Friday, October 02, 2009

The Four Styles of Breakfast.

However adventurous we are about the other meals of the day, we tend not to tolerate novelty at breakfast, and make our personal choices from a narrow range of options. In the West, we usually consider a grain-based option (bread or hot or cold cereal), or perhaps eggs, with the biggest decisions being secondary – do we have milk or yoghurt with our cereal, marmalade or strawberry jam on our toast, or our eggs boiled, poached, fried or scrambled?

It was not always quite so simple, according to The Breakfast Book, by Georgiana Hill, published in London in 1865. Ms Hill says:

“What shall we have for dinner, is a question easily answered; but what can we have for breakfast is quite another thing. The object of this work is to solve the domestic difficulty.”

And she continues:

“Generally speaking, breakfastst may be classified under four heads: the family breakfast, the déjeuner à la fourchette, the cold collation, and the ambigu. The first is with us entirely made up of hors d’oeuvrres, or by-dishes, either hot or cold, which are served without sauce. In a déjeuner à la fourchette things are introduced in courses, similar to a dinner. Cold collations need scarcely to be defined: almos all recherché things are proper for them, provided they are prepared for the purpose, so as to produce an ornamental effect. The ambigu is an entertainment of a very heterogeneous character, having resemblance to a dinner, only that everything is placed upon the table at once: and relevés, soup, vegetables, and hot entremets are held to be ineligible. Our everyday breakfasts are in a small way served en ambigu, inasmuch as broiled fish, cold pasties, devilled bones, boiled eggs, cold ham, etc, all appear together.”

I admit that until I came across this summary, I had never agonised over what style of breakfast to offer my family. The Breakfast Book is helpful in this regard, and includes chapters on such topics as has chapters on Things most commonly served at family breakfasts, and Savory Pies for Eating Cold. It also has suggested bills of fare for breakfasts throughout the year. Here are the author’s suggestions for breakfast for 8 or 10 persons for the Spring Quarter.

Middle of the Table.
Ox-tongue, glazed.
4 By-dishes, Cold.
Prawns. Potted Birds.
Potted Oysters. Preserved Sardines.
4 By-dishes, Hot.
Sausages, tossed. Sweetbreads, grilled.
2 Entrées.
Rump Steaks, broiled. Fillets of Sole, tossed.
Marmalades, Creams, Dried Fruits, Biscuits or Bonbons at discretion.

I assume ‘tossed’ as it applies to the sausages and fillets of sole means tossed in a hot pan (as suggested by Ms, Hill’s recipe below), I am intrigued by the idea of bonbons at breakfast, and I am heartily grateful that this range of breakfast options is no longer expected by the modern family.

It is the usual practice to simply toss sausages in lard or butter, for if broiled they are apt to become smoky before they are properly done. As they take some time to cook, first prick them with a needle to prevent the skins from breaking. Garnish with pickled red cabbage, or apples sliced and tossed till nicely browned. Observe that underdone sausages are execrable.

Quotation for the Day.

I went to a restaurant that serves "breakfast at any time". So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.
Stephen Wright


Anonymous said...

I wonder if "tossed" is a loose translation of "saute"?


Shay said...

I dunno...I think I'd like to try this (but not if I had to do the cooking and the washing up).

The Old Foodie said...

Hello Sandra - I think you are right - tossing them in a pan is sauteeing?
Hello Shay - me too, would be interesting to be a the guest end of this sort of breakfast.