“THE DEFINITIVE FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST?

(Originally I published this on ,Tuesday, May 27, 2003 on the now defunk “BlogStudio” platform on my personal blog “Mind streaming”  which is still accessible but cannot be written to any longer.  Check it here  – scroll down to date stamp Mind Streaming .

U.K.CULTURE /FOOD/BREAKFAST

Traditionally here, the condemned prisoner was permitted the luxury of enjoying a final, hearty meal and this would usually, I presume, have been THE Full English Breakfast as tradition demanded morning executions just after sun rise and definitely before brunch, over here at least. It does seem a tad ironic to grant someone, about to have no further use for food, air etc, the luxury of a final meal. Traditionally the rather greasy ‘Full English’ is not the easiest of meals to keep down when you are hung-over, under the weather, or, for example, coping with the stress of knowing that, as soon as you’ve cleared your plate, they are going to take you out and hang you.

Gratuitous inclusion of photo of love of my life eating her breakfast at a B & B we stayed at!

The traditional British or Full English breakfast in its original , highly calorific, fat-saturated glory ,(when eaten by serious addicts on a long term, regular basis,) is a masochistic form of prolonged suicide. It is a dangerous and endangered species in it original form.

The traditional English Cooked Breakfast is just one example of something which is, we know, so, ridiculously bad for us, but so wonderful to indulge in, even on a now-and-then basis. It had its origins in providing people who did day-long hard physical work with high levels of fat and carbohydrates to build up energy reserves lost over night , and in the morning, when you’d literally break fast, well, that anonymous know-all, Everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, especially in terms of your proper dietary preparation , for fuelling the brain and body for the day’s activities.

In the fifties , Poly Saturate was a foreign sounding girl no one had yet heard of, nor had they, Col Esterol. People just dropped dead from, normally, so called , natural causes and predominantly, ( as they still do in Britain) they died eventually through variants of cardio-vascular disease encouraged by ‘unhealthy’ diet and lack of aerobic excercise. Those were the days when gradually clogging up your arteries, whilst eating, was an innocent national pastime that few then realised they were participating in.

The skillet ( heavy metal) or lighter gauge frying pan may once have been the convenient weapon of choice in out-of-control domestic disputes , and as far as I can guess, Coroners must have , over the years, recorded one or two ’causes of death’ attributed to a sharp blow to the head with a skillet or frying pan but none through over indulgence from too many breakfasts conceived in a fat pan.

In my childhood, frying and roasting food was done using glistening white slabs of pure animal fat called Dripping or Lard, which came in white greaseproof papered block form. Beef, Lamb and Pork, when roasted give off fat, which cools to a white solid mass. Dripping and lard would be bought in blocks from the local family butcher, small grocers or general store in those days before supermarkets killed off so many of our separate little food shops.

Bread and Dripping was a favourite, (in the North of England at least,) easy to make snack where a slice or two of bread was dipped and then fried in a hot frying pan of beef ‘dripping’, i.e. congealed then heated animal fat. It was delicious. Lard or dripping is rarely used these days, I presume for safety reasons, but bread is still fried, but in healthier variants of fat. Fried bread is an essential feature of the Full English Breakfast, as are rounds of buttered toast. Fats from roasted meat were not bland and carried meat flavours that gave fried bread a taste that can’t be reproduced properly with modern, ‘healthy option’ frying oils.

A popular slang phrase for the Full English Breakfast is the fry up, since many of the ingredients are traditionally cooked, at home at least, in various forms of fat ( depending on how health-conscious you are), in a frying pan. “Grease is the word” so to speak, and the Greasy Spoon is one of the generic slang terms for those traditional, often not awfully hygienic small street or ‘A’ Roadside cafes , ( which always seemed to be named after someone with a short name ( Joe’s Café ,Rita’s Cafe) that used to be so much in evidence. Here you might expect to find as much ‘cholesterol’ ( well grease) on the tables, walls, cutlery and crockery as there was on the glistening ‘fry up’ meals in front of you.

Now, interesting enough, linguistically, these ‘joints’ always had the acute accent over the ‘e’ on the shop front but the owners and most of the patrons, I recall, pronounced the word caf , “caff.” , which of course rhymes conveniently with “naff.”

The hotel menu’s that now offer either Continental (read stale croissant and mediocre stewedcoffee) or Full English Breakfast perpetuate the myth of the fried breakfast as a national, daily British food custom, whilst most of us, in reality simply don’t have the time in the morning to produce or consume it. The majority of us, I believe, partake of this ancient ritual mainly, these days on holidays, when staying in Bed and Breakfasts, (known as B & B’s) Guest Houses or hotels. Certainly, in our own household , the Full English is a daring now-and-again treat eaten with reckless disregard for personal safety and so enjoyed.

The other myth in the phrase is that there is an accepted, national definition of what constitutes the once sacred Full English Breakfast. Does this photograph on my most recent Saturday breakfast, fulfil all the requirements of that sacred title?

Praise the Lard!

England and indeed the United Kingdom has as many variants of the dish as there are regions within it. The dish you see here has most of the essentials bacon, sausage, eggs, baked-beans, mushrooms, but minus halved-fried tomatoes (and boiled plum tomatoes) and lacks the local delicacy called Black Pudding ( This is a northern speciality made from pig’s blood and fat, which comes in a chunky sausage shaped ‘chub’ , is cut into thick slices and fried.) You might expect too, to see triangles of toast , marmalade and other jams to complete the picture, and of course, either a cup of tea or coffee. Most Brits have abandoned the gentile cup and saucer in preference for the more practical, larger mug ( which, incidentally, I have never seen on the breakfast table in any English hotel I have ever stayed in.)

FURTHER READING

RIP FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST(Lament at the loss of this tradition)

ROUGH GUIDE TO MAKING THE FULL ENGLISH BREAKAST
( comes without a health warning)
PRAISE THE LARD (Rather more learned article than mine , about fat and related current food health issues and apparent myths.)

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