Monday, December 29, 2008

The Full English Breakfast

I'm writing this entry early in the morning in a motel room in Pennsylvania, a little over halfway home from our Christmas trip to the Michigan in-laws. I'm munching on an apple, because I cannot abide having an empty stomach, but I'm craving the big breakfast I'll no doubt have once the rest of the family have woken up, showered and we look for somewhere to eat. There's coffee, bagels and muffins available in the lobby, but that's not going to cut it for me.

My vegetarian friends may now leave the room before I launch into the really offensive stuff.

What I'm really craving is meat. What I'm really craving is that beast known as the Full English Breakfast.

There are some excellent breakfast choices available in this part of the country. I'm rather partial to biscuits smothered in sausage gravy (a note for our British Friends - a biscuit is rather similar to a scone, perhaps a little fluffier, and sausage gravy is a thick, creamy sauce full of crumbled sausage). But the Americans, much as they seem to enjoy their meat, don't really get the British love of having more than one meat on your plate at the same time. See, the "F.E.B." usually contains bacon and sausage; in fact, for those hardcore fans amongst us, it should also include black pudding. For those who still are blissfully unaware of what black pudding is, it's a blood sausage. Very rich, very fatty, very unhealthy, and of course very tasty. But even when you find a selection of "fry-ups" listed on a menu, you can get eggs done in a multitude of ways, maybe biscuits, hash browns, etc., with bacon or sausage. Usually, if you want both sausage and bacon, you have to order one as part of your meal, and the other as a side.

So, what I really want (and will probably only get in the US if I make it myself) is one fried egg, over-easy (so the yoke is runny but the white is not slimy), bacon, sausage, black pudding, baked beans, fried tomato, fried bread and fried mushroom. Yep, heart-attack on a plate.

There are a few compromises that have to be made if you're craving the F.E.B. but living in the U.S. The bacon usually available here is sliced really thin and very fatty. It's really only good for crumbling into something for flavor. I generally go for sweet Italian sausages, but while good, they're not the same as a good British banger. Baked beans over here are generally over-sweet, and contain a lump of fatty pork; In the US, Heinz do "Vegetarian Baked Beans", which is about as close as you'll get to the beans that Heinz make for the Brits.

I'll probably write more about tea in another entry, but as a great British tea-drinker, at home I'd usually make myself a cuppa to drink with the fry-up. Tetley makes "British Blend" teabags which are pretty good. I would drink coffee if I was having breakfast at a restaurant, because most places can't make tea properly.

And, if consuming this in England, with egg-yoke running down our chins we'd probably be berating the Americans for being obese.

I'm perfectly aware that this artery-hardening breakfast is not exactly the healthy option. And I certainly would not eat it every morning. Probably not even once a week. But as a rare treat, it's precisely that - a rare treat!

So, in the interests of full-disclosure, I should also point out this article from the Times of London.


Lexie said...

I can't say about tea-sadly, I can't drink tea..but this breakfast seems nice :D

I believe Germans use to eat some similar things for breakfast but I'm not sure about that. I don't know if I could eat all that at 6 am (that's when I wake up every morning) but most certainly it would be a nice option for a lazy Sunday morning. Not healthy but yummy. And as we all know, nice things are rarely good (or healthy) :) :)

Graham said...

Alas, I was thwarted in my quest for the F.E.B. or something similar. We had promised my daughter we could eat anywhere she liked the previous evening, and she said "Applebees." Unfortunately, there was no Applebees anywhere near us when we stopped for dinner that night.

Unlucky for us, there was an Applebees just outside our motel, so she insisted on Applebees for breakfast. The place is essentially a bar and grill, so there are no breakfast options. I ended up with their Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato grilled cheese sandwich, which was very good - just not what I had envisioned when I wrote the entry!

Alison said...

Well, the lack of boiled food, and the fried mushrooms and fried tomatoes make it quite attractive to me, although I prefer ommelettes.

Maybe you could start a trend and restaurants would start to offer the FEB. We have the "Grand Slam" in the US (Denny's)with two eggs, two sausage, two bacon and two pancakes. I can't stand pancakes, so it's not for me. The reference to baseball is also not my thing.

Graham said...

I always wanted to start a British restaurant, and call it "Like it, or lump it" or "Eat what you're given, or go without.", the theme being obvious.

Americans, as I've pointed out before, have an insane amount of choice. Even when there are no choices, people want to make substitutions: "I'd like the Eggs and bacon, but instead of the eggs, I'd like pancakes, and instead of the bacon, I'd like strawberries."

Brits are used to fewer choices; in fact, we feel comfort in the lack of choice. You ask for a ham sandwich, and you know what you're going to get.

I may expand upon this idea in a future entry. Thanks for making me think of that.

La Belle Femme said...

I dated an English guy once years ago...well, for five years really, and I was exposed to the F.E.B. and ok, not my cuppa at all! ;) I'm all for tea over coffee, eggs with yolk over easy (if done right), and perhaps super-cooked bacon so you can't distinguish fat from meat...but the rest, oh no, no, and no. When we visited his family (in Canada), I don't remember what I ate for brekkie in place of the F.E.B. but I reckon (as Americans say) that it was something along the lines of bagel with cream cheese and a proper cup of sweet Earls Grey. That's as much as I could compromise. :D

Graham said...

And I bet you didn't even put milk in the Earl Grey, did you! ;)

You do get extra points for calling it brekkie though.

Mouse said...

Shudder, black pudding is gross ..... but G, you forgot another main component that is absolutely necessary to go with the FEB ...... that of Heinz tomato ketchup, although some weird English people just have to have brown sauce instead. Can't believe you don't get proper baked beans over there ...... I thought the US would have a lot of stuff the same ....... can't imagine how you go without proper teabags ...... no PG Tips?

Graham said...

You're right about the tomato ketchup, your Mouseness! Heinz ketchup is just the same here. I am rather partial to brown sauce too.

Many supermarkets have an "International Aisle." The place where I usually buy food used to have an "Irish" section that had some favorites, but they recently got rid of it.

There's a great supermarket called Wegman's near me that has a really good British section with Branston pickle, proper Heinz baked beans, Marmite, etc., but it's a little expensive, and full of temptation, so I only go there once in a while for a treat. They do PG Tips there too. As I mentioned in the article, Tetley's British Blend is pretty good, and is available in the place I usually go.

Anonymous said...

The breakfast is obviously some kind of lasses diet alternative: ideally you should have three sausages, and two bacon, plus a Barnsley chop.

Graham said...

@Anonymous(!) - I completely agree. The more meat, the merrier. Don't forget the black pudding.

Oh, and when in Ireland, the perfect accompaniment to black pudding is white pudding.

Khürt Williams said...

I know this article is old but I've got to try. I'm from the West Indies and grew up eating sausages and toast and tomato and fried blood sausage and beans for breakfast. I've lived in New Jersey a long time and I have found only one place serving a full English breakfast. A place in Cranbury called Blue Rooster. Perhaps you can recommend another place.