbing a coffee and a croissant or a muffin on the way to work. A substantial number of us skip it altogether – contrary to the health advice which says it is the most important meal of the day.

Full English breakfast

But the rise in café culture is helping to bring back breakfast. The good news for owners of cafés is that Britons now spend around £13 billion a year eating out for breakfast (according to a 2016 survey by the hotel chain Travelodge). Breakfast is seen as a chance to sit in comfortable surroundings eating and drinking healthy, freshly-made food and beverages. For the new army of self-employed and freelance workers, a café with wi-fi offers a chance to combine work with breakfast. 

So if you are the owner of a café, a coffee shop or even a pub (which seem to have been slow to take advantage of the breakfast market), you could be capitalising on the nation’s changing eating habits. Today’s customers want wi-fi, pleasant surroundings, proper coffee, healthy options, and a chance to spread out at a table with a laptop, a tablet or a newspaper. And as traditional mealtimes become blurred, breakfast can last well into mid-morning, when it begins to merge into brunch and then lunch. So, be prepared to be flexible in your offering. Create areas where customers can sit and linger over breakfast, perhaps with a couple of small armchairs or even a sofa and a low table

It’s all a far cry from the beer, bread and onions eaten by those ancient Egyptians.

Summer is a time for tables to really come into their own, and you can do so much better than dragging a hardwood dining table and straight-backed chairs into the garden when you want to indulge in some al fresco dining. 

Here are five ideas of how you can put the right furniture to good use outdoors, whether you want to make a fairly formal outdoor food area, or a casual platform to keep items well clear of the ground.

1. Picnic prep

Just because you're going for a picnic, it doesn't mean you can't take a table and chairs.

Folding chairs are an ever-popular option when you need to fit a few into your boot, while our folding tables include our amazingly space-saving six-foot folding plastic table, which has the option of a folding top that collapses down to just three feet.

With these, you can cater for larger groups - including older relatives who need a proper chair to sit on - while also giving you plenty of table top space to put the food, and shade underneath to keep drinks cool.

Useful links to our relevant product pages:

2. BBQ buffets

Again, give some thought to who will be attending your barbecue. If you need to cater for vegetarians, for instance, you might want to choose a larger table, like our 6-foot plywood folding table, and set out some snacks that are kept well clear of the meat.

You can add a 3-foot folding table as a staging area for the raw meat, so it's kept to one side well away from the cooked food, while using the larger table as a counter top to put out the food as it's cooked and ready.

Useful links to our relevant product pages:

3. Camping in comfort

It's useful to check what facilities are available on the campsite before you set off - you never know if they might have picnic tables, for example.

You might still want to pack some folding chairs if you want to make certain of having enough seats, as it can be awkward when some people have somewhere to sit, while others are cross-legged on the floor.

For ultimate portability, pack some of our banquet seat pads, which you can attach to any suitable seat using the Velcro straps, or just use as a cushion in their own right for a padded place to sit at short notice.

In this way, you can take a cushion for everyone in your party, while taking up the bare minimum of space in your car boot or in your rucksacks - which leaves more room to take some outdoor games like cricket or tennis to enjoy in the summer sunshine!

Useful links to our relevant product pages:


4. Brunch on the beach

Beach trips can be surprisingly furniture-friendly, as unlike most rough outdoor ground, you can always get a table level on sand - just push each leg down into the sand a little to level it out, and use a cup of water as a makeshift spirit level if needed.

We've already mentioned our folding tables, but if you have a bit more space - in the back of a mobile home or a van, for instance - why not pack one of our Strassa outdoor tables?

The spiral legs are easy to level out on sand and as an outdoor table, it's designed to withstand the elements when used in the open air.

Many of our outdoor chairs are space-conscious too, so again, if you're travelling in a van you might find you have room to pack a few stacking chairs, or you can opt for folding chairs again instead.

Again outdoor chairs are designed to resist all kinds of substances, so you don't have to worry so much about getting sunscreen on them - and you can always throw a towel over them if you prefer to shield them against any sun cream transference.

Useful links to our relevant product pages:


5. Summer of sport

Last but not least, the summer of 2018 is a big one for sport, with early July bringing Wimbledon, the British Grand Prix and the Football World Cup from Russia too.

If you're planning to attend any outdoor sporting events where seating isn't provided as standard, our M Stools are a stylish and lightweight option with an attractive light oak finish, for an instant seat wherever you need it.

They're pretty portable too, so if you and your friends are taking it in turns to host on match days, it's easy to transport your stools to wherever they are needed - you might want to each represent a World Cup host city, for instance, before choosing the best location overall for the big party on grand final day.

Folding tables are a storage-friendly stalwart of wedding buffets and Christmas dinners, but there are plenty of more innovative uses for even the most basic trestle table.

