Tuesday, August 04, 2009

A Mere Man’s Breakfast Suggestions.

Just when you think nothing more can be said about the “traditional” English breakfast, some more opinion comes to light. Today it is that of a “mere man” – the man allowed by the author to include his “tabular introduction” in her book Dictionary of Dainty Breakfasts, in 1899. Our old friend, cookbook and menu-book author Phyllis Browne (whom we have met here, here, here) has done a fine job with her suggestions, although it has to be said that the degree of “daintiness” is tainted with that of the awfully robust.

A Mere Man Considers Breakfast.
A breakfast should consist:-
A. Of a fundamental dish.
B. Of one or more trifling accessories for the benefit of (1) thos who are so hungry that the fundamental dish does not suffice, and (2) those who feel so sick that they cannot touch it.
C. Of fresh fruit, stewed or tinned fruit, jam or marmalade.
D. Of drinks.
E. Of bread, toast, or scones.

The mere man then goes on to clarify the choices within each of these categories. Here they are, much summarised:

Fundamental dishes: ham or bacon, alone or in combination with other articles; eggs cooked in various ways; fish and allied products; “certain internal portions of the animal economy”; meats - chops, sausages, fricasees, curries, etc etc of different kinds hot or cold, including “meat pies of all sorts … [which] should be large: the smaller varieties contain an undue proportion of crust. … The very robust are willing to eat chops and steaks at breakfast. Men in training commonly do so. … The ordinary person eschews butchers meat [ie beef and mutton] at breakfast.”
Accessory dishes: boiled eggs; cold ham or gammon; sardines, in the tin or on toast; anchovies; potted meats; shrimp, bloater, or anchovy paste; mushrooms on toast; herring’s roes on toast; porridge and its allies; cold sausages of sorts.
Fruit and Vegetable products – including tomatoes, stewed rhubarb, tinned fruit, jam and marmalade and honey, and cream “is good with them all, especially Devonshire cream ….the best way of eating Devonshire cream is, however, unquestionably with cheap, black, highly flavoured treacle.”
Drinks: Tea, coffee, cocoa; “when fresh fruit is taken at the beginning of breakfast, a glass of hock is a suitable accompaniment. A glass of good light beer is excellent after breakfast, as they know very well at Westminster school.
Bread, etc. … hot buttered toast, dry toast, tea-cakes and scones – hot and buttered, cut bread and butter, white and brown bread, Vienna and other fancy breads, Hot rolls (for the reckless), Hot Cross buns on Good Friday.

In comparison with this list, the “traditional” English breakfast is a puny, unvarying, unimaginative thing – even such worthy entrants as the “10 deadly sins breakfast” served by the historic London restaurant Simpson’s-in-the-Strand doesn’t quite cut it. The ten sins offered at the venerable establishment are: Cumberland sausage, egg (fried, poached, or scrambled), streaky and back bacon, Stornoway black pudding, fried mushrooms, baked tomato, lamb kidney, bubble & squeak, baked beans, fried bread. Observe that includes neither pie in any form, nor a glass of hock or beer.

It seems that the range of breakfast choices was unquestionably greater a hundred-odd years ago. Bring back pie for breakfast, I say.

Here is a nice dainty dish, from the book – a very British-type of dish - presumably from the trifling accessory range, not the fundamental one.

Bombay Toast
Ingredients: two eggs, toast, butter, essence of anchovy, capers.
Time required: Ten minutes. Prepare slices of buttered toast cut into rounds or fingers. Melt a little butter in an omelette pan. As it dissolves, stir into it two beaten eggs, half a teaspoonful of essence of anchovy an dhalf a teaspoonful of chopped capers and pepper. Spread the mixture on the toast and serve hot.

Quotation for the Day.

Sure I eat what I advertise. Sure I eat Wheaties for breakfast. A good bowl of Wheaties with bourbon can't be beat.
Dizzy Dean.

No comments: