Hey Limey! Your mum's gonna cook MY sausage!
October 28, 2009 9:40 AM   Subscribe

A question for my brethren in Britannia, how did your family prepare the full breakfast?

I understand that there are several local variations on this delicacy of British cuisine, I'd like to hear about the individual variations that existed in your collective recollections. How do you remember the full fry up? And when typically was it served? (day of week, time of year, specific point in parental hangover) And any other details you feel like sharing.

What I don't want is links that point to sites telling me what a "typical" Great British Breakfast is or should be.

Thanks in advance to all.
posted by SinisterPurpose to Food & Drink (27 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Full disclosure: I am not British, nor have I ever been to that land.

However, my understanding of the fryup is that one necessary component is Heinz Baked Beans, of the variety which (strangely) I have only seen once in US stores: the kind which come in tomato sauce in the can. I have it on good authority that these beans are ubiquitous in English supermarkets, whereas you have a hard time finding them here; Heinz Baked Beans here are generally a wholly different beast.

This is of course only one part of the concoction.
posted by koeselitz at 9:56 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

This is what I mean.
posted by koeselitz at 9:57 AM on October 28, 2009

Would you be interested in hearing about the Irish version as well, or just English?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:04 AM on October 28, 2009

I don't think baked beans are by any means an essential component; often fried or griddled halves of tomatoes taken their place in the grand panoply of flavours that constitutes a Full English.
posted by thoughtless at 10:09 AM on October 28, 2009

London, 1980's and early 90s. Pre-organic, pre-free range, pro-lard.

Bacon: cushion, not streaky. Not done unless the rind is golden.
Sausages: cheap, 5% pork, 95% other.
Eggs: from hens that had never known sunshine. Fried usually, or if I whined because the runny yolk gave me the screaming ab dabs (still does), scrambled.
Fried bread: best supermarket white sliced brand, fried long and hard in the juice of all the other ingredients that had gone in the pan before it.
Mushrooms, tomatoes, beans: for those who drink shandy or wear aftershave only. (My parents' definition of 'poofter' ran far and wide.)
Generous dollop Daddies brown sauce (never ketchup).

All fried in a pan one full decade older than me and at least half a packet of what my memory tells me was 'Cookeen' brand lard. (Whenever I visit my parents now I find they are still using this, even though I've not seen it on a supermarket shelf for at least ten years. I think they must still be reusing their first block from 1983.)

Cooked exclusively by my father who did no other cooking or house chores whatsoever except this, the making of chilli con carne and the carving of the Christmas turkey. I seem to recall the fry-up being a non seasonal specific thing but it usually happened at weekends, around brunch time, unless they were cavorting with the Cookeen behind my back on school mornings.
posted by Acarpous at 10:10 AM on October 28, 2009 [8 favorites]

What about your sistren?!

Sunday morning in our house; every morning in a cafe, after a night of serious drinking.

In our house: fried eggs, fried mushrooms, fried bread, fried bacon, and fried (fresh not tinned) tomatoes, all done in the same pan at different stages. Served with gallons of strong tea and lashings of HP sauce.

We didn't usually have baked beans with a fry-up at home, but the bean of choice when I was growing up was Crosse and Blackwell, not Heinz. Not sure why.
posted by vickyverky at 10:10 AM on October 28, 2009

Well, I can only speak to a little of your question, as my family was definitely not one for cooked breakfasts unless we were eating out.

In general though, I suspect that cooked breakfasts tend to be more of a weekend thing for many, although not all and there aren't really any seasonally specific variations that I can think of.

Variations tend to be driven by whether various ingredients are present or not. Some things are more variable than others. Whereas a full breakfast will always include bacon, egg, sausage, and nearly always include tomato and mushroom, other ingredients like black pudding, fried bread, hash browns or white pudding are only present some of the time.

I've not noticed any specific regional patterns, but using stereotypes as a guide, you're more likely to get the more artery clogging ingredients the further north you go. Having said that, there's plenty of decent caffs down south here in London that will do the full set.

The wikipedia article on Full Breakfasts covers regional variation very well.
posted by grahamspankee at 10:12 AM on October 28, 2009

In my (English) experience, a Full English Breakfast is what you get in a B&B in the morning, not something we would make at home, and we would certainly not make it at home for breakfast. I don't think I could contemplate cooking on that scale without having first had breakfast! You can also find it served in any low-priced working man's cafe, frequently served all day and called an "all day breakfast".