Here are five of the best ways to use folding tables around the house - from the more familiar to some fun and even surprising alternatives.

A versatile addition

First of all, it's worth taking a moment to appreciate the versatility of folding tables for the most common uses.

With legs that fold flat to the table top, they can be stored away against a wall, under other furniture, or anywhere from a good-sized store cupboard to a garage or shed.

On commercial premises, table trolleys allow for several folding tables to be placed in position quickly and easily, with minimal manual lifting required.

Clubs and games

A folding table makes an excellent platform for all kinds of board games, card games and war games like Warhammer 40,000.

Round tables let everyone face each other, with smaller diameters of 90-120cm when you want to get up close and personal with your opponents.

Larger tables can suit more ambitious war game maps or accommodate several laptops for LAN parties, with diameters up to 150-180cm.

Sales and fetes

Few people really sell directly from a car boot anymore, and a folding table will often fit in your vehicle so you can set up a proper display on arrival.

You can use trestle tables for other kinds of sales too, such as books, clothing and general jumble sales, lemonade stands and bake sales.

For food and drink sales, a rectangular trestle table with a plastic top makes good sense, as any spillages are easily wiped away in an instant rather than soaking into exposed wood grain.

DIY and decorating

Around the house, folding tables can do more than just Christmas dinner, as a larger rectangular trestle table gives you a four-foot plywood top suitable for use in wallpapering and other household DIY jobs.

Smaller tables are a good way to keep all your tools and materials for a specific job in one place and in easy reach, and can be brought out in moments when the kids want to turn their hand to arts and crafts in a confined space.

If you're running out of room in a property where the children rule the roost, consider a small folding table as a way to reclaim some floor space and encourage them to keep it clear for when the table is needed.

Shovelling snow

And finally, one Canadian man went viral after appearing in a video posted online that showed him using a square folding table to clear snow from his driveway.

Although he eventually fetched a shovel to finish the job, the video proves that a square table works pretty well to clear a fixed width of pavement all at once.

It's just one example of a truly innovative use for folding furniture - and hopefully offers some inspiration for how you might use folding tables in the future too.

Whether you have a permanent table you use for work, a dining table that's heaving with paperwork when it's not dinner time, or a folding table that you just call into action when it's needed, there are always ways to use your table space more effectively for peak productivity.

1. Home office desk

More and more people have the option of flexible working, so make sure you're equipped to be productive when working from home - especially if it's something you do regularly.

That doesn't have to mean getting a boring desk - your home office doesn't have to look corporate - so opt for something that maximises your workspace without stifling your creativity.

2. Tech tricks

You can pay through the nose for a modern desk with holes cut out for cables - or you can save a packet by doing it yourself.

Buy a simple wood-topped table and you can drill the right sized holes wherever you need them, so if your workspace is a forest of gadgets and gizmos, there's no need to trail all the cables to a single hole in the far corner of the desktop.

3. Writing table

If you have a lot of correspondence to keep up with, it's smart to equip your desk for this with the addition of stationary holders, in-trays and a couple of box files to keep loose papers organised.

You might even want to add a groove in the desktop using a router (the woodworking kind, not the networking kind) so you have somewhere to put your pen without it rolling away.

4. Sensible storage

All kinds of tables can be augmented with the addition of storage space, for example by attaching shelves to the underside of the tabletop.

When you have a dedicated desk for crafts and creativity, you're free to install the specific storage that suits your needs, so everything you need in easy reach has its own place to live.

5. Mood board

If you're into crafts or work in a creative role, why not keep a table laid out on a mood board? A simple square table doesn't take up too much space but gives you a worktop on which to put anything that's inspiring you right now.

This makes it easy to pair up different influences, whether to combine contrasting elements to create something new, or to work out colour schemes you want to include in your work - all at your fingertips whenever you need it.

The Trent Furniture team invited a local photographer to take a look at the team in action and here is the end result.

Exclusive insight into the Trent Furniture team...

In this section of our site you get an exclusive snapshot into some of our latest furniture snapshots as well as a sneak peak into our furniture specialists daily lives

Our expert furniture team finishing a new wooden chair order:

Expert upholsterers in action - Rob from Trent Furniture

An insight into our furniture storage facilities and warehousing in Leicester:

Trent Furniture warehouse and storage facilities

Some of the tools of the trade:

Upholstery tools – tacks and hammer

Brighten up any space with some of our customer furniture favourites (in this case metal stacking chairs in stunning colours):

Stacking chairs in various colours

The finishing touches that make our furniture perfect for any occasion: 

Expert building and finishing a wooden chair

The chairs of choice for many a cafe and bistro business: 

metal stacking chairs - modern design


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