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The Full English Breakfast Disgrace

The Guardian’s James Ramsden is unhappy with the full English breakfast [1], and for once, I agree with The Guardian. Excerpt:

The main problem is about quantity. It isn’t, in this case, anything to do with quality. In fact, the better the ingredients, the greater the shame. Because chucking sausage, bacon, black pudding, egg, tomato, beans and so on [2], all cooked the same way, all on one plate, is always going to end in a train wreck, however good each component is. “It’s the sheer laziness of it,” says food blogger Chris Pople [3], “the throwing together of different types of protein without any thought of balance or context. Sausages, eggs, bacon, black pudding, each of these things is beautiful in its own right. A fry-up forces them into greasy competition, salty fat against salty fat.”

I would prefer to eat English bangers for breakfast every single day of my life. I think they are insanely delicious. But I can’t deal with the full English breakfast, which is a salt-and-grease slough.

And beans for breakfast? Good grief.

46 Comments (Open | Close)

46 Comments To "The Full English Breakfast Disgrace"

#1 Comment By baconAndEggs On March 22, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

Who cares what they think of it, I like it, and so do millions of others.

#2 Comment By W.E.B. Dupree On March 22, 2013 @ 8:31 pm

You and this Ramsden fellow are both very wrong.

#3 Comment By Peterk On March 22, 2013 @ 9:15 pm

sorry but English bangers are nothing more than pure fat in a sausage casing devoid of any spices.

#4 Comment By Mr. Patrick On March 22, 2013 @ 9:17 pm

“And beans for breakfast? Good grief.”
Oh no, just syrupy canned baked beans for breakfast, good grief. Refried beans though, with eggs, tortillas, queso fresco, pico de gallo, topped with a habanero based picante, that’s breakfast.

#5 Comment By Tom S On March 22, 2013 @ 10:06 pm

Love the English Breakfast–just not too often. I can do without the tomato, but sometimes there are sauteed mushrooms. An English breakfast in a cheap bed and breakfast is pretty horrible. However, in a good hotel, with good quality ingredients….yum. In Scotland, they include black pudding. Double yum. Can do without the fried bread, however.

#6 Comment By Charles Cosimano On March 22, 2013 @ 10:09 pm

No brains?

#7 Comment By J.J. Goznalez Gonzalez On March 22, 2013 @ 10:11 pm

I’m Continental myself. I’ll stick to my daily croissant avec un café au lait. Yes, just a plain croissant, please, that’s all.

But I might enjoy English breakfast for lunch. However, I might have to skip the black pudding. What on green Earth might that be?

I find the English to be peculiar. That’s good and bad. Their fondness for dogs is charming. Their contemporary morals are a shambles. So unbecoming. And to think what England used to be. ‘Tis a pity.

They are the first big one to fall.

#8 Comment By Patrick Shea On March 22, 2013 @ 10:18 pm

Very little in the culinary world is as spectacular as the well-made full English breakfast. The American version with well-buttered and salted grits, eggs, fried ham, sausage, bacon, home fries (with onions and peppers) and, of course, biscuits with gravy is pretty much tied near the very top. You sweets lovers could always throw a few pancakes, waffles or whatnot on the side, if you must, but more biscuits with fresh butter and honey are just as good. The trick is not to eat like that more than three or four times a year, that is, unless you spend twelve hours a day working on your farm at hard manual labor. In that case, eat it as often as possible — you deserve it!

#9 Comment By J.J. Goznalez Gonzalez On March 22, 2013 @ 10:20 pm

Oh, I was just watching Bridgette Bardot having English breakfast in bed. That was yummy to watch.

She had some crumpet looking thing. I didn’t see any beans or bangers. She said the coffee was awful. What do you expect? She should have ordered tea. It was in England in this movie, afterall.

Next scene she was at the zoo on a photo shoot wearing nothing but white fur. She doesn’t do that anymore. I guess that’s a good thing, but it sure did work back then.

#10 Comment By BenSix On March 22, 2013 @ 10:29 pm

That it is a lazily prepared salt-and-grease slough is exactly the point. Its value is not in its taste but in its affirmation of one’s relaxedness. You don’t care about cooking; you don’t about calories and you don’t care about spilling baked bean juice down your sweatshirt.