What goes in it is:

Sausage, bacon and eggs; these are mandatory.
Either toast or fried bread.
Zero or more of: fried mushrooms, fried tomato halves, baked beans, hash browns, black pudding.

Ketchup or brown sauce are also mandatory.

Coffee or tea, and/or orange juice.

Some places serve chips with it: this is wrong :-)

Heinz Beans are indeed ubiquitous in supermarkets.
posted by emilyw at 10:17 AM on October 28, 2009

In California, late 70s and early 80s, with 2 recently immigrant English parents:

Sunday morning
Fried eggs
Fried tomatoes
Fried mushrooms
Fried kidneys (sometimes)
Fried bacon

and the coup de grace:
Bread fried in the fat from all the other fried items.

I am torn between nostalgia and bypass surgery.
posted by Kafkaesque at 10:24 AM on October 28, 2009

Would you be interested in hearing about the Irish version as well, or just English?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:04 PM on October 28

Obviously not. I am born of English elitism.

Also, I am known to be a cheeky bastard.

I am often accused of being too subtle. So here goes the bluntness:

Anyone who even remotely feels they have something to contribute to this question may do so. I welcome the contributions of all regardless of sex, creed, or potato eating ancestry.

I will now prove it.

Do the Aussies or the Kiwis have anything like this?
posted by SinisterPurpose at 10:29 AM on October 28, 2009

Right. :-)

Irish breakfast cooked for me by my friend's mother the first time I went to visit:

* Bacon
* Sausage
* Black and white puddings
* Egg
* Slice of grilled tomato
* Scones
* Grapefruit

Irish breakfast prepared for me in a hotel in Kinsale a few years later:

* Bacon
* Sausage
* Black and white puddings
* Egg
* Toast

"Irish Breakfast" as offered in one Irish pub in the East Village, NYC:

* Bacon
* Sausage
* Black and white puddings
* Egg
* Slice of grilled tomato
* Mushrooms
* Toast

"Irish Breakfast" as offered by a different pub, also in the East Village:

* Bacon
* Sausage
* Egg
* Baked beans
* Toast
* Slice of Grilled Tomato

In all cases, tea and juice was offered. The places in the U.S. also offered coffee.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:32 AM on October 28, 2009

In my (English) experience, a Full English Breakfast is what you get in a B&B in the morning, not something we would make at home, and we would certainly not make it at home for breakfast.

Ditto my English experience -- it's a lot of effort and so it's a lot more enjoyable when somebody else does the work. Also tastier. I associate the full English with B&B holidays; and with hungover student weekends in which the urge to head out to a greasy-spoon caff would often hit.

Coffee or tea, and/or orange juice.

Maybe at a B&B. But if you're at a cafe: tea, strong and sugared.

Eggs always fried, always runny; use your fried bread to soak up the yolk. Never scrambled, and over easy is an Americanism that is totally unknown in the UK.

And yes, English baked beans are not at all like American ones. They are one of the few foods I miss from home. Cost Plus carries Heinz beans, although they're not cheap -- part of the point of baked beans is that they're cheap protein, so even if you're at the last of your student grant you can still afford beans on toast.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:35 AM on October 28, 2009

Proper UK Heinz beans can be found at your local Cost Plus World Market. If you have a British importer in your town you will most certainly find them there. And if you're exceptionally lucky and have a lot of expats nearby, you might even be able to find them in your supermarket. I nearly fell over in the canned goods aisle one day when I saw that unmistakable turquoise can sitting companionably next to cans of chili beans instead of in the international foods section. That supermarket also stocked Marmite - but put it next to the yeast in the baking section. Yeast, yeast extract... I guess it made sense to someone somewhere.

I've had many cooked breakfasts, in cheap caffs in Hackney where it was just egg, beans, sausage, and bacon, and at more upscale places in Kensington that did the full complement of egg, homemade baked beans, sausage with more meat than rusk, bacon, black pudding, tomato, mushrooms and oddly, hash browns. Oh, and toast rather than fried slice.

But the best ones were at my mate Ciara's flat after a trip to Borough Market. Cumbrian sausage and bacon, squares of black pudding, white pudding, and fried duck eggs. Late Sunday morning, as an antidote to a hangover and as a precursor to an afternoon down the pub.

