Thursday, May 31, 2007

breakfast in Brighton

The title of this post is also the title of one of the first books I read after moving to the titular town. (I recommend it if you know the town, or have reason to get to know it.) It's also what I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Tonight I'm in an airport hotel outside Copenhagen, after another heavenly work trip to Sweden. The only thing that keeps me from believing that I really have gone to Heaven when I'm in Sweden is the preponderance of icky fish in the diet. It's charming the way that my Swedish friends constantly offer me food with fish in it, even when they know that fish is the one thing I cannot keep in my mouth long enough to swallow. (OK, it's not the only thing...but they haven't had reason to discover my relationship with broccoli.) It's not that they're cruel or forgetful, it's just that it doesn't occur to them that anchovy toast or caviar paste actually contains fish products--until I embarrass myself by refusing their kind offers.

But tomorrow I fly early enough to be home before I would have been awake on a normal day. And the only way I'll be able to get through the day is to have a nice protein-o-rific breakfast. Known in those parts as a cooked breakfast.

And the reason for letting you in on my breakfast plans? Oh, just to give unneeded autobiographical background to discussing some queries from Dennis in Wisconsin. Dennis has been noting down (I don't know for how long) sentences in British books that contain words he doesn't understand and can't locate the meanings for. A number of these fit into the category of 'breakfast'. So, here's a tour (in alphabetical order) of British breakfast foods in literature (mostly murder mysteries, from what I can tell. Can't solve crimes on an empty stomach, I guess):
"He had consumed a jumbo dogknob and beans for breakfast that morning" Grave Music, Catherine Harrod-Eagles, p. 5.
Sorry to start with this one. It's just crude. Dogknob here is most likely referring to a sausage--probably a hot-dog-like (i.e. red) sausage. Knob is slang for 'penis', and dogknob red is a crude description of a certain shade of colo(u)r. Moving right along...
"After a breakfast of two eggs and couple of rashers of the greenback he liked..." A New Lease of Death, Ruth Rendell, p. 27.
Because this comes in rashers (a word I haven't heard much in AmE--we tend to call them slices), we can tell it's bacon. I haven't found a definition for it, but since it is contrasted with smoked back bacon on this butcher's site, I think we can assume it's unsmoked back bacon. (Leave a comment if you know otherwise!) The type of bacon that's eaten in the US is called streaky bacon in BrE. If you buy it in Britain it's unlikely to crisp up the way that American bacon does--I'm not sure if it's because it's more thickly sliced or if there's something else different about it. (Your theories?) It won't be maple-cured, that's for sure.

And next on to...
"[Slider's tray held] two fried eggs, double fried bread, sausage, bacon and tomato, tea an' a slice." Blood Lines, Catherine Harrod-Eagles, p. 3
That's a slice of bread. If it didn't say double fried bread just before, I'd have assumed that this was a fried slice, which is certainly not as inedible as fish or broccoli, but not something I'd choose to eat. I looked fruitlessly for a picture of fried bread on the web, but did find a video on how to make it--I'm not sure if the humo(u)r in it is intentional. (The resulting fried slice is far more attractive than anything I've seen in the caffs [BrE slang = 'cafés'] that I frequent.) The same team has made a video on how to make a Full English breakfast.
"Carver went off with his breakfast into the guv'nors' dining-room, but Slider preferred to mess with the ORs, and exchanging friendly nods with some of the sleepy night relief just coming off, who had stayed for a cuppa and a wad, he took his tray to the window table." Blood Lines, p. 2
Dennis didn't ask about cuppa, but I had to highlight it anyhow, as it's just so BrE. It refers, of course, to a cup of tea, which for many Britons is a drink, a security blanket and a way of life. Wad is (apparently military) slang for a (BrE) bun ([postscript:] more probably a sandwich--see comments).

Of course, there is much, much more that could be said about breakfast foods (some of which has already been said on this site--hit the food/cooking label to go to more food discussions). But for tonight, I'm sticking with what Dennis gave me.

There's a very strange noise coming from the hotel bathroom, so if I don't post again, you can imagine that I came to an untimely (because I won't have had my English breakfast) and grisly end, at the hands (or tentacles) of a toilet monster.

31 comments:

Sili said...

Since the "an' a slice" followed the fried bread, my first thought was the it referred to black pudding. Since it comes after the tea, I'll defer to your analysis of it as plain toast.

Any comments on black pud'? It's a traditional food here in Denmark too (though I've never had it here) and it is customarily served with syrup (molasses?).

Unique Directories said...

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jangari said...

