A couple of weeks ago two of our students, Marie Berfroi and Mélanie Lindin Carrion took their teacher, John McGill, for breakfast at the Earl of Derby pub just down the road from the school, so that they could experience the English breakfast in its native habitat.
Marie in particular not only expressed a desire to eat English food (fish and chips, English breakfast) but according to John also made the startling claim that English food is more interesting than French.
The breakfast in question consisted of: fried eggs, bacon, sausage, black pudding, toast, beans, fried mushrooms, fried tomatoes and I suppose a cup of tea. John later lamented weakly (while skipping lunch) that there had been no fried bread.
The absence of fried bread is usually a telltale sign that griddles have been involved in cooking; in an ideal world all the friables would be dealt with in the same pan, and then a slice of bread fried in the residue fat – a vital repository of English energy in the winter months.
The black pudding – rather like a spicy sausage, but made of congealed blood – is not essential (in the south of the country, at any rate), but it is a pleasing touch. The beans however (meaning baked beans in tomato sauce, from a tin) have nothing to do with an English breakfast, properly speaking. The English breakfast is a highly compartmentalised meal. The combinations of two or three items per forkful should be clean, and beans, being a runny unifier of a breakfast plate, tend to blur all distinctions in a rather sorry melange. The only runny thing on the plate should be a well-judged egg yolk.
As for condiments, a dab of brown sauce is apt if a little overpowering; some people like English mustard with their sausage, but that is strange; others like tomato ketchup, and for these lost souls there is no hope. Tea is the only drink, black, loose leaf, perhaps from an urn, with a dot of milk. Coffee with a fry-up is an abomination. Orange juice is a little grand, a little hotelish, but does cut through the grease.
John tells me that Marie finished her breakfast, but that Mélanie tackled hers with less gusto. He notes for completion that he finished his own.