A cooked breakfast is what you make of it. I don't think there's necessarily any tried and true methods. But that Wikipedia article is pretty darn good.
posted by elsietheeel at 10:36 AM on October 28, 2009

In Canada, 70s/80s with recently immigrated lower class Irish mum and English Dad, breakfast on weekends was always fried eggs (mine runny, theirs hard), sausages, bacon, fried fresh sliced tomatoes, mushrooms, fried diced potatoes with onions (I think this was a later american addition), beans on occasion, marmalade on toast (from a toaster - frying toast was considered common), ketchup, and brown sauce (HP I think), orange juice, and tetley's tea with lots of milk and sugar.

They still do them every weekend, hence my frequent visits home around elevenses. I actually got out of bed within half an hour of giving birth to my first child to walk downstairs and have my mummy's breakfast (cooking calms her nerves). The midwives were in heaven and I think it made the first nursing extra tasty for my wee bairn.
posted by saucysault at 10:54 AM on October 28, 2009 [1 favorite]

And now that I've looked at the wiki article, we call it a fry up. God, this is making me hungry.
posted by saucysault at 10:55 AM on October 28, 2009

I didn't grow up with lots of experience of a full breakfast, but the version I tend to order in a caff (deliberately spelt and pronounced without the é, althought that might be a personal affectation) is bacon (as others have noted, in Britain this is not streaky; I believe it's "back"?), sausage, (fried) egg and (baked) beans. A side order of toast and a serving of a mug of tea are obligatory (and usually included in the price).

At the work local I also get hash browns (which in Britain are more like potato croquettes than the shredded, fried potatoes you might expect in Denny's) and black pudding (blood sausage: the tomato juice from the beans is really handy to soften this up a bit). I have started actually eating the breakfast before 10am, but more usually I have one for lunch (and then barely need dinner in the evening). Here's photos of a breakfast and a lunch, if that's useful.

I tend to eschew chips and vegetables, but I thought I should mention a couple of things that other people order which haven't come up so far. The first is bubble (or bubble and squeak): fried potato and cabbage leftovers. The other is a component of a Northern Irish breakfast called the "Ulster fry" (the name gives it away, huh?): soda bread.
posted by blech at 11:46 AM on October 28, 2009

A good Welsh breakfast would include most of the following:

- Eggs: fried (runny) or scrambled, sometimes poached
- Hot buttered toast - well toasted, none of your pale warm bread muck ;-)
- Grilled bacon (smoked back), good quality sausage, black pudding, white pudding and halved tomatoes
- Heinz baked beans
A very occasional addition would be laverbread from Swansea market

Accompanied by:
A fresh pot of assam
Tomato ketchup or HP sauce on the side
posted by ceri richard at 11:48 AM on October 28, 2009

North East London, weekend mornings, the 1980's, as made by my dad and grandmother:

Always - fried or grilled bacon (usually back bacon, not "streaky"), sausages, fried eggs, toast.

Sometimes - fried tomatoes, fried bread (my dad refused to do this), fried potatoes made from left over boiled potatoes (best thing ever).

Condiments were ketchup, brown sauce, and most importantly Worcester sauce.

My dad would often make crepe style pancakes for weekend breakfast instead though. We'd eat them with sugar and lemon juice. Baked beans were a lunch or weeknight dinner thing in my house, usually with a fried egg, served on toast or with chips.

posted by crabintheocean at 12:46 PM on October 28, 2009

My father's fry up was this (Essex, outside London in the eighties):

- Unsmoked back bacon fried with the rind on (you'd remove the rind and leave it on your plate)
- Fried eggs, still super runny
- Fried pork sausages
- Fried mushrooms
- Fried tomato halves
- Fried bread
- Toast
- HP sauce, pepper and salt for condiments.

He would have it every single Sunday morning first thing. This is on the same day, of course, as the other classic British meal - the Sunday Roast. Man, those Sundays could be hard.

Sometimes I will add fried black pudding to this - my dad isn't a fan. The bread has to be white, and I'm most likely to have one on a Saturday morning. Saying that I had a mini version this morning, just because I had the day off. It's a bit of a "special" treat to me these days, and like others, I associate it with staying in a hotel or B&B.

Lastly, it is also the great British hangover cure. It's just such a great meal.
posted by brighton at 1:00 PM on October 28, 2009

Sausage, bacon and eggs; these are mandatory.
Either toast or fried bread.
Zero or more of: fried mushrooms, fried tomato halves, baked beans, hash browns, black pudding.