Still, I don’t disagree. Too much dead animal – both in the sense of what you’re eating and what you feel like afterwards.

#11 Comment By Richard Barrett On March 22, 2013 @ 10:30 pm

I love the full English breakfast, at least at a proper cafe in England. Harder to pull off properly here in the States, but it’s one of those things that in its proper context is lovely.

#12 Comment By B. Minich On March 22, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

I’m an Anglophile through and through. (Even more of a Scotiaphile, if that’s a word.) But I can’t take the full English (or Scottish) breakfast. I’ll take elements of it (typically one can order eggs on toast, or bangers and a side), but the whole thing is overkill most mornings.

Of course, while in London, my sister and I discovered the best Italian cafe (with English food and Italian coffee), which we pretty much went to every morning we were there once it was discovered. Albertinis near the British Library is phenomenal.

#13 Comment By Rich On March 22, 2013 @ 10:37 pm

I spend a lot of time in India and most of the high-end hotels make the full English breakfast. I’ve grown to really love it. I can give or take the beans, but I almost can’t eat bacon & eggs now without looking for the tomatoes and mushrooms. In India they usually half the tomatoes, cover the cut side with bread crumbs and parmesan, then bake them. It’s wonderful. And fried bread with marmalade is delicious too.

#14 Comment By Mike On March 22, 2013 @ 10:42 pm

Give me a bacon sarnie & a cuppa and I’m right as rain!

#15 Comment By dSquib On March 22, 2013 @ 11:26 pm

This is surely to miss the point. In the morning the desire for protein is great and vital. A fry up is the easiest way to cook simple and accessible ingredients which need little skill or care, although skill always helps.

Also the one pictured in the article includes sliced potatoes which look baked, and adds more balance than most English breakfasts. Tomatoes provide balance, as do mushrooms. Bread isn’t merely an afterthought, you should use it with each mouthful. Eggs aren’t “salty” unless you add salt from a shaker, and you’d have to be slightly mad to add more salt to a fry up.

So I don’t see it. It’s certainly lazy but the charge of imbalance is particular rather than general.

Also, I’m hungry.

#16 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 22, 2013 @ 11:49 pm

I agree. I like one protein source for breakfast. Eggs. Or bacon. Or sausage. If I make an omelette, two protein sources, counting the swiss cheese. Or chopped up bits of leftover meat in scrambled eggs. One a really good day, well done steak, with well done fried cubes of potatoes. And a nicely buttered carbohydrate with whichever. Bagels and bacon go so well together. But not this “English breakfast.”

#17 Comment By Gary Ancelin On March 23, 2013 @ 12:01 am

I came here with my hackles up. It was “And beans for breakfast? Good grief.” Mr. Patrick stole my thunder. I live a couple 100 miles south of Mr. Dreher on the Texas-Mexico border and yes, it’s beans for breakfast and we’re happy to have them, they’re delicious.

#18 Comment By Cassia On March 23, 2013 @ 12:04 am

WHAT IS THIS BLASPHEMY?! I’d kill for a full English right now. Living in China, I miss it so much.

#19 Comment By Jeff On March 23, 2013 @ 12:05 am

I’d go with the Irish breakfast; get some blood sausage and fried potatoes in the mix. Oh yeah!

#20 Comment By Barbara On March 23, 2013 @ 12:44 am

My favorite part is always the beans. I believe I have died and gone to heaven when the equivalent of baked beans are on my breakfast plate.

#21 Comment By EngineerScotty On March 23, 2013 @ 2:48 am

The reason that the English were invented, of course, is so Southerners could complain about someone else’s unhealthy breakfast cuisine. 🙂

#22 Comment By Niall On March 23, 2013 @ 2:55 am

I’m not sure I can read this blog any more, after this monstrous attack on my belief system. Seriously though, if you find the traditional English breakfast a bit much – and I agree it’s not something you’d want to eat every day – then you’d be appalled by the “Ulster Fry”, a Northern Irish speciality which is essentially a full English breakfast turned up to eleven.

#23 Comment By James On March 23, 2013 @ 5:17 am

It pains me, Rod, that you cannot fully appreciate our greatest gift to the world! And no one has mentioned hash-browns or extra toast…

#24 Comment By Chris On March 23, 2013 @ 7:07 am

As I once heard Julie say, don’t yuck somebody else’s yum.

