01 Mar Where does the full Scottish breakfast come from?
Along with afternoon tea, fish and chips and, possibly, a Sunday roast, the full cooked breakfast is one of the most famous meals served in the United Kingdom.
In fact, some commentators reckon that the full cooked breakfast is the greatest contribution that these islands have ever made to world cuisines. This blogger thinks those commentators have reckoned wrongly but the meal continues to hold a strong grip on the imagination.
A belt-busting combination of fried ingredients, it has several regional and national variations. We will go into those in a second but, in general, a full cooked breakfast whether that be in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland will usually feature the following:
Smoked, dry cured or sweet cured back bacon – streaky bacon may pop up occasionally.
Eggs – usually fried or poached. Scrambled is more unusual and boiled eggs are a no-no.
Sausages – be prepared for regional variations.
Some concession towards vegetables – usually half a grilled tomato or a Portobello mushroom.
Some form of bread – often toasted or fried.
It is a filling way to start the day and, to be honest, things could go either way. Some people find that a full cooked breakfast can fuel a full day sightseeing. Certainly for those of modest appetite, a full cooked may do away with the need for lunch.
For others, the most appealing prospect after a full cooked breakfast is a short nap.
Full Scottish breakfast
While the exact ingredients of a full cooked breakfast are not set in stone, certain national preferences are usually observed. For example, a full English breakfast will usually include one or more link pork sausages. In Scotland, you might be served link pork sausages or possibly beef sausages. Traditionally, the latter were more commonly eaten in Scotland than in England. Alternatively, the link sausages may be replaced by lorne or square sausage which is sliced sausage meat in a square shape.
An English full breakfast will often include black pudding, a type of blood pudding. A full Scottish will also often include black pudding but, in addition, you may find your dish is host to some haggis – Scotland’s most iconic food stuff and a subject worthy of a whole new blog.
The Ulster Fry
And then there is the question of breads. Pretty much every full cooked breakfast will be accompanied by toast, butter and assorted jams. Fried bread might put in an appearance and, in Northern Ireland, their Ulster Fry will definitely have fried soda and potato breads. In Scotland, we prefer a potato or tattie scone, a sort of unleavened griddle scone made with lots of mashed potatoes, butter and some flour.
As to where the custom of the full cooked originated from, there is a line of thought that it started with the landed gentry of the Regency and Victorian periods.
As fond of country sports as they were of lavishly entertaining friends, well-to-do landowners would rise early for a spot of horse riding or hunting with their visiting chums and then return home for a slap-up breakfast.
Their sideboards were said to groan with the weight of bountiful displays of dishes made with ingredients which had been shot, caught, grown or reared on the landowners’ estates. Today’s full cooked breakfast is thought to be a distant echo of those days.
Decadent luxury of full Scottish breakfast
It’s certainly an entertaining thesis. What we know for certain is that the full cooked breakfast peaked in popularity in the UK in the 1950s. Some sources say that in that decade up to half of all UK residents started the day with a full cooked breakfast. That is no longer the case.
These days, despite the prevalence of the full cooked on any of the UK’s popular TV soaps, it is an occasional weekend treat rather than an everyday occurrence. Or at least it is for most people with a desk job and an aversion to heart disease. Those with jobs which burn a lot of calories might enjoy a regular all day breakfast in a pub or cafe. Cereal, toast or fruit and a quick cup of coffee is more the norm.
However, when on holiday, there is a lot to be said for the decadent luxury of tucking into a full Scottish breakfast. With no clock-monitoring boss to keep happy, why not butter another slice of toast, dip your sausage in the egg yolk and take another look at the sports section of your news site?