|The Great British Breakfast|
Magnificent British Breakfasts - hot cutlets, pink hams, fried soles, devilled kidneys, little crisp rolls of bacon, dishes of scrambled eggs and sausages, black pudding, a cold grouse or pheasant, a piece of pie and then hot toast in white napkins, fresh rolls, sweet butter, marmalades of all cuts and colours, jams, jellies and pyramids of fruit - 'ah the breakfast', wrote an early nineteenth-century visitor to Scotland, 'that is what redeems the land'.
Of course, there have always been a number of regional variations. Black pudding, a kind of sausage, popular in the Midlands and North of England as well as in Ireland is made of pigs blood, suet, breadcrumbs and oatmeal. It is usually sold ready boiled. It is then fried in slices and served with bacon and eggs. In Ireland and other parts of the country there may also be served a white pudding at the breakfast table. Again, it is a type of pork sausage made from pork offal, pearl barley, oatmeal or breadcrumbs and seasoning. These puddings are also fried in slices and served hot.
At the turn of the twentieth century the grand English breakfast - designed to boost the inner man for the morning's sport out of doors, was still going strong, but when the First World War arrived with attendant shortages and a new horror of waste, things were modified to what we would now regard as a more seemly level.
In 1933 a bachelor cook, discreetly naming himself 'Gourmet', wrote a little book giving up two whole chapters to the British breakfast, which he regarded as a meal to be eaten only after an hour's pottering about - presumably to get up an appetite. His favourite breakfast, eaten in a Lakeland fishing inn, consisted of a modest five courses:
Manx kippers Brown trout Cumberland ham and eggs with fried bannocks Cold boiled bacon Four kinds of scones, three kinds of home-made jam and good, strong, hot, fresh coffee. The magnificent breakfast was on the way out.
By the Second World War parlour maids and cooks had disappeared along with butter, sugar and coffee. The whole thing had condensed to its present-day level - cereal, egg and bacon, toast and marmalade and cups of tea or coffee.
However, it is an institution worth reviving, even if only at weekends, when there is time to make little special breakfast dishes and to ponder long over the newspaper with a hot pot of coffee on the table. The old breakfast recipes could make breakfast once more into a most enjoyable meal - and could even turn it into brunch which would allow even more time for pottering, another British institution worth reviving.