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About the Event
Starts Saturday 29th February
The tradition of breakfast dates back to the Middle Ages. At this time, there were usually only two meals a day; breakfast and dinner. Breakfast was served mid or late morning and usually consisted of just ale and bread, with perhaps some cheese, cold meat or dripping.
A lavish breakfast was often served by the nobility or gentry at social or ceremonial occasions such as weddings. A wedding mass had to take place before noon, so all weddings took place in the mornings. The first meal the new bride and groom ate together would, therefore, be breakfast and became known as the ‘wedding breakfast’.
By Georgian and Victorian times, breakfast had become an important part of a shooting party, weekend house party or hunt and was served a little earlier. The gentry loved to entertain lavishly and that included breakfast.
Breakfasts were unhurried, leisurely affairs with plenty of silver and glassware on show to impress the host’s guests. The breakfast table would groan under the weight of the produce from the host’s estate. Newspapers were available for the family and guests to catch up on the day’s news. Indeed, it is still socially acceptable today to read newspapers at the breakfast table (a definite ‘no-no’ at any other meal).
As well as eggs and bacon, which was first cured in the early 18th century, the breakfast feast might also include offal such as kidneys, cold meats such as tongue and fish dishes such as kippers and kedgeree, a lightly spiced dish from colonial India of rice, smoked fish and boiled eggs.
The Victorian era saw a wealthy middle class begin to emerge in British society who wished to copy the customs of the gentry, including the tradition of the full English breakfast. As the middle classes went out to work, breakfast began to be served earlier, typically before 9 am.
Surprisingly, the full English breakfast was also enjoyed by many of the working classes. The punishing physical labour and long hours of work in the factories of the Industrial Revolution meant a hearty meal first thing in the morning was necessary. Even as late as the 1950s, almost half the adult population began their day with a good old English fry-up.
In today’s health-conscious world, you may have thought that a full English breakfast was not the healthiest way to start the day, but some experts maintain that such a meal in the morning boosts the metabolism and needn’t be unhealthy, especially if the food is grilled rather than fried.