The True English Breakfast

Rose Spinks wrote . . . . .

Sometime in the last decade, brunch got complicated. Coffee became artisan, reservations became competitive, and the likelihood that one or more of your dining companions no longer eats gluten or animal products increased.

Enter the classic English fry-up. It is everything brunch is not: unphotogenic, unhealthy, avocado-free. It is a plate of dietary restrictions that arrives ten minutes after you order it and renders you incapable of thinking about food for ten hours afterward. It is glorious.

But don’t let the simplicity of this dish fool you. The English—devotees of rules, ritual, and tradition for about a millennium—are fastidious about their fry-ups. Eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, and fried bread or buttered toast—all served with coffee or tea—are nonnegotiable components. Baked beans, black pudding, and potatoes can be added—but not without controversy.

The Fry-Up Inspector, an award-winning blogger on the subject who has reviewed 219 fry-ups and counting, decodes the controversy.

“There’s a big debate about whether or not baked beans should be on the full English or not,” the Inspector explains. “Some people really don’t like the beans touching the eggs, so they try to create a barrier with the sausage to stop the two touching. Me, I don’t mind at all—I eat the eggs and beans together.”

Beans or not, the fry-up’s origins lie with England’s land-owning gentry, who treated their frequent guests to extravagant breakfasts as a way to show off the bounty of their country estates. The second half of the 1800s saw the decline of the gentry and the rise of the perpetually social-climbing Victorians, who brought the idea of a leisurely breakfast into the urban mainstream, even in the absence of grand homes in the country.

“The Victorians did it properly and popularized the notion of spending three hours on breakfast with the Sunday papers or the broadsheets of the day. The idea that they had enough time to do that was a sign of status,” says Guise Bule, founder of the English Breakfast Society. “The tradition itself has those upper-class origins, but it has very much became a working-class thing.”

These days, according to the Fry-Up Inspector’s equation, a decent English breakfast should fall within a very specific price range: anywhere under £5 and you’re looking at frozen sausages, anywhere over £10 and you’re basically being fleeced. That price range, combined with the fact that an establishment serves breakfast all day and is independently owned, are good signs that you’re in the right place.

A family-owned and much-loved greasy spoon in London’s East End is one of those “just right” places. At £6, E. Pellicci’s full English falls just within range. The sausages are sourced locally—“the same ones they do in the fancy hotels up the West End,” says Anna Sereno, one of the proprietors—and the tomatoes are oven-baked then grilled. The chips, should you choose to add them, are twice cooked. Your food is served with a side of friendly yelling, as Anna and her brother, Nevio, switch between their East End patois, when speaking to customers, and Italian, which they use when speaking to their mother, Maria, who runs the kitchen. There are no cheap, frozen, “economy” sausages here, and the eggs are cooked correctly. “That kind of snotty bit on top of the egg yolk,” Anna says,”I can’t stand that.”

Technically, E. Pellicci would be called a greasy spoon, and what they serve would be considered “a builder’s breakfast”: essentially a greasier, more down-to-earth version of a full English. It’s a distinction of the you-know-it-when-you-see-it variety, but generally means a slightly greasier finish (though not necessarily with sub-par ingredients), with more things cooked on the griddle rather than in the oven. According to the Fry-Up Inspector, a dead giveaway that you’re eating one is if there are builders eating a plate at the next table.

But if you ask esteemed E. Pellicci regular “Jukebox Jimmy,” who has sat in the establishment five days a week for fifty years, the only people who use that phrase are the posh folk. For him, it’s just a place to eat breakfast.

“What people do is they call this a greasy spoon—but I don’t call it that. To me, it’s just a caff. Simple as that.”


To Help Your Kids Get Better Grades, Feed Them Breakfast: Study

A new study provides more evidence that a good breakfast helps kids do better in school.

Researchers looked at 5,000 students in Great Britain between the ages of 9 and 11. They found that those who ate a healthy breakfast were up to two times more likely to achieve at least average grades than those who did not eat breakfast.

The Cardiff University study was published recently in the journal Public Health Nutrition.

“While breakfast consumption has been consistently associated with general health outcomes and acute measures of concentration and cognitive function, evidence regarding links to concrete educational outcomes has until now been unclear,” lead author Hannah Littlecott said in a university news release.

