Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Another Breakfast Opinion.

The question in my mind is - was the opinion of Phyllis Browne and her “mere man” (yesterday’s post) on the subject of breakfast the prevailing one in England in the nineteenth century? I consulted the Handbook for the Breakfast Table by Mary Hooper (1873).

The author agrees with Phyllis on the importance of breakfast, and feels particularly strongly about eggs.

“Whilst a great deal of thought is given to ordering dinner, breakfast is left pretty much to the judgement of the cook, and as it is generally, in her opinion, an affair of secondary importance, the result is one directly tending to promote all the evils which follow in the wake of indigestion. But if we consider to how large a portion of the community it is of the first necessity that they should leave their homes in the morning physically fortified against the fatigues of an anxious day, it will at once be seen that it is at least of equal importance to provide a nourishing appetitive breakfast as a good dinner.”
Now the number of dishes used for breakfast, is, in the majority of English families, very limited. Bacon and eggs are the staple, the former generally unsatisfactory, being either over or under cured, too salt or too new; it is besides expensive, a large portion of it running to fat. New-laid eggs, when they can be procured in town, are very costly, they properly, after twenty-four hours, can only be described as fresh. The Cockney mind is not, however, very enlightened on this subject, and the vendors of eggs are persuaded, or at any rate try to persuade the public, that eggs are new-laid until they are “an apology for pepper.” The British cook has no idea of making these London eggs more palatable by the exercise of a little skill or the addition of some sauce, gravy, or cold meat, generally at hand even in households of very modern pretensions.”

The author includes amongst the substantial dishes that she recommends such things as hashes, pressed and potted meats, pigeons, rabbit etc – but, sadly, does not include pie. Or hock.

I do love those phrases “household of modern pretensions” and “apology for pepper.”

The following recipe from the book would seem to risk indigesion, methinks.

Egg Cutlets.
These are very good, and if carefully cooked need not be too rich. Cut hard-boiled eggs into thick slices, dip them in the yolk of an egg well beaten, and then in finely-sifed bread-crumbs seasoned with pepper and salt and a pinch of dried parsley. Have a little butter in the frying pan; let the eggs cook two minutes on one side, turn them on the other and finish. When taken from the frying pan lay them before the fire on white paper to absorb the grease. Serve a little thickened gravy around them.

Quotation for the Day.

And you stagger down to break your fast.
Greasy bacon and lacquered eggs
And coffee composed of frigid dregs.
Ogden Nash


KT said...

Hey - that's pretty great: chicken-fried eggs!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi KT - Wish I had thought of that as a title!