I guess we have all enjoyed a full English breakfast at some time even though we might have different definitions of what ‘full’ consists of. The ingredients can vary, but the staples are fried eggs, bacon, sausage and then there are the variables: fried bread, mushrooms, tomatoes, black pudding, hash browns (an honourary English breakfast component) and beans – although I would argue that beans are a must have and the best full English has all of these ingredients, maybe a kidney or two and some haggis if you are north of the border.
When I was in the States I was amazed at the American stance on breakfast in general, but particularly their thinking on baked beans. Beans aren’t a breakfast food in the
at all and they simply don’t get beans on toast. Just why this superb
combination - which can be breakfast, brunch, lunch, dinner, brinner,
later-night supper and anything in between - is shunned mystifies me. And
besides being incredibly tasty and arguably moderately healthy, it's also ridiculously
quick to make: pop the beans in the microwave for a couple of minutes while the
toaster heats up, and you've got a warm meal in no time at all. How Americans,
many of whom eat beans and toast separately, and seem to be fans of instant
gratification, can hate this cuisine is one of life’s puzzles I think.
The same goes for bangers and mash, it's not so much that Americans find it an odd combination; it’s more that they are not always sure what it means. Of course the trusty mashed potato and sausage, usually with added onion gravy, bangers and mash dish is often served in pubs along with warm beer. The ‘mash’ bit is obvious, but the ‘banger’ needs explanation. The term was first used in
during WWII when sausages were pumped up with water causing them to sometimes
explode. Of course it could be the warm beer that is the problem for US
citizens, warm beer causes them to pull faces and add an exploding sausage and
‘they are outta here’.
I have never seen an American eating a soft boiled egg at breakfast. In fact I have never seen an American eating a boiled egg or even an egg cup in
and it would be really impractical to eat a soft boiled egg without one. Of
course egg cups are one of the great British collectables and a boiled egg and dippy
bread soldiers are another of those foods that you can eat at any time and a
great way to start the day. Yes, I’m part of the ‘Go to work on an egg’
generation. This one really seems to puzzle Americans. ‘What,’ they'll say. ‘You
boil an egg, cut off the top and then dip thin fingers of buttered bread into
the yolk? Do you consider that normal behavio(u)r dude?’ Well, frankly yes.
Then of course there’s the oddly named bubble and squeak. Perhaps with this combination of shallow fried mashed potatoes, greens, carrots, and any other scrapings left over from Sunday lunch, it’s more the name than anything else that overwhelms Americans. Add to this the flabber, gast and total incredulity with which they meet mushy peas or chips with gravy (and or curry sauce) and you begin to wonder if we actually come from the same planet.
In a fight which breakfast would win I wonder? Would it be the full English or the full American, and just what is a full American breakfast anyway? I’ve eaten fried eggs in the
US, but many Americans seem to prefer
their breakfast eggs scrambled, poached or omeletted (which un-Englishes any
English breakfast). They drench syrup on their deep fried bacon and strange
tasting, over ‘erbed, sausages and consider donuts, waffles, biscuits, pancakes
and bagels as breakfast when they are obviously tea, a sandwich or pudding.
I’ve had corned beef hash as breakfast in America (which I enjoyed), steak with
fried potatoes (which is dinner really but jolly tasty), I’ve even had grits –
a kind of maize porridge – with cheese, fatty bacon, and chopped spring onions
all topped off with a poached egg (which I hated).
All in all to my mind the great American breakfast is too confusing to be a real breakfast at all. It crosses into a continental petit dejeuner, mixes sickly sweet and savoury on the same plate, seems to go on for ever and doesn’t come with a proper cup of tea.
Give me good old sausage, egg, bacon, beans and a slice of fried bread any day.