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Breakfasts

My breakfast in bed yesterday … fruit (lychees, raspberries and slivers of stem ginger followed by a warm croissant and blackcurrant jam, and clementine juice to drink

While I was preparing our breakfast this morning I began thinking about breakfast and how much I now enjoyed this first meal of the day, the breaking the overnight fast.

And so I thought I’d have a look in some of my books to see if I could find anything about breakfast.  First, I went to Dorothy Hartley’s Food in England, A Complete Guide to the Food that Makes Us Who We Are.  But no, there is no mention of breakfast as a meal in the index.  She might mention it in the book, but there’s no actual reference to it in the index.

I put that to one side to look in Kate Colquhoun’s Taste, The Story of Britain through its Cooking.  Again, no mention of breakfast in the index.

Finally, to Roy Strong’s Feast, A History of Grand Eating. Surely in its 311 pages plus index Sir Roy will have mentioned breakfast?  Yes, but only a few paragraphs.  In my somewhat innocent way, unfamiliar with eating habits in the centuries before the 20th, I would’ve thought that breakfast would’ve been an important meal, one that warranted a whole chapter or two, not just a passing reference if we were lucky!

Sir Roy says:  “During the 15th century …  breakfast began to appear …  only rarely.  In the 1478 Black Book of the household of Edward VI, breakfast was allowed only to those above the rank of Squire.”  And then he skips to the 18th century.  “In 18th century England, breakfast had been eaten between ten and eleven as a light meal in the aftermath of work already done.  Gradually, in the 1820s and 1830s, it began to move back, first to nine and by the 1860s, to eight or eight fifteen.  It also changed its nature, taking the form of a purely working meal before setting off to the office – tea, muffins, a hot dish.”  Again, he hadn’t much to say on the subject.

Which is a shame, I think, because it is one of the loveliest meals of the day, either hot, steaming porridge/oatmeal in winter (preferably eaten in bed!) …

or fruit, particularly melon and soft fruits, followed by croissants or brioches with delicious preserves, in summer. (And we are talking about breakfast, not brunch, that combination of two meals, breakfast and lunch giving us the portmanteau word ‘brunch’.)

A simple breakfast in the garden in summer – croissant, apricot jam and cherries

Bacon & tomatoes on toast, with fruit either as a starter or a dessert, another breakfast  in the garden in summer

Not that long ago we used to go out reasonably regularly for breakfast, especially in the summer months, but in recent years we have not been getting up sufficiently early to do this.  Our own fault entirely, but also, as we have grown older, we seldom have what is known throughout the universe and beyond as a “full English”, meaning a cooked breakfast which can include bacon, sausages, black pudding, mushrooms, eggs, tomatoes, baked beans, and hash browns, with a couple of rounds of toast.   But when we do go out for breakfast, we enjoy it at Le Bistrot Pierre  on the seafront in Torquay …

especially when the weather is warm enough to sit on the balcony overlooking the sea …

I think by now you know how much I love having breakfast in bed, especially at the weekend, with the Saturday or Sunday papers to read.  I say “papers” plural although it’s one paper, The Daily Telegraph, it has so many sections I refer to The Daily Telegraph as “the papers.