Fish & Quips: The English Cooked Breakfast

5471 - cooked breakfast

“The only way to eat well in England is to have breakfast three times a day.”
— Somerset Maugham

A while back, Sam of Beck’s & Posh posed the question: Is English Food A Joke? Somerset Maugham evidently thought so. I, however, beg to differ.

I have enjoyed many a wonderful meal in England. Elegant pub fare (not a contradiction in terms) at the Notley Arms, nestled on the edge of Somerset’s Exmoor National Park, and in the thatched, golden stone of the Falkland Arms in Great Tew. Delicious, locally grown vegetarian food at Stones, surrounded by Avebury‘s magnificent circle of standing stones. Cream teas too numerous to mention; in the gardens of small Devonshire tea shops and accompanied by a string quartet in Bath, and — one of the best — at a picnic table on the edge of Exmoor, after a long, beautiful hike. Noodles at London’s hip Wagamama, fabulous Indian food in Leicester (!), and, on an evening when my new husband and I were both tired and a little cranky, the best Whopper ever at the Burger King in Shrewsbury.

And yet… when I consider the meal that has kept me on my feet, hiking English hills or wandering English museums or tripping on English sidewalks because I’m looking up at buildings yet again, I think of breakfast. The English cooked breakfast. The full breakfast. The fry-up.

The ingredients for a cooked breakfast are simple: eggs, bacon and/or sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, bread, orange marmalade. Some people consider baked beans an indespensible part of a full breakfast; I’ll save those to go with my shepherd’s pie, thank you. The preparation is simple: fry up the bacon in a skillet, then add the sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes and eggs according to the time they will take to cook to your taste. While you could fry the bread, I toasted this homemade whole grain meal bread in our toaster. (Sadly, we do not have a quintessentially English toast rack in which to stand toast.) Lower sodium bacon, chicken sausage, local free-range eggs and organic tomatoes do not a traditional cooked breakfast make, but it sure was yummy. And after we’d eaten, I felt ready to build an empire… or take a nap.

5480-cozy and denby (We ate our cooked breakfast last Saturday on our very English Denby stoneware. We bought this little blue Denby pitcher on our honeymoon, while on a tour of the factory.)

UPDATE: In honor of St. George’s Day, Sam’s epic roundup of Fish & Quips posts will prove to even the most skeptical that English food is no joke. Sixty-five bloggers participated in Fish & Quips, and Sam has collected a photo and quotation from each of our posts. Take a look! Have a read! This is English food to make you drool.


9 thoughts on “Fish & Quips: The English Cooked Breakfast”

  1. The English Breakfast is a fine meal. How about black pudding – do you like that – someone else has features it in a post for Fish and Quips. I am with you – not caring for the baked beans. I really enjoyed reading through all your delicious memories from my home country. Thank you for being a part of this event.


  2. I was brought up in North Devon and was always given a good english breakfast before being sent to school on foot across the bare hills where storm force winds regularly drove freezing rain horizontally in from the Atlantic. Shorts and blazer were my only protection from the cold apart from burning calories. So the the english breakfast was essential for survival. Although I never got the baked beans. For some reason my mother never bought them. She probably considered them as junk food. Looking back through eyes tainted by 25 years of being vegetarian, it was probably the healthiest part of an english breakfast. Curiously my only fond souvenir of meat eating is the smell of bacon cooking in the morning.

  3. I love the breakfast photo! Really, really love it. The colors, the composition, and the subject are just wonderful.

    (Also, I have your cherry pie cake recipe saved from last summer, ready for cherry season. Right now it’s rhubarb season at our house.)

  4. I credit Somerset Maugham for inspiring me to fix bacon and eggs for supper so regularly. His characters were always going off to “breakfast” with a glass of beer after the theatre. Delicious.

  5. I just love the quote by Somerset Maugham. I couldn’t agree more. I always tell my wife that the best thing she brought to our marriage was a nice HOT breakfast (bacon, eggs, toast, potatoes, juice, tea)…

    And if you don’t eat a nice hearty breakfast, it sure makes it hard to get through the day. 🙂 Porridge and tea just doesn’t cut it!

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