IME this isn the best description of the "full english breakfast"

...and I'm totally blown away that you guys don't have baked beans, I'm even more blown away by this from wikipedia An estimated 95% of baked beans are consumed in the UK
posted by missmagenta at 1:37 PM on October 28, 2009

Liverpool, 1980s... cooked by my father (whose only other cooking duties were ceremonial).

Fried back bacon rind on, and golden.
Fried eggs, runny.
Fried bread, in triangles (very important that they were in triangles for some reason).
Fried tomato halves (which I never ate due to loose skin hatred... skin of the tomatoes that is).
Fried walls sausages... none of this cumberalnd, herby fancy sausage... we needed the sawdust.
All fried in an old pan which lent a dusting of black bits to the food. Fried in lard.
HP sauce (at a friend's house they once offered Daddie's sauce... I never went there again).

Anything up to half a loaf of buttered white sliced bread for mopping (far from being available as a sponge, the fried bread was more like a fountain of warm grease).

I think my arteries just had a fatal flashback...
posted by itsjustanalias at 1:52 PM on October 28, 2009

The sort of breakfast you're asking about is, in my English colloquial experience, consumed on a Sunday, or a day where there is ample time in the morning but otherwise rigorous activity ahead. In modern times, such rigorous activity may include travel.

The staple ingredients when I was growing up were bacon and eggs, which, insufficient in themselves to constitute a "fry up", were the only ingredients common to *every* instance of a fry up. The egg is always fried. In rough descending order of regularity, the following would appear:

*toast, or as an occasional alternative, fried bread
*fried potato (always a variation on recently cooked leftovers, either boiled potatoes diced and fried, mashed potatoes fried, or mashed potatoes mixed with cabbage to make bubble and squeak)
*fried tomato (cooked to the point of being lovely and soft and scolding hot inside, not merely slightly browned under a grill as often seems to be the case these days). Waffles occurred on occasion, or in recent years hash brown, but I don't necessarily approve.
*baked beans, Heinz, from a tin, heated in saucepan
*mushrooms, destalked, but not chopped. Fried whole.

Black pudding is a wonderful addition, but I believe this is an English concession to UK-wide cosmopolitanism, more popualr with the Scots and Irish. I love it, but prefer the sweater white pudding even more. Square sausage is another Scots alternative. Sausage is a common ingredient, but absent from my childhood breakfasts. Sausages were a dinner-time thing.

In Northern Ireland, you may have potato bread or soda farl (or soda bread); the former being a light, thin, firmish pancakish concoction perfect for resting a fried egg on top of. Soda farl is a dense, doughy thick bread. It fills up your tummy like bricks-with-polystyrene but is somehow lovely at the same time. There's wheaten bread too.

These latter additions are things I've consumed in adulthood at friends from other parts of the UK or in cafes. They would never have appeared in my English-home-counties fry up of the 1980s. As much as I love these additions, a cafe fry up is no match for an expertly cooked home cooked extravaganza. It's just something that tastes better at a kitchen table with a cup of tea in your favourite mug.

Recently, for a post Burns Night breakfast we refried the previous evening's haggis. It made a wonderful black pudding substitute. Except there was also black pudding. Oops.
posted by nthdegx at 2:27 PM on October 28, 2009

Breakfast this morning in Australia...

First in the pan, butter.
Then smoked back bacon rind on (and as every one else has said, not that godawful streaky stuff that Usanians call bacon).
Add button mushrooms or sliced large brown mushrooms.
Then fresh tomato halves cut side up. Sprinkle salt, pepper and sugar on the upside of the tommys.
Cook till the bacon fat mingles with the butter and creates a fat soup in the bottom of the pan, the mushrooms are dark and the bottom of the tomatoes are browning. Add more sugar to tommys if desired.
Turn over tommys and watch the tomato juice meld and sizzle into the fat soup.
Add eggs. Fry in caramelised tommy juice and fat soup until edges crispy, whites cooked and yolk soft.
Place onto plate, drain caramelised tommy fat juice over eggs.
Serve with thick white buttered toast and tea, followed by a grease-cutting strong coffee.

Repeat multiple times a week till your cardiologist refuses to treat you.
posted by Kerasia at 3:05 PM on October 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm Canadian, but three of my parents are British and my stepfather is a Kiwi.

Mum's fryup (she's East London): eggs, bacon, beans, toast, mushrooms sometimes. Eggs fried in with the bacon.

