The Gemara in Masechet Berachot (41a) tells us: “Rav Papa said: The Halacha is that foods eaten during the meal as part of the meal do not require a blessing neither before nor after eating them.” This means that any foods that are eaten during a bread meal, for instance meat, fish, and the like, would not require their appropriate blessings before eating them during the meal, for all foods eaten during a meal are already exempt through the blessing of “Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha’aretz.” Similarly, beverages drunk during the meal do not require a blessing for beverages are also exempt with the “Hamotzi” blessing.
The Reason Why Blessings are Not Recited on Foods Eaten During a Meal
At first glance, it would seem that the reason why no blessing is recited on foods eaten during a meal is because of the law of the primary and secondary foods, meaning that when one has a dish consisting of two types of food before him, one should recite the blessing upon the primary food and thus exempts the secondary food. For instance, the blessing on a dish of rice and lentils is “Boreh Minei Mezonot” for the rice is the primary food and the lentils are only secondary to it. Thus, it would seem in our case that since the bread has special significance, it is considered the primary food of the meal and the blessing on the bread exempts any food that is eaten during the course of the meal.
Nevertheless, the Gemara recounts that Ben Zoma was asked why foods eaten during the meal do not require a blessing to which he replied, “Since the bread exempts them.” The Ritba explains that this is not based on the Halacha of the secondary food (meaning that the bread does not exempt the other foods because it is the primary foods and all other foods are secondary), for a food is not considered secondary unless it is eaten together with the primary food (such the salads and dips served nowadays at the beginning of the meal which are actually eaten with bread); however, foods not actually eaten with the bread cannot be considered secondary to the bread.
The Ritba continues and explains that the reason why one does not bless on foods eaten during the meal is because regarding any other foods served after it, the bread is considered “the main part of the meal.” This means that bread retains a unique law in that, as a result of its innate significance, it exempts any other foods eaten throughout the meal even if these foods are not eaten together with the bread.
Thus, even foods such as fish and meat which are not eaten together with bread would not require a blessing within a bread meal since they have already been exempted by the blessing on the bread in the beginning of the meal.
Summary: Foods that are served during a bread meal and are eaten as part of the meal, meaning that they are eaten to nourish and satiate, such as fish or meat, do not require their own blessing since they have already been exempted with the blessing on the bread.
Foods served at the end of a meal as dessert, such as fruits, require a blessing since they are not eaten as part of the meal at all. We shall, G-d-willing, discuss the laws of cakes and cookies served at the end of a meal on a different occasion.