#25 Comment By CatherineNY On March 23, 2013 @ 8:13 am

What is wrong with you, Rod? The English breakfast is a glorious thing. The beans are there to help you…er…digest all the lovely eggs and bacon and sausage. This feast is best enjoyed in a good country bed & breakfast, where you will get good fresh ingredients from local farms, not in some fancy-pants hotel in London. My daughter and I will be enjoying an Easter week break in Hampshire and Dorset, and my mouth is already watering as I envision our breakfasts. As for your love of English bangers, I trust you are familiar with the episode of “Yes, Minister” in which evil Brussels tries to force the Brits to relabel their sausages as “emulsified high-fat offal tubes,” only to be foiled by Jim Hacker. Script here: [4]. Video here: [5]

#26 Comment By Chris On March 23, 2013 @ 8:16 am

O.K. I get the beans thing … because I just don’t do beans. But Rod really. The full English breakfast is a glorious thing. Remember British bacon is a different cut than American streaky bacon, the British bacon having far less fat. The mushrooms and tomato just round the whole thing out. Far better than a bowl of granola. Then again I am a protein kinda guy.

#27 Comment By geo michalopulos On March 23, 2013 @ 8:40 am

Rod, I love your writing and your politics, but me must agree to disagree on this one! My sons and I have regretted not having a Proper English Breakfast since our return to the States. (My doctor and cholesterol level on the other hand have been delighted by the absence of same.)

#28 Comment By Andrea On March 23, 2013 @ 8:51 am

It sounds unappetizing. I have eaten simply beans for breakfast, though, black or garbanzo, simply prepared. Tofu is a great substitute for many meat products in a breakfast as well. Tomato, hash browns and tofu scramble is about to be my breakfast.

#29 Comment By Gromaticus On March 23, 2013 @ 8:55 am

“But I can’t deal with the full English breakfast…”

That’s just your weak Francophile constitution talking. A heavy English or Germanic breakfast proved just the thing to keep Wellington and Blücher going.

#30 Comment By KMT On March 23, 2013 @ 9:18 am

I love English breakfast, and Irish breakfast even more. Put a pot of really good tea (GOOD tea) next to it, and I am in hog heaven. Literally.

But I do scrape the beans off the plate into the garbage disposal. Beans for breakfast.

#31 Comment By KMT On March 23, 2013 @ 9:18 am


#32 Comment By Lancelot Lamar On March 23, 2013 @ 9:33 am

Amen on the bangers. I love them. I have never been able to find any in the US to equal the ones I had in England.

#33 Comment By pjsmoov On March 23, 2013 @ 10:04 am

Love the English breakfast. Just skip the beans and enjoy the eggs, bacon, tomatoes, and mushrooms. Enough to keep you satisfied until dinner.

But this morning I enjoyed a slice of coconut cream pie from Lea’s in Lecompte.

#34 Comment By Andre Kenji On March 23, 2013 @ 10:17 am

As a Brazilian, I don´t feel attracted to it. Most people that does not have English as their Native Language would find the full English to be something bizarre. 😉

And obviously, real beans are fresh beans, always with fresh cooked rice.

#35 Comment By Charles Cosimano On March 23, 2013 @ 11:18 am

Who gets up early enough to eat breakfast in the first place? Lunch is the proper first meal of the day.

#36 Comment By Bruce Williams On March 23, 2013 @ 11:34 am

When I order the F.E.B all the meat doesn’t bother me unless it’s cold which it often is. I’m very specific as to how I want my eggs cooked and in better places, they usually comply. As for the beans, someday they’ll learn to add some goodies to them. And I can sure do without those damned wire caddies that cool the toast to the point that the butter sits on it like icebergs in the North Sea.

#37 Comment By Texasaggiemom On March 23, 2013 @ 12:30 pm

A Full Mexican Breakfast with rightly done refried beans (and a big Coke) will cure the worst hangover. Ah, the things you learn in college…

#38 Comment By Rich On March 23, 2013 @ 1:27 pm

A Full Mexican Breakfast with rightly done refried beans (and a big Coke) will cure the worst hangover. Ah, the things you learn in college..