Stepmum's fryup (she's Cotswolds, more or less): fried eggs, bacon, sausage, fried bread, grilled tomato (with parmesan and parsley usually), beans, toast (in a genuine English Toast Cooler Rack), mushrooms, fried potatoes (usually some sort of a hash type), in the winter some sort of oatmeal or something as well. I swear to God I haven't had one of those in twenty years and I am still digesting them.

My fryup: bacon, sausage, eggs, tomato sometimes, toast, fried potatoes, sometimes fried onions as well (though if I don't do them separately, they'll be in with the potatoes anyway). Sausages are done separately (poach then fry with the eggs in the leftover bacon fat), potatoes are done separately, do the tomato under the broiler.
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 5:07 PM on October 28, 2009

Fry ups in our house (Midlands, Eighties) were something that happened long after breakfast. Usually on Saturday evenings when somebody had let my dad near the cooker.

Sausage and (British style) bacon.

Fried eggs, with a runny yolk which you would either use to moisten the rest of the meal or soak up with bread.

Mushrooms and/or potato waffles. (Not originally a component of our fry-ups, but introduced as a necessary evil when I stopped eating meat.)

White bread for us kids and fried bread for my dad. The fried bread was made with much pomp and ceremony about how it was his special reward for ooking, but really it was just because fried bread has to be made last and the kids were always served first.

Lots of Daddies Brown Sauce and lots of bad jokes about how we weren't allowed to apply it ourselves, because it was Daddy's. If you gave him your slice of bread, he'd draw spiderwebs on it, with the sauce. Sadly, since the introduction of those squeezy bottles, the ability to draw intricate artwork with brown sauce is no longer considered a superpower.

Tea, that began as a mug of milk. He'd pour a mug of milk, say "show me how much milk you want"and then you'd have to drink the milk down to your preferred level, at which point he would add the tea. Sadly this would be served without sugar as my Mum had taken to hiding it from us. (In our house you would never find sugar in the kitchen, but you might happen upon some in an upstairs wardrobe or lurking in the garage.)
posted by the latin mouse at 2:20 AM on October 29, 2009

Scottish variation includes square sausage (more properly, Lorne sausage) and tattie scones.
posted by Jakey at 4:05 AM on October 29, 2009

Following on from Jakey and several others.

The Scottish fry-up is a wilful attempt to outdo the English fry up ("it's for puffs!") in every conceivable way. It is for this reason that Scotland has some of the best cardiologists and worst heart attack rates in the Universe.

The Scottish fry-up generally begins the night before with several pints of liver compromiser. You wake up with a drooth (a terrible thirstiness) and move on to the meal itself. There are variations to below, but this is the gist of it.

Square sausage (a foul but eminently enjoyable form of processed pig, or occasionally beef, made from all the worst parts of the animal, bloated with rusk and 'seasonings'). At the very least there is usually one slice of this but more often two.

Black pudding (a spiced blood sausage, if you are lucky it's from Stornoway, if you are not so lucky, Christ knows).

Potato scone (a potato and flour patty enlivened with lard and salt) usually fried in the remains of whatever juices/fats are left in the frying pan.

Fruit pudding (a suet pudding made with fats, sugars and very occasionally traces of fruit)

Baked beans (should be Heinz but more often than not will come from an industrial sized vat of the cheapest commercial caterers known to man- usually ladled onto the plate like gruel dished out on a particularly tough line on the Western Front).

Eggs (as mentioned above, these are unlikely to be free-range and will usually be fried, although some oddballs will have them scrambled).

Fried bread (usually a Mother's Pride loaf. This is what is known in Scotland as a 'plain loaf'. It takes two strong adults to lift one and appears to contain more chemical compounds than are you would find at the average oil refinery).

Toast (from the same Mother's Pride source as above).

Tomatoes, has browns and Mushrooms are little more than a middle-class conceit and are usually not tolerated by the Puritan.

The plate should be covered in stuff and weigh close to two pounds.

A zig zag jus of Daddie's Brown sauce should cover everything except the beans (only perverts put Brown sauce on beans).

This should be served with local soft-drink top dog Irn Bru (preferably from a glass bottle) and tea so highly sugared that you can stand a spoon up in the middle of the mug.

A tabloid newspaper, a companion rougher than a badger's arse, a list of half-remembered regrets from the night before, all prepared by a surly person in a manky cafe before are usually the best way to enjoy this.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 5:24 AM on October 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

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