Sunday 18 November 2012

Breakfast - famine or feast?

Photo by Gastev:

I read this brief history of breakfast (and lunch and dinner) on the BBC website this week.

One thing that strikes me is that the Romans still don't really eat breakfast. However fabulous the coffee, standing at the counter in a cafe drinking an espresso isn't breakfast. I dare say a single shot of coffee is all they can afford, judging by the eye-watering prices in Roman cafes the last time I was there.

From the sublime (absence of carbohydrates notwithstanding) to the ridiculous. I have an old history of breakfasts called The Great British Breakfast, and in it is a chapter on typical country house breakfasts. In the 19th century, one Major L published a book called Breakfasts, Luncheons and Ball Suppers, which included numerous menus 'deemed suitable for meals in English country houses'.

'In a country house, which contains probably  a sprinkling of good and bad appetites and digestions, breakfasts should consist of a variety to suit all tastes, viz: fish, poultry or game, if in season; sausages and one meat of some sort, such as mutton cutlets, or fillets of beef; omelettes, and eggs served in a variety of ways; bread of both kinds, white and brown, and fancy bread of as many kinds as can be conveniently served; two or three kinds of jam, orange marmalade, and fruits when in season; and on the side table, cold meats such as ham, tongue, cold game, or game pie, galantines*, and in winter a round of spiced beef of Mr Deague of Derby.'

*A galantine (no, I didn't know either) is a dish of de-boned, stuffed meat, usually poultry or fish, that is poached and served cold, coated with aspic (yeurch).

Suggested delicacies on the menus include Roast Larks, Buttered Eggs aux truffes, Devilled Pheasant and Turbot au Gratin.

Blimey. It's a wonder Lady Edith could get up from the breakfast table, let alone dash off to London to write her newspaper column, all whippet-thin in her flapper dress, if the aristos were still at it by the 1920s.

Oh, and the Victorians were also very partial to a wee snifter over breakfast too. Beer or claret with your cornflakes, anyone?


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