Sunday, July 19, 2009

Go to Work on an Egg

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:
- Eggs
- Bacon
- Sautéed mushrooms
- Fried tomato
- Fried bread (bread soaked in fat and fried in fat)
- Sausage
- 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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  1. "Sausages and syrup. Yuck!"

    Yum, you mean! My favorite sausages are the ones that are *already flavored with maple syrup*. Mmm.

    "Franch Toast usually comes with a huge dollop of cream and a pound of fruit on top"

    Not where I am...? That's Belgian Waffles. French Toast is pancakes, but in toast form :) You get syrup with them.

  2. I've never been able to use the word 'breakfast' over here without wincing, since a friend told me that her husband has two ding-dongs for breakfast every morning. Nooo.....

  3. Conuly - definitely must be a regional thing as the French Toast here is definitely, well, toast.
    Iota - oo err!

  4. And the French Toast on the attached menu is apparently made with batter, so it must be the pancake variety, whereas Mike refers to it as Eggy Bread, as do I. Interesting.

  5. Dont forget that with your Full English of eggs, bacon, sausages, tomatoes, beans,mushrooms and toast, you often get not just black pudding (salivate, salivate) but fried bread and ....wait for it ....bubble and squeak too! If that isnt worth a coronary I dont know what is.

  6. @iota
    I was going to say something about not being able to warm to meals involving baked beans, but seriously ding dongs for breakfast (or you know, ever)... EWWWWWWW!! That makes me want to eat nothing but plain yogurt for breakfast for the rest of my life.

    @Expat mum
    Never heard of French Toast that was anything other than eggy bread. A name I have mixed feelings about. On one hand it's a pretty unromantic name for one of my favorite foods, but it is a completely accurate description. Either way it was born to swim in maple syrup.

  7. Well, I mean to say that French toast is bread fried on the stove, of course, but the toppings are the same as for pancakes. Nothing special as far as it goes. The fruit and whipped cream is what you put on waffles - not anything you cook in a *skillet*.

  8. One of the first things I do upon arrival in England is plow (or "plough")into a Full English! Heaven on a plate.

    I crave that meal, unavailable in the US. Even self-styled English pubs don't bother.

    Perhaps in areas of the the country that were settled by German/Dutch/Scandanavian people pancakes are the "big" breakfast item.

    Doesn't appeal to me at all for breakfast--too sweet. About the only thing I do like about that breakfast is the sausage, and yes, with lashings of maple syrup!

    The traditional Sunday breakfast for us was two eggs, usually fried but often scrambled, bacon or sausage, sometimes ham, sometimes all three, fried potatoes not "hash browns" but sliced potatoes fried till crispy in bacon dripping, toast and jam.

    Summertime meant fresh tomato slices would accompany the meal. Other additions could include grits, oatmeal, or a bowl of corn flakes.

    Beverage: milk for kids, strong coffee usually black for adults. OJ for everyone.

    It's a good meal, but the ultimate breakfast experience is a Full English.

    My portion of blood or black sausage can go to someone else though, thanks.

  9. As someone who has a probiotic yogurt thing for breakfast, all this talk about huge breakfasts is making me rather green!

  10. I just cannot get into fried bread. And although many places do a passable vegetarian full English, it just does not compare to all day breakfast at Perkins. Omelette AND pancakes for sure. Counting down to my trip home in three weeks...

  11. First of all, I don't understand this British aversion to syrup on the smae plate with bacon and sausages. My wife's argument is, "It's just WRONG!" I don't have a problem with it; must be an American thing.

    And full English breakfast aside, one of the treats I look forward to on every visit to the US is eggs benedict. Can't get it here, and I really miss it.

  12. Mmmm, Eggs B!

    Love it when the hollandaise is very lemony.

    Can't get it in the UK?

    Why would people who drench toad in the hole with golden syrup think maple syrup and sausage is WRONG!?

  13. Ah, breakfast. There is no doubt that the Americans do it well. Brunch seems to be a real thing here too.

    But here's a question for you Toni. Can you get real Muesli in the US? Because all I've seen in the stores is Granola and it is NOT the same.

    Also, can you get British baked beans? And by that I mean (mentioning no brand names) the ones in tomato sauce, not with molasses, pork or any other suspect substance that my boys will not eat.

  14. Jill - Oh, oh, oh - who in god's name a) has toad in the hole for breakfast, and b) drenches it with syrup. (Spitting out sound, followed by gagging.)
    Nappy - In recent years you can in fact buy museli (sp?). It tends to come in teeny bags and is rather expensive. Oh, a bit like England. Granola comes in larger bits but is actually very nice, as long as no-one has to sit next to you and listen to the crunching.
    And yes - I can buy Heinz baked beans in a few stores here. They are sometimes in the "Irish" food aisle!! If not, look for the vegetarian baked beans as they are less sweet and don't have anything like sausages added.
    Don't forget, if you Google around enough, there are plenty of web companies importing British goods, but I know where you are, there are bound to be actual shops. Go over to A Brit Out of Water, or Big Apple, Little Britainer, and they will both know.

  15. Road trips in the USA are not complete without a stop at a Waffle House. It took me about 3 years to find out that they do full breakfast, not just waffles. They do about 200 variations of hash browns - marvelous!

    And I do like ordering my egg "over easy". Ask for a fried egg in England and it comes to you however the cook wants to serve it.

    Still, I do miss black pudding and proper beans. None of that brown sugar rubbish ....

  16. Mmmm, black pudding and bubble and squeak! I cant get black pudding anywhere here in Nevada, and hash browns are just the redhaired stepchild of bubble and squeak. Oh for a proper english breakfast - soggy pancakes drenched in sweet syrup just doesnt do it for me, ditto waffles.

  17. Crispy, savoury waffles are good with creamed chicken--oh yes!

    But I agree with soggy pancakes and sweet syrup.

    Expat, when I made toad in the hole for an English friend, he asked for the golden syrup and poured it on. Looked pretty good to me, and it was.

    As far as toad in the hole for breks, why not? If we can have scrambled eggs on toast at midnight, why not toad in the morning?

  18. I left a comment here last night and it's not here?
    I was asking where he was raised. It must be a regional thing as I've never seen anyone do that in my life. Interesting.

  19. He'd spent a lot of time in the US on business, maybe he picked it up from our habit of sausages and maple syrup?

    I'm not sure where he was raised, but he had been educated at Oxford, maybe that explains it! (^_^)

  20. I really miss brunch - it doesn't seem to be a big thing in the UK. Oh, but how I love potato scones. The perfect accompaniment to fried eggs.


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