A couple of weeks ago the Daily Telegraph had an article on The Duke & Duchess of Cambridge enjoying a full English breakfast on the morning of their wedding anniversary – hard to believe it’s now over a year since all the great wedding celebrations. I was then delighted to read the accompanying Comment stating that 90% of us apparently throw caution to the wind, particularly when staying at a B&B, and indulge in the aforementioned Full English – which of course we at Charcott Farmhouse already knew! But this set me pondering on what it is that is so unique and special about an English Breakfast and why it is that although eggs and bacon of course exist in other parts of the world, it really does seem to be only in the British Isles that the many variations on this theme really come into their own as the meal to start the day with.
It appears that porridge of sorts has been on the English breakfast menu since right back in the Neolithic era using ground up grains. Centuries later, hungry Roman soldiers breakfasted on porridge known as ‘pulmentus’ which presumably went a long way to keeping their strength up whilst creating the Roman Empire. Throughout the middle ages breakfasts in the British Isles apparently consisted mainly of oatcakes and ale – gulp – am I glad we’ve progressed from that….!
Bacon and eggs actually came about comparatively recently and became gradually popular during the 19th century when regular office hours became the norm for many middle class men. Before leaving for the office their wives would serve them a two course meal of porridge followed by eggs with bacon or fish and toast. Alongside this there grew the well known absurdly lavish breakfasts of the well to do great houses and, of course, the very necessary large breakfasts cooked by farmers’ wives ready for their hungry men folk to come in to after milking and feeding the animals. These hearty and substantial breakfasts owed much of their popularity to the legendary Victorian English cookery writer Mrs. Beeton, although the many ingredients she advocated such as grilled chops, offal, stuffed fish and game birds were pretty unlikely to be found on the majority of English tables.
At the end of the 19th century Mr. Kelloggs made his appearance and there was a gradual move towards more restrained breakfasts of muesli and cereals. This became more necessary during the first world war, with food rationing and more women working and, of course, it meant that children were now able to prepare their own breakfasts before going to school. The convenience and ease of cereals has meant their popularity has continued to grow and now they are the staple breakfast in most British households with a cooked breakfast generally regarded as a weekend luxury or holiday treat.
So it is from the great age of Victorian breakfasts that the Full English Breakfast of today really takes its’ origins. We still love it – especially when we’re away from home and on holiday and of course at a B&B it will be freshly cooked and utterly delicious! Generally preceded by porridge, cereals or fruit of some kind, fried eggs are served with grilled rashers of bacon, sausages, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms. There can be additional accompaniments such as black pudding, baked beans, fried bread, kidneys, hashed browns, bubble and squeak – the list is endless – and the British Isles of course has its’ many regional variations. In addition, it goes without saying we must not forget that other traditional breakfast favourite, scrambled eggs and bacon, together with its more modern variation of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. Finally, add the twin delights of toasted home made bread and marmalade, and what more can you want - other than a large cup of freshly brewed tea or coffee to go with it………!
After 20 years, Nick’s breakfasts are renowned throughout the world and his enthusiasm is never ending. Check out our breakfast page on the website.