The Full English

full English

Partial as I am to a very occasional fry-up (see the great Cieran Carson on The fry-up and the music of time, and Health-food options), I’m always somewhat disturbed by the expression, now obligatory, “full English breakfast”. So I was intrigued to read this history of the term.

The earliest use seems to date only from an article by A.H. Adair in 1933—also including the koan-esque comment

There is something to be said for the “apple a day” theory, only it need not always be an apple.

1953 breakfast
1953. Source.

The “full English breakfast” appeared more often during World War Two, and became common by the 1950s. It always makes me wonder about a partial English—which admittedly is available in the form of bacon and eggs, and so on. It’s the regimented fixity that disturbs me; even when the menu offers a choice, it’s flawed by being given a soulless number, like A2 or B5… Few caffs are so flexible as to allow diners to compose their own (“a leg of pheasant, some kumquats, and hash browns, please”)—cf. the diner scene in Five easy pieces.

I find the chummy shorthand “full English” just as disconcerting. I think also of the Christmas dinner with “all the trimmings”—has anyone ever presented “some of the trimmings”? And then there’s the alternative of the mealy-mouthed “continental breakfast” (C3), when one feels somehow cheated of the wealth and variety of European cuisine…

I write from a typical Chiswick café, far from a transport caff, where I choke over the sign

Spring filter, with notes of stone fruit, bergamot, & praline.

This gobbledygook is compounded by “notes”, as well as the ampersand (which I have pedantically queried in The Mamas & the Papas, and the CD Gilad Atzmon & the Orient House Ensemble). What Are We Coming To?

For other surprisingly recent expressions, see What’s the craic?, and The Irish pub session. Other posts on cuisine include In the kitchen, and (with further links) this sequel. For the touring muso’s dream of the perfect restaurant without sign or menu, click here. Further reflections on Being English are rounded up here.

One thought on “The Full English

  1. “a leg of pheasant, some kumquats, and hash browns, please”—cf. the diner scene in Five easy pieces.”

    “Spring filter, with notes of stone fruit, bergamot, & praline.” -Chiswick caff.


    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s