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The Traditional British Breakfast

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TasunkaWitko View Drop Down
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    Posted: 07 September 2018 at 10:42
The Traditional British Breakfast

From Time/Life's Foods of the World - The Cooking of the British Isles (1969):

Quote Slices of bacon sizzle on the stove, cooking in their own snow-white fat that turns first transparent, then brown and crisp. Warm plates are stacked above the stove to receive the rashers as they are lifted from the pan. A delicious and compelling breakfast aroma fills the house and drags the sluggard from sleep into wakeful, eager anticipation; bacon is an everyday luxury of which we will never tire.

The frying pan must be allowed to cool a little before the eggs are added, for if the pan is too hot the egg white will scorch and become tough. Crack! and the egg is emptied from its shell into the pan. While it gently fries we must baste it with the fat in the pan, covering the eggs with a residue of minute scraps of burned bacon, turning the surface speckled and opaque.

Now for the fried bread, the essential accompaniment to this classic dish. Sometimes we garnish our bacon and eggs with fried mushrooms or with grilled tomatoes, but almost always we add a slice or two of fried bread. Raise the heat beneath the pan, for the fat must be really hot so as to quickly seal the surface of the bread, which otherwise will soak up all the fat, a circumstance most surely to be avoided.

Plunge the slice into the hot fat, and quickly bring it to a rich, warm brown on both sides. Place the egg on top, and surround with the bacon. Now to the table, and eat!

The salty, smoky flavor of the bacon contrasts perfectly with the bland, smooth egg and the crisp, crunchy bread.

Hot off the stove, a traditional British breakfast sizzles in an up-to-date skillet. Two kinds of bacon accompany the eggs (and in practice would be cooked before the eggs). The British call the bacon at the upper left and bottom "streaky" and refer to the wider, leaner slices as "middle-back." The bread is fried last and at high heat so it will absorb less fat.

Hot toast follows, accompanied by bittersweet marmalade, its irregular chunks of orange peel held in suspension by a thick, golden jelly with a citric, caramel perfume. Tea has long been the companion beverage to such a breakfast and remains so today.

If the bacon and eggs had been preceded by either oatmeal porridge or a breakfast cereal like cornflakes, we would have a typical British breakfast of the 20th Century. Variations on this original theme might include fish, such as haddock, or those split and smoked herrings called kippers. Some of us demand fruit juice with our breakfasts. Others request stewed prunes, or a half grapefruit in whose center the British hotel chef invariably plunges a sticky, meretricious glacé cherry.

Abroad, the British breakfast has gained a formidable reputation. The French consider it perfectly barbaric, a meal to be approached with caution, for how can we start the day with fish and that strange grey glue called porridge? The fact is that the English breakfast is the result of a long process of evolution, of the slow amalgamation of foods from places other than England. For those who can afford the leisure in this hurried age to indulge in it, it is the finest meal of the day. As Somerset Maugham once observed, the best way to eat well in England is to take breakfast three times a day.
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