Origins of the English Breakfast…
The traditional English breakfast of eggs, bacon, sausage and other ingredients is ubiquitous the world over. Cafés and hotels all around the world offer a version of “English breakfast”, often far removed from what might be considered conventional!
The English breakfast as it is known today is based, like so many British traditions, on what became popular in the Victorian era. Victorian home economist Isabella Beeton gives the following advice in The Book of Household Management (1861) about breakfast:
|“||The following list of hot dishes may perhaps assist our readers in knowing what to provide for the comfortable meal called breakfast. Broiled fish, such as mackerel, whiting, herrings, dried haddocks, &c.; mutton chops and rump-steaks, broiled sheep’s kidneys, kidneys à la maître d’hôtel, sausages, plain rashers of bacon, bacon and poached eggs, ham and poached eggs, omelets, plain boiled eggs, oeufs-au-plat, poached eggs on toast, muffins, toast, marmalade, butter, &c. &c.||”|
Nowadays far too few Englishmen start their day with such a large meal. Surveys cited in The Magpie history of food (Audrey Ellis, 1977) indicate that in 1958 50% of British families still started their day with a cooked breakfast, but by 1976 it had fallen to 18%. More recent surveys (within the last 2-3 years) put the figure today at less than 1%.
The English breakfast is still a mainstay of boarding houses, hotels and cafés in Britain, however, and will always be found on the menu of most such establishments. There are also many varieties across the United Kingdom and Ireland, including the Full Irish, Ulster Fry, Full Welsh, and Full Scottish, among others.