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A full breakfast is a breakfast meal, usually including bacon, sausages, eggs, and a variety of other cooked foods, with a beverage such as coffee or tea which originated in England, United Kingdom. It is especially popular in the UK and Ireland, to the extent that many cafés and pubs offer the meal at any time of day as an "all-day breakfast". It is also popular in other English-speaking countries, particularly countries that were a part of the British Empire. A long established meal in British culture, just under a fifth of British travellers eat a full English breakfast while on holiday overseas.
In England it is usually referred to as a 'full English breakfast' (often shortened to 'full English') or 'fry-up'. Other regional names and variants include the 'full Scottish', 'full Welsh', 'full Irish' and the 'Ulster fry'.
The full breakfast is among the most internationally recognised British dishes, along with such staples as bangers & mash, shepherd's pie, fish and chips, roast beef, Sunday roast and the Christmas dinner. The full breakfast became popular in the British Isles during the Victorian era, and appeared as one among many suggested breakfasts in the home economist Isabella Beeton's The Book of Household Management (1861). A full breakfast is often contrasted (e.g. on hotel menus) with the lighter alternative of a Continental breakfast, traditionally consisting of tea, milk or coffee and fruit juices with bread, croissants, or pastries.
Common foods and dishes
United Kingdom and Ireland
The traditional Cornish breakfast includes hog's pudding and Cornish potato cakes (made with mashed potatoes mixed with flour and butter and then fried), or fried potatoes alongside the usual bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, egg and toast. In the past traditional Cornish breakfasts have included pilchards and herring, or gurty pudding, a Cornish dish similar to haggis, not to be confused with gurty milk, another Cornish breakfast dish made with bread and milk.
Traditional full English breakfast includes bacon (traditionally back bacon), fried, poached or scrambled eggs, fried or grilled tomatoes, fried mushrooms, fried bread or toast with butter, and sausages. Black pudding, baked beans, bubble and squeak and hash browns are often also included. In the North Midlands, fried or grilled oatcakes sometimes replace fried bread. The food is traditionally served with a mug of tea; more recently coffee is an alternative.
As nearly everything is fried in this meal, it is commonly called a "fry-up". As some of the items are optional, the phrase 'full English breakfast', 'full English' (or 'Full Monty') often specifically denotes a breakfast including everything on offer. The latter name became popular post World War II after British Army general Bernard Montgomery (nicknamed Monty) was said to have started every day with the full works when in the campaign in North Africa.
In Ireland, as elsewhere, the exact constituents of a full breakfast vary, depending on geographical area, personal taste and cultural affiliation. The breakfast became popular there whilst Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom. Traditionally, the most common ingredients in Ireland are bacon rashers, pork sausages, fried eggs (or scrambled), white pudding, black pudding, toast and fried tomato. Sauteed field mushrooms are also sometimes included, as well as baked beans, hash browns, liver, and brown soda bread. Fried potato farl, boxty or toast is sometimes served as an alternative to brown soda bread.
The "breakfast roll", consisting of elements of the full breakfast served in a French roll, has become popular due to the fact it can be easily eaten on the way to school or work, similar to the breakfast burrito in the United States. The breakfast roll is available from many petrol stations and convenience stores throughout Ireland. In 2006 Irish comedian Pat Shortt released a song called "Jumbo Breakfast Roll".
Ulster, Northern Ireland, UK
An Ulster fry is a dish similar to the English breakfast, and is popular throughout Ulster, where it is eaten not only at breakfast time but throughout the day. Typically it will include soda bread and potato bread as in an Irish breakfast, but omitting the white pudding.
Similarly to the breakfast roll seen in the south of Ireland, in the north they serve "filled sodas", which usually consist of a soda farl shallow-fried on one side and filled with fried sausages, bacon and eggs. Fried onions or mushrooms are usually added upon request. Filled sodas are a popular choice for breakfast from roadside fast-food vendors.
In Scotland, the full breakfast, as with others, contains eggs, back bacon, link sausage, buttered toast, baked beans, and tea or coffee. Distinctively Scottish elements include Scottish style black pudding, Lorne sausage, and tattie scones. It commonly also includes fried or grilled tomato and/or mushrooms and occasionally haggis, white pudding, fruit pudding or oatcakes. As with other breakfasts it has become more common, especially within the home, to grill the meats, puddings and tomatoes and to only fry the eggs and tattie scones. Another more historical Scottish breakfast is porridge and may occasionally be served as a starter.
As in the rest of Britain and Ireland, the composition of a Full Welsh Breakfast (Welsh: Brecwast Cymreig llawn) can vary. However, with the new-found appreciation of Welsh food and recipes, there have been attempts to establish a broad definition.
The traditional Welsh breakfast reflects the coastal aspect of Welsh cuisine. As such it will typically include Welsh cockles and laverbread (a seaweed purée often mixed with oatmeal and fried). Both delicacies are traditionally served with thick bacon, but a Welsh breakfast may also include Welsh sausages, mushrooms and eggs. Full Welsh breakfasts are accompanied by traditional breakfast drinks, with Welsh tea a ubiquitous choice. Today, as they are often served throughout the day in public houses or inns, a traditional beer or ale is not uncommon.
