What's so different about the Great British Breakfast?
By British Billy, 48th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published April 07, 2010
ROYAL AIR FORCE LAKENHEATH, England -- We Brits can be an unpredictable bunch. We love our traditions, and yet, when it comes to food, we can be very open-minded. We list curry as one of our favourite foods. However, we have encountered and explored other cultures, and we have sampled and enjoyed their culinary expertise, whether it be Italian, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Japanese or French. I would contend that those who insult our fine and varied cuisine have led a sheltered existence.
All that having been said, the average Brit can be brought to the brink of patriotic tears by three meals: the Sunday roast, fish and chips and the Great British Breakfast.
Often referred to as a 'full English breakfast', or simply 'full English', this can be to the great annoyance of the other nations that form the British Isles. The Scots will no doubt include porridge to their breakfast menu, and there are many regional specialties which will make the traditional morning repast unique.
However, there are certain ingredients which are generally agreed are essential to the Great British Breakfast.
Firstly, the sausage. The British sausage has surprised some of my American friends. It would seem to be quite a different taste experience. British sausages vary enormously and range from the hand-crafted 'banger' that is the pinnacle of the butcher's art right through to some rather unsavoury mass-produced versions which would taste of nothing, were it not for lashings of tomato ketchup or brown sauce.
Bacon, another vital element of the British breakfast, is also not quite as Americans understand the term. Personal taste varies, but generally we don't like our bacon to be as crisp as Americans do.
The common egg can also be cooked in a multitude of ways, although the fried egg is usually considered traditional. Scrambled eggs are hugely popular, and you may also find yourself offered omelettes and poached eggs.
Beans, mushrooms, tomatoes and toast will all be proffered as part of your breakfast feast, but please understand, the quality of your experience will vary hugely depending on where you eat it.
If you are lucky enough to be staying in some posh hotel, then you will no doubt be offered all sorts of fancy additions to your meal, as well as a wide variety of tea and coffee experiences. However, you could find yourself at some road-side café where many of the ingredients hail from tins and your breakfast has rather too much fat for your taste. Now, don't get me wrong - there are those who would say that the 'fry up' is the British breakfast at its best. I certainly wouldn't turn down the opportunity to lick a plate or two. I hate to shock you, but I do have some very bad habits which I have no intentions of breaking.
From what I have been told by those nearest and dearest to me, the best place to experience the Great British Breakfast is at one of the wonderful rural bed and breakfast establishments scattered across our land. Many are on farms and in country cottages or small hotels and most of the ingredients are sourced locally. Many are family run and allow you to meet some interesting local folk.
As a gentle warning, let me tell you of one experience at a small bed and breakfast on the Isle of Skye off the west coast of Scotland. The owner of the 'B & B' was a formidable woman of substantial girth. The young gentleman staying there overnight was not used to eating much in the morning, and, having finished his porridge, he prepared to leave the table. He was nailed to his seat, however, by the steely stare of his hostess, who informed him that she had sausages, bacon, eggs, fried bread and black pudding all ready for serving in the kitchen. He politely declined, with a smile. No smile was returned; just a simple, unequivocal statement, delivered in a tone only that would make the bravest quiver: 'I've cooked it, so you'll eat it!'
And eat it he did, every last scrap. It was a memorable decision and should you ever find yourself in a similar position, I hope you will be wise enough to do the same.