The myth of the English breakfast
Since arriving in Italy, I have had many conversations about British food and how different it is from the Italian diet. People here say that British people eat potatoes all the time and make terrible coffee. I explain that in Britain it gets very cold so a meal of meat, hot potatoes and vegetables is just what you need in freezing temperatures. As for the coffee in the UK, it is certainly not as good as Italian espresso but that’s because Brits generally prefer to get their caffeine from cups of tea. According to stereotypes, we are a very unhealthy nation. The English breakfast is perceived as our national dish, closely followed by fish and chips.
The English breakfast is usually made up of fried eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes and bread. Sometimes, other ingredients are added, like black pudding, a sausage made from blood, or fried potatoes called hash browns. People from around the world may imagine us getting up and eating all this food every morning before setting off to work or school.
In reality, it would be impossible to eat a full fried breakfast every day without serious consequences on your health. Instead, for most people, the warm and salty breakfast is a treat for rainy Sundays. It is comfort food, to be eaten with family when you get up late and have time to enjoy it. In my family, perhaps around once a month we will eat a fried breakfast, but at lunchtime! Pubs often serve the English breakfast all day long, so you can even have it for dinner if you want.
The English breakfast is typically accompanied by a cup of tea. The British love of tea is not just a stereotype: I don’t like tea very much and I seem to be an exception in my country. British people often drink between 3 and 7 cups of tea a day, with a dash of cold milk. When I try to explain this to Italians, they wrinkle their noses at the thought of a beige drink.
So what do we really eat for breakfast in the UK? Cereal and toast are popular choices, and so is European breakfast food like croissants. British people think that the Italian habit of eating biscuits and cake for breakfast is very strange but I love it! I do sometimes miss a good bacon sandwich though.