What is a traditional English breakfast ?
First and foremost is it a tradition, one practised from the early eighteen hundreds and peaking in the 1950′s post-war era when research indicated that approximately half of the British population began their day with a traditional English breakfast.
Like all great Victorian traditions the eating of full English breakfast can be an incredibly refined experience, it is easy to understand why the Victorians thought of the full English breakfast as the most civilised way to begin their day and it for this reason that the traditional English breakfast is still served in family kitchens, hotels and bed & breakfast’s across the United Kingdom.
For a more complete history of the traditional full English Breakfast click here.
The traditional English breakfast is called a full breakfast for good reason, it is a substantial meal and generations of the British working classes started their day with a full English breakfast to provide themselves with the energy they needed in order to do a full days work.
The full English breakfast is truly a national icon and was historically a tradition enjoyed by the working, middle and upper classes, it can be a beautifully presented breakfast feast fit for a King, or a staple for those with a long days work ahead and served in a greasy-spoon.
Do not be fooled by mention of the word ‘breakfast’ in all of this, its presence does not necessarily mean that the traditional English breakfast has to be eaten at breakfast time, it is a meal that can be enjoyed at any time of the day. If you are anything like the members of this society you typically eat your English breakfast around lunchtime, but have been known to eat one for dinner and your favourite place to eat serves an all-day traditional full English breakfast.
Although the traditional English breakfast typically always had the same ingredients no matter where in the British isles you happened to be, the individual ingredients were usually locally sourced and each region of Great Britain had a full breakfast that contained pork raised in that region, famous English sausage producing regions of note are Lincolnshire & Cumberland.
For the connoisseur of the traditional English breakfast, the regional differences in the pork (sausage, bacon and black pudding) and other ingredients present an opportunity to add variety into an already refined tradition. The very best kind of place’s to eat serve an all-day traditional English breakfast and regularly rotate the region they source their pork from, allowing you to sample different bacon & sausage from the great pork producing Counties of England.
What ingredients should a full English breakfast contain ?
Traditionally a full English breakfast contained a very large plateful of food, accompanied by some essentials.
Bacon : Three pieces of glorious back bacon, preferably locally sourced and grilled to crispy perfection.
Sausage : Two wonderfully plump sausages, preferably locally sourced and cooked in a way that keeps in the juices.
Black Pudding : Two generous slices of black pudding can add tradition to any English breakfast.
Baked Beans : Contained within a small pot of their own, Heinz baked beans are a national favourite.
Fried Tomato : A half slice of a large, plump and fresh fried tomato sourced from a local farm.
Fried Mushrooms : A handful of fried mushrooms, sourced from a local farm.
Fried Egg’s : Two fresh eggs, fried so that the yellow yolk remains runny and the white is perfectly cooked through.
Fried Bread : A slice of fresh white bread, fried to crispy perfection and dry to the touch.
Together with the main plate of food, a selection of drinks, accompaniments and condiments should be served.
Fresh Juice : Traditionally either orange or grapefruit juice, with or without bits according to taste.
Fresh Coffee : Piping hot, freshly ground and topped up regularly.
Fresh Toast : Three slices of freshly toasted bread, white or brown according to preference.
All of the above ideally should be served at exactly the same time, so that you have all of your food before you when you begin eating. The traditional full English breakfast should be eaten slowly from pre-heated plates so that the breakfast stays hot for longer, it should be served on a table which gives each occupant ample space to read a newspaper.
It is worth noting that depending on where you are in the United Kingdom, there exists regional variation in the ingredients, some regions of the UK have their own version of the full cooked breakfast based on the traditional English breakfast.
In Scotland for example they have the Scottish Breakfast which contains tattie scones and haggis, in Ireland they have the Irish Breakfast which can include soda bread and white pudding, but everybody traditionally uses bacon, egg, sausage and beans.
Even though the traditional English breakfast is served at family and social gatherings, it is culturally acceptable to ignore the other occupants of your table whilst you eat your English breakfast and read your newspaper, do not be offended if the person you are eating your English breakfast with ignores you for most of the meal, other than to comment on what they are reading.
It is traditionally during the eating of the English breakfast that a man would acquaint himself with the current affairs of the day and contents of his periodical, this is an important part of the tradition the Society feels and our favourite places to eat always contain a selection of the most popular periodicals of the day.
To British expatriates living overseas, the traditional full English breakfast will always taste like a little piece of England and in some parts they will kidnap you for a packet of Lincolnshire sausages and five slices of back bacon.
The traditional English breakfast is a part what it means to be British and is truly a national dish, it is not for nothing that we call it a British institution and usually the very best English breakfasts are served by our mothers when we visit them and made with love.
We hope you enjoyed this guide to the traditional English breakfast, follow us if you did !