This week we look fondly at an institution on both sides of the Pond - breakfast.
Two of the sweetest words this side of the Atlantic are “Full” and “English,” especially when spoken together and most especially when you happen to be in a traditional country inn. But even in Little Chef, the Full English Breakfast is an event worthy of starting your day off with.
For those of you not in the know, these are the ingredients of a full English Breakfast:
- Sautéed mushrooms
- Fried tomato
- Fried bread (bread soaked in fat and fried in fat)
- Baked beans
- Fried potatoes
The best part is you get countless variations. You don’t have to have all the items, you can order your eggs scrambled or grilled (or “over easy” if you want to see a puzzled look on your waitress) and, if you ask nicely, you can substitute extra bacon for the sausage.
I have to admit it took me a while to work into the English breakfast; there was something about baked beans in the early morning, or sautéed mushrooms and fried tomatoes that just made me long for a good old American pancake. Gradually, however, I made peace with each item—even the tomato—and can now order a “Full English” without having to make substitutions.
Granted, not everyone eats a Full English for breakfast every day over here, just as no one eats a pile of pancakes dripping with butter and syrup every morning in the States. Mostly I have a cup of coffee and a breakfast bar, just as I did when I was living in America. But here, I have the option, and when it is presented, I take it.
The only thing better than the Full English breakfast is the Full Scottish breakfast, or the Full Irish; I get them confused. Whichever it is, it has black pudding (blood mixed with oatmeal and stuffed in pig intestine) on its roster, and that is a treat indeed.
So, although I'm a fan of the big American breakfast, I have to admit that the first meal of the day holds a bit more variety over here in Britain.
Well I’m surprised at that. I mean, take a look at this typical American breakfast menu for variety. Doesn’t it make your mouth water?
Americans seem to have a love/hate relationship with breakfast. Even though we’re constantly told that it’s the most important meal of the day, during the week many people don’t eat anything before rushing out the door. TV shows and movies where you see workers coming into the office with a gallon of coffee and a giant muffin or Danish, are fairly representative. At our school, the younger kids are given a snack at about 9.30am each day, mainly because so many of them come in having had a “breakfast drink” and nothing else.
Come the weekend however, it’s all about the breakfast. In Chicago, many restaurants serve breakfast and it’s quite the social event, with Americans lingering over their plates for far longer than the twenty minutes usually allotted to meals. That’s partly because it takes at least ten minutes to read the menu, and then another ten to make to decide what to have. The egg options alone can take up a full page, with eggs benedict, florentine, scrambled, omelet, devilled, fritatta, over-easy and sunny side-up (basically a fried egg with the yolk still runny) to name a few. Also on your plate will probably be hash browns or other small, fried potatoes, bacon, sausages (pathetic apologies thereof) and even pancakes. Although I've been here for almost two decades, I still can't have pancakes on the same plate because the acoompanying maple syrup drenches not only the pancakes, but everything else too. Sausages and syrup. Yuck!
And if you plump for a seemingly healthier option, be warned, your breakfast will still feed a small army. Granola ( like museli) will come in between layers of yogurt and topped with fruit, looking more like a Sundae than a breakfast dish. Franch Toast usually comes with a huge dollop of cream and a pound of fruit on top. It's no wonder many Americans eat "brunch" instead of breakfast - and then don't eat much for the rest of the day! Like the Full English, it's not something most people could (or should) eat every day.
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