Sunday mornings… For some it means church, for others exercise or watching awful television clad in pyjamas.
I like to rise with a groan, devour a large breakfast and read the sports pages. Whether enjoyed among the pleasant smells of a home kitchen, in the hubbub of a greasy spoon, or at a lazy pace with a pint in a gastro pub it is an Englishman’s dream.
Call it the full monty, an intercity sizzler, the works, a fry-up, an English breakfast…once a week is an integral part of ones usually moderate intake.
The only justification for this indulgence is its impact on our well worked for hangovers. For choice, I will eat in the comfort of my own kitchen, in a freshly showed body, rather than dine out – though I have greatly enjoyed many wonderful breakfasts in London at places like The Wolesy, The Fox and Anchor, Duck and Waffle, cabman’s shelter.
There are regional variations but the basic must include the holy trinity of sausage, bacon, and eggs (fried of course). I supplement these with black pudding, grilled tomato, mushroom, the controversial baked beans, a slither of liver, fried bread. Many believe in white pudding, kidneys, minute steak and Northeners extol the virtues of a sausage square – Keep mine round old boy!
Sunday Times supplements fight for space with coffee mugs and orange juice on the breakfast table. To save on washing I use one large oven proof skillet. Seal the sausages and pop them in the oven. I think there can be too much playing around with a sausage (said the actress to the bishop!) by adding, often uncomplimentary extra flavours. It is rather like the unwanted chilli cheddar on a cheese board. Sausages should be juicy and taste of pure undiluted pork. I always choose the succulent juice squirting Cumberland sausage.
The tomatoes and flat cap mushrooms go into the pan, which is now transferred to the oven. The smells start to punctuate the air, my stomach begins to rumble. For many, this is the moment to mix a jug of bloody Marys – and they are possibly right. My preference is though is for the restorative powers of a screwdriver or a ‘poor-mans black velvet’. Drink is not a necessity but when a beaten down broken mind is on show it is a fabulous livener.
It is now time to throw the sweet-cured bacon and black pud into the skillet and warm the beans on the top. Then fill the cafetiere, adding the rich aroma of hot coffee to the symphony of smells. Once the meats are cooked, pop the pan onto the hob, transferring the contents to a hot plate, and quickly fry the liver to pink.
You will find a lot of fat in your pan. Do not throw it away! Now is the time to fry your bread; this is the best way to fry bread because it will end up absorbing the gorgeous flavours of sausage and bacon. Once the bread is done I remove most of the oil and fry the eggs – crispy on the bottom, soft ivory tops, and unctuous sunny and runny yolks.
It always amazes me how during the process of cooking one’s mouth loses its arid hung-over feel and starts salivating like a Great Dane. The frenzy of cooking and uncivilised clattering is soon replaced by a peaceful silence which is broken only by ruffles of broadsheets, crunches of foods, slurps of mud, and the odd grunt here or there.
As a boarding school boy I never leave a crumb on my plate. Sometimes a half-time break is needed; this is not a ‘wall’ moment, but a pause to gulp in some oxygen and start again. Have a needed drink – some will take a meditative cigarette.
Breakfast is a battle of wills on Sundays not a victual with a means for the day. The expected second pot of coffee goes on and the plate starts to lose – I always like my last bites to be stacks of everything on the plate and the last to include that, now congealed, yolk.
I become cock of the walk when the last morsel is ingested and the papers are finished. There are a lot of heavy breaths and a few more meat sweats on show, but victory is achieved! I tend to shuffle off to the sofa for a well deserve ‘Egyptian PT’ and start to think about the evenings roast beef….