“This study therefore offers the strongest evidence yet of links between aspects of what pupils eat and how well they do at school, which has significant implications for education and public health policy,” she added.

She said schools sometimes regard the dedication of resources to improving child health as an unwelcome distraction from their mission of educating children.

“But this resistance to delivery of health improvement interventions overlooks the clear synergy between health and education,” she said. “Clearly, embedding health improvements into the core business of the school might also deliver educational improvements as well.”

Chris Bonell, a professor of sociology and social policy at the University College London Institute of Education, said this study adds to “a growing body of international evidence indicating that investing resources in effective interventions to improve young people’s health is also likely to improve their educational performance.”

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Inflammation Can Fan the Flames of Depression

Chronic inflammation in the bloodstream can ‘fan the flames’ of depression, much like throwing gasoline on a fire, according to a new paper from researchers at Rice University and Ohio State University.

‘Inflammation: Depression Fans the Flames and Feasts on the Heat’ appeared in a recent edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study reviewed 200 existing papers on depression and inflammation.

“In the health area of psychology at Rice, we’re very focused on the intersection of health behavior, psychology and medicine,” said Christopher Fagundes, an assistant professor of psychology and co-author of the paper. “One thing that we’re particularly interested in is how stress affects the immune system, which in turn affects diseases and mental health outcomes, the focus of this paper.”

The authors found that in addition to being linked to numerous physical health issues, including cancer and diabetes, systemic inflammation is linked to mental health issues such as depression. Among patients suffering from clinical depression, concentrations of two inflammatory markers, CRP and IL-6, were elevated by up to 50 percent.

Fagundes said chronic inflammation is most common in individuals who have experienced stress in their lives, including lower socio-economic status or those who experienced abuse or neglect as children. Other contributing factors are a high-fat diet and high body mass index.

“Previous research shows that individuals who have socio-economic issues or had problems in their early lives are already at higher risk for mental issues because of these stresses in their lives,” Fagundes said. “As a result, they often experience a higher occurrence of chronic inflammation, which we have linked to depression.”

He said that it is normal for humans to have an inflammatory response — such as redness — to an area of the body that is injured.

“This is your immune system working to kill that pathogen, which is a good thing,” Fagundes said. “However, many individuals exhibit persistent systemic inflammation, which we’re finding is really the root of all physical and mental diseases. Stress, as well as poor diet and bad health behaviors, enhances inflammation.”

Fagundes noted that a strong support system early in life is critical in helping individuals learn to deal with stress later in life.

The study also found that depression caused by chronic inflammation is resistant to traditional therapy methods, but can be treated with activities such as yoga, meditation NSAIDS and exercise.

Fagundes hopes the study will shed light on the dangers of bodily inflammation and the steps that can be taken to overcome this health issue.

He is starting a five-year $3.7 million bereavement study to examine how inflammation impacts depression and disease among those who recently lost a spouse in hopes of finding better ways to treat bereaved older adults.

“We still have a lot to learn about how inflammation impacts depression, but we are making progress,” he said “We hope one day this work will lead to new treatments that are part of standard psychiatric care.”

Source: Rice University

Veal Sausage with Potato and Quince


4 English Quince
1 kg Russet potatoes
salt and pepper
100 g butter
4 veal bratwurst
250 g fresh spinach
pinch of nutmeg


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Wash the quince, then halve and core them. Place them cut side down or a greased baking tray and cook in the oven for 1 hour.
  3. Peel the potatoes and, using a coarse grate shred them into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper, then squeeze out any moisture.
  4. In a large 7-inch skillet pan, melt 50 g of the butter, then press in the potato to form a round cake. Cook on a moderate heat for 15 minutes on each side until golden brown.
  5. Gently rinse the bratwurst and, when ready, melt the remaining butter in a frying pan. Cook the sausages, turning occasionally, for about 2-3 minutes on each side.
  6. Remove the quince from the oven and cool to just above room temperature.
  7. Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan, then add the spinach and cook until it wilts, about 1 minute. Season and add the nutmeg. Serve each sausage and two quince halves with a large slit of rosti and a spoonful of spinach.

Makes 4 servings.

Source: Wallpaper

In Pictures: Chinese Breakfasts

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