Amen sister

#39 Comment By Jim On March 23, 2013 @ 2:11 pm

In the past I taught a course on the Buddhist Canon. One aspect of the Discourses in the Canon that students had difficulty with was the frequent presence of other dimensions; usually in the form of devas, nature spirits, etc. The Buddha is depicted as interacting with these dimensions on a regular basis. (The traditional Buddhist view is that being born as a deity of some kind is an inauspicious birth because the long life of deities means that deities do not understand impermanence. In other words, deities are mortal.) Overwhelmingly students would want to configure these Discourses as ‘later interpolations’ and as ‘not original teachings’. I would suggest that this is a modern bias, but most would not have it.

Apropos this topic, I believe it was Robert Thurman (a prominent western Buddhist) who made the point that the only culture in human history that rejects the idea of other dimensions, realms, and beings who occupy them, is modern western secular culture. Thurman noted that it is possible that all other cultures were wrong, and that western culture is right about this; but that still it is a remarkable distinction and that perhaps indicative of a loss rather than a gain.


#40 Comment By Elli On March 23, 2013 @ 2:16 pm

I felt remarkably good on the English breakfast regime – more energy, no migraines. Eggs, sausage OR bacon (and English bacon is good), tomatoes, mushrooms, tea.

Even cheap B&B breakfasts were good, if you didn’t count the Tang for orange juice.

Throw a few snow peas in the pan at the last second, add a bowl of berries with a little cream, skip the carefully racked and cooled toast – you’ve got a high protein, low carb meal that will keep you going without a mid-morning crash.

#41 Comment By Anglican Peggy On March 23, 2013 @ 6:13 pm

But Rod, you don’t understand that the English breakfast is God’s gift to the hungover. While I lived in Ireland (same breakfast, different name) the only time I would eat a full breakfast was when I had been out the night before. When I did there was nothing better in the whole world, especially with some super strong piping hot Irish tea with plenty of sugar and at least one oh so friggin delicious whole wheat scone without anything on it because it didn’t need it.

I will defend the honor of the full English/Irish breakfast until my dying day from those who take it for granted or just don’t understand its full majesty under the right conditions haha.

#42 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 23, 2013 @ 7:03 pm

Anglican Peggy’s comment could be transliterated as “It tastes pretty good if you got roaring drunk in the previous twelve hours, otherwise, not so much.”

#43 Comment By Ethan C. On March 24, 2013 @ 11:16 am

There’s such a huge difference between a good FEB and a bad one.

I went to England on a summer program back in 2005. At St. Margaret’s Hotel on Great Russell Street in London (now, alas, merged with another nearby hotel), we had the best breakfasts I’d ever eaten. Crisp hot back bacon, eggs cooked to order, rich nutty porridge, toast, beans, grilled tomatoes, and tea and orange juice. I’d pour some tea in my porridge for flavour. And it was all by request and cooked fresh, so we could skip the beans.

Then at St. Anne’s College in Oxford, we saw the darker side. Limp bacon, eggs from a warming tray, canned lukewarm beans. Really only the porridge and tomatoes we worth eating.

#44 Comment By Anglican Peggy On March 24, 2013 @ 11:12 pm


Actually I never get roaring drunk. I am not much of a drinker. But tying on a few the night before combined with staying out late, plus getting up early the next morning created a great need for comfort food. My tired, achy and cranky self always felt better after an FIB.

But thanks for singling out my comment out of how many others saying pretty much the same thing.

I also mentioned tea and scones, I guess those suck too and my alcohol addled brain just couldn’t tell the difference.

#45 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On March 25, 2013 @ 3:01 pm

Well Anglican Peggy, I guess one of us is WEIRD. I don’t know about the others, but your comment caught my eye for some reason. Does the subject merit a lot of pathos?

#46 Comment By Paul Emmons On March 26, 2013 @ 12:13 am

I’ll take the full English breakfast any day over continental “breakfast” (usually an excuse to charge a lot of money for hardly anything at all).

A few years ago I had to arrange for breakfast from a caterer for the attendees at a meeting. Continental breakfast was one of the options. I chose a fuller breakfast. Guess what? It was actually cheaper, too.