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The style of breakfast has carried over to the United States and Canada. In America it was brought over from the UK when the American Colonies were created, and in Canada because it was a part of the British Empire. Full breakfast in these countries often consists of eggs, various meats, and very commonly fried potatoes such as hash browns, home fries, Potatoes O'Brien, potato pancakes, and some form of bread. Typical breakfast meats include bacon, Canadian bacon, breakfast sausage, ham, scrapple, pork roll, Spam, steak, or country fried steak; in Canada, peameal bacon or cretons are often served. In the Southern US, grits are typically included. Breads served might include toasted bread, English muffins, bagels, or biscuits. Beverages such as coffee and orange juice may be included, and pancakes, waffles, or French toast might accompany the other items. In areas with high Irish populations, such as New York on the East Coast of America, the full English breakfast is more commonly known as an Irish breakfast, due to Irish immigration from the UK during the potato famine.
The full breakfast common in Australia is similar to British and North American variants, with some differences, having spread to Australia when it was a part of the British Empire.
Bacon, eggs, and sausages are the most common aspects of the Australian full breakfast. Tomato, barbecue and Worcestershire sauces are used frequently, as is cheese. Bread is used as the base for most breakfast dishes, however it is common to use bread (or toast) to make a bacon and egg sandwich. Breakfast muffins are an increasingly popular alternative to bread in the Australian full breakfast. Notably absent is the baked beans in this Australian variant.
Regional variants are prevalent, with German influences particularly commonplace in South Australia.
Some of the foods that may be included in a full breakfast are:
- eggs; fried, or scrambled, poached
- fried or grilled bacon, also referred to as "rashers" or "slices"
- sausages or sausage patties
- white pudding
- black pudding
- kidneys, grilled or fried
- potato, either sautéed or served as chips, potato waffles, potato bread, potato cake, or hash browns
- bread, usually toasted and/or fried
- soda bread (common in Ireland, and available in both white and brown varieties)
- baked beans
- fried mushrooms
- fried, grilled, or tinned tomatoes
- fried haggis (in Scotland)
- oatcakes (in Scotland)
- fruit pudding (in Scotland)
- potato (or "tattie") scones (in Scotland and Ireland)
- sliced sausage, also known as Lorne sausage (in Scotland)
- Spam, often fried in slices (in the UK)
- laverbread (in Wales)
- grilled smoked mackerel/kippers
- cockles (in Wales)
- hog's pudding (in Cornwall and Devon)
- corned beef hash (in the United States)
- grits (in the US)
- scrapple (in the US)
- English muffins or biscuits (in the US)
- "Packing extra tea bags, monitoring the weather back home and eating a fry-up in blazing heat: Typically British behaviour abroad revealed". Daily Mail. 4 October 2016.
- "Could a fry-up be good for you?". Daily Mail. London. 6 August 2013. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- "The full English". Jamieoliver.com. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- "Traditional Scottish Food". Visit Scotland. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- Rowland, Paul (25 October 2005). "So what is a 'full Welsh breakfast'?". Wales Online. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- Bell, James (29 January 2014). "How to... Cook the perfect Ulster Fry". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- Spencer, Colin (2003). British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History. Columbia University Press. ISBN 978-0-231-13110-0.
- Mary Maddock. "Cornish Potato Cake Recipe – Cornish Recipes". Greenchronicle.com. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- [dead link]
- The Ladies' Companion, December 1854, The Mercy of the Winter's Waves, (A Christmas Tale), by Silverpen.
- The Wordsworth Dictionary of Culinary & Menu Terms, Rodney Dale, 2000
- "The Traditional Full English Breakfast". The English Breakfast Society. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- "How to make the perfect full English breakfast". 25 June 2015.
- Judy Parkinson (2011). "Spilling the Beans on the Cats Pyjamas: Popular Expressions - What They Mean and Where We Got Them". Michael O'Mara Books,
- "Traditional Irish Breakfast recipe from". Food Ireland. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
- Traditional Irish Breakfast recipe from Barry's Tea
- Gerald, Paul (12 July 2012). "The Full English". Memphis Flyer. Contemporary Media, Inc. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
The Irish might have soda bread, a potato pancake called boxty, white pudding (what you're used to, but with oatmeal in it) or black pudding (the same, but with blood cooked in).
- McDonald, Brian (12 May 2008). "Top breakfast baguette rolls into Irish history". Irish Independent. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
- Gerald, Paul (12 July 2012). "The Full English". Memphis Flyer. Contemporary Media, Inc. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
The Scots like to have tattie (potato) scones, fruit pudding (actually a sausage made with very little fruit), and, of course, their curse on the earth, haggis.
- Elizabeth Foyster, Christopher A. Whatley (2009). A History of Everyday Life in Scotland, 1600 to 1800. Edinburgh University Press. p. 139.
- Alan Davidson and Tom Jaine (2006). The Oxford companion to food. Oxford University Press. p. 185.
- Brewer, E. Cobham. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. New York: Harper & Brothers. p. 812.
- "So what is a 'full Welsh breakfast'?". Wales Online. 25 October 2005.
- Welsh Government. "Wales.com – Food". Government of Wales. Retrieved 30 July 2012.
Laverbread, not actually bread at all but seaweed, is rolled in oatmeal, fried into crisp patties and served with eggs, bacon and fresh cockles for a traditional Welsh breakfast.
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