The first meal of the day is, according to Alex Rusmer, the most delicious
It was once suggested that the only way to dine well in England was to eat breakfast three times a day – eschewing the famously bland offerings of lunch and dinner in favour of The Full English.
Time, experience, travel and immigration (not to mention advances in matters pertaining to cardiology) have long since put paid to Somerset Maugham’s droll suggestion. Our collective plate overflows with riches from all over the world. We eagerly collect cuisines and dishes and make no hesitation in soon claiming them for our own.
But, by golly, we still know how to make breakfast.
Our most famous offering is, of course, the heaving plate of processed pork (usually at least two varieties, three if you are partial to black pudding), eggs and other sundry items. Whilst this feast doesn’t have quite the ubiquity it once did, I know of no one whose eyes don’t glaze over and bellies rumble at the thought. Especially the morning after the night before when a fat, salt and carbohydrate laden feast is exactly the sort of thing required to redress the balance of the universe.
The gloriously portable version – a filled sandwich – can contain as few as one, or as many as six or seven of the items usually found on the breakfast plate (although experience has taught that beans are often a step too far). As a youngster I used to be able to handle this ante-meridiem gastronomic tidal wave with great aptitude. Hotel breakfasts were a rare treat, but what a glorious treat they were. I’d begin with a bowl of fruit (for health) before ploughing through the buffet with terrific enthusiasm, often finishing with a couple of rounds of toast and marmalade. Which, for the record, is the only proper way to complete a meal of such magnitude.
“A poached egg is the only acceptable egg and go big on the ‘healthy’ bits”
At some point in my early twenties, my body became less adept at processing this onslaught. Rather than leaving me sprightly and ready to face the day, I was rendered capable only of lying down, preferably with only a mild depression for company. The energy required to digest this cacophony of pork, egg and bread became too immense and the cost-benefit analysis (benefit: it is so very delicious – cost: it leaves me capable only of groaning and clutching my belly) has made it increasingly less desirable.
In the spirit of trying to consume delicious things whilst also attempting to maintain a level of verticality and reliable cognitive function, I’ve made some amendments to The Full English. Now I have a (loose) set of rules that allow for enjoyment without the need for three hours in bed.
Firstly, forego the sausages for therein lies disaster (and they have a terrible ability of returning to say ‘hello’ with every burp emitted for the next eight hours). Secondly, a poached egg is the only acceptable egg. This is especially true if you are faced with a buffet where the options are scrambled and bouncy or fried and bouncy. Requesting poached eggs is a guarantee of freshness and a soft yolk.
Thirdly, go big on the ‘healthy’ bits. Roasted field mushrooms and tomatoes are delicious and are less likely to leave you feeling exhausted. Add some beans and the inevitable glass of juice (or a bloody Mary) and you’ll have nailed four of your ‘five-a-day’ before you’ve even read the front page of The Guardian.
Finally, finish – rather than begin – with coffee. Just trust me on that one.