Here's a comment on black pudding, sili:
Coagulated pig's blood in a section of intestine, boiled, and sliced. Avoid like the plague.

About bacon, I don't know whether the bacon we get in Australia is the same as in the US, but it certainly differs from that in the UK, which is considerably more translucent meat, if you know what I mean. The meat and fat in our bacon is opaque pink and white respectively, while UK bacon (or at least one variety thereof) looks more like raw meat.

I used to work in a deli, and whenever audibly British people asked for streaky bacon, I would think that this is what they meant, and had to give them our inferior bacon instead.

johnb said...

Err .. Bacon in the UK is seen as a raw meat. We cook it before we eat it.

Personally, I don't like Black Pudding for breakfast - its way to rich for me when its fried - however, Black Pudding and onion sandwiches are much more to my palette

While not a military man at all, 'wad' has always implied 'sandwich' to me. Although I cannot find anything to support that view. 'Wad' is a old(ish) as slang, and I always assumed it was a WWII phrase, which probably implied more mundane food than cake.

Tea and a slice? - Sili, its not just plain toast, but RAW toast :) Just a plain slice of bread and butter.

Howard said...

I'm with johnb in thinking that 'wad' in this context is a sandwich - a difference perhaps between police and military slang?

The naval subspecies of military slang has some interesting terms for food: 'snorker' means a sausage for example, while 'chicken on a raft' is a fried (or poached) egg on toast (or fried bread).

sdh said...

You're right that the video on how to make fried bread is funny.

However, your link is broken.

lynneguist said...

Thanks for pointing that out. Should work now.

janes_kid said...

Just an FYI perhaps, in recent years in the US were I to a hear "a slice" in connection with food I would think pizza even if it were breakfast.

There was a chain that used the word "rashers" on it's menu. I don't recall seeing it recently. Perhaps I have just not been to the same places I once frequented.

dearieme said...

Black pudding (aka "bloody puddy") is perfectly pleasant for brekkers, but perfection as part of a "chip supper", when it should be accompanied by pickled onions. And truffle. Yummy.

P.S. Not entirely serious about the truffle.

dearieme said...

A real breakfast treat that I've not had in years is the Aberdeen buttery. The best are equalled only by the very best croissants.

dearieme said...

Come to think of it, when I've been in North America, I've never been offered such old-fashioned brecky treats as kedgeree or devilled kidneys. Or even a humble kipper.

jack said...

The only time I'd ever seen "streaky bacon" (as opposed to just "bacon")was in reading some heavy-handed criticism of Victorian polychrome architecture - the critic described the buildings as looking like streaky bacon because of the different colored bricks. I assumed "streaky" was added by the author just to be more descriptive, not because "streaky bacon" is considred the proper term for a particular type of bacon.

So, you learn something new everyday.

Derry said...

I don't consider most bacon in Britain to be bacon any more.
Bacon should be cured, and IMO smoked, so that it becomes a cured meat, which can be kept without further preservation. This is a lengthy process involving brining and drying.
Commercial British bacon has dissolved flavourings and preservatives injected into the meat, which is then sealed into plastic sachets (with the evidence of the excess water sloshing around inside) which, even so, have to be refrigerated for storage.
You can buy real bacon, which cooks and crisps, and tastes good, but probably not from a supermarket.

Oops, I think my displeasure may be showing.

lynneguist said...

Bacon in the US cooks so that the fat streaks in it turn a sort of caramel colo(u)r and become...hm, brittle isn't quite the right word, because the fat has a buttery quality (being fat). I can't think of what to compare it to.

The fat in British bacon tends to stay fairly white and gelatinous, unless one burns it. On standard back bacon, people usually cut off the fat and don't eat it. I also find British bacon saltier than American bacon, but that's probably just because the maple-curing in (much) American bacon gives it an additional flavo(u)r note that cuts down on the salty taste. (I tried looking up comparative nutrition facts to check on sodium content, but since US labels are based on serving size and UK labels on 100g of whatever food it is, it's hard to figure out how the sodium levels compare.)

On dearieme's breakfast revery, I'm reminded of the lyric from Supertramp's 'Breakfast in America':

Could we have kippers for breakfast,
Mummy dear, Mummy dear?
They gotta have'em in Texas
'Cause everyone's a millionaire


I remember having to look up kipper in a dictionary when that song came out.

Peter said...

In the RAF a sandwich was known as a “wad” and usually purchased from the N.A.A.F.I (Amer.PX?) to supplement the inadequate food served in the airmen’s mess. I suspect the word was derived from the cotton plug, used to stop up the powder in a gun or cannon.

Quite a few military words originate from 200 years in India e.g. Khaki (Urdu-dust coloured) and in the RAF a three-ton lorry was a gharry (Hindi-gari-horse drawn carriage).

I have not heard the word ”green-bacon” for many years. During rationing and when people were generally poorer, streaky bacon was normally eaten at breakfast, but nowadays most people would buy back-bacon and streaky is confined to cooking e.g. wrapping round a turkey or chicken for roasting in the oven. I noticed in New York that in the diners streaky bacon was always served.

Peter said...

I had composed my comments in Word and pasted,so I had not realised that some of it was repetitious. Mea,culpa!

lynneguist said...

Back bacon is generally referred to in AmE as Canadian bacon.

Will correct the post to note the wad = 'sandwich' information.

Chris said...

My family use "Canadian bacon" to refer to pork loin, and it was/is roasted rather than grilled.

Ginger Yellow

potentilla said...

Lynneguist - last time I bought M&S streaky bacon, it crisped up in an American kind of way. Also, you can usually buy maple-cure in one of the supermarket posh brands (eg Taste the Difference - is that Tesco?)

Black pudding is best fried with apples. And dearieme's breakfast reverie missed out one of the nicest things in the Far Too Much Protein category, scrambled egg with smoked salmon.

dearieme said...

Ah, Potentilla. We eat bloody puddy with apples and mashed potato - a German dish called Himmel und Erde. As for Smoked Salmon - happily it has negative calories so you can eat as much as you like. Can't you?

Tom Roper said...

I am sorry to say that the video leaves out an essential step in making good fried bread, to wit that before putting the bread into the hot fat (to digress, why do they suggest vegetable oil, what's wrong with the fat in which the rest of the fried breakfast has been cooked, supplemented if necessary with some lard?) it should be lightly sprinkled with water on both sides.
Harold McKee could probably explain why this works. I only know that it does.

Paul Danon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Carol said...

The fried bread seems like US Texas toast (except made with regular sandwich-sized bread rather than large, thick bread slices).

lynneguist said...

I don't think fried bread is very much like Texas toast--but then I don't think the fried bread in the video resembles fried bread very much. Fried bread in the UK is typically soaked all the way through with fat.

The kind of bread used in Texas toast is called door-stop bread in BrE.

Dan H said...

I think it is missing a lot of subtlety to equate "caff" with "café" (or "cafe", as the latter has usually been Anglicised to). A caff, often found in the combo "transport caff" if it is used primarily by lorry drivers, is a bit down-market. It's somewhere you'd expect to buy the kind of greasy breakfast you describe. A cafe, otoh, is just somewhere you would stop for a small meal, be it tea and toast, fish and chips, or a fry-up. The eateries found in department stores are cafes but never caffs. What would once have been called a tea room would probably now be a cafe. Cafe covers a range from caffs at the bottom end up to but not including restaurants at the top.

Also, "caff" is a bit of a working-class word, so someone who wanted to be seen as middle-class would replace it with "cafe" or "greasy spoon", the latter phrase having no class restrictions.

Ster said...

There's bacon (stips) and Canadian bacon (round) sold in the US for breakfast, and another meat, pork roll that my friends from Flordia hoard and take home on their trips to New Jersey. All wonderful breakfast meats!

Robbie said...

Coming rather late to this one, but might I just add that a super-thick slice of bread is a doorstep, not a doorstop.

enitharmon said...

I'm working from the back towards the present day so if there is a discussion to come about the language of american breakfasts in the diner I've yet to see it, so I'm putting down a marker here. Such breakfasts were always a highlight of visits to upstate New York in the days when I was married to one of the natives.

I liked to think of it as a game. Playing the customer's hand, you had to specify your order as precisely as possible, and if the clerk(?) had to ask for further detail ("was that dark rye toast or light rye toast?") you lost. I found a similar game being played at delis in New York City (and also Toronto), and of course in the bar ("martini, very dry, straight up, rocks on the side").

The vocabulary of these games would flummox (is that a word in AmE?) many a Brit. Especially the idea that sausages can be "links" or "patties" , not to mention be served with maple syrup – not half as bad as it sounds, and I've even tried it with our local Cumberland sausage.

The language of these games is surely worth a book in its own right.

lynneguist said...

What a great game! (And I see you're making your way through the blog, leaving lots of interesting comments--thanks!)

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I've always heard it as, and said, doorstop. Even though it doesn't make much sense that may (though not all doorstops are wedges, in my house with use a small iron mouse).

arnie said...

@anonymous:

Definitely doorstep for a thick slice of bread in my experience. Presumably so-called after the resemblance to the holystoned doorsteps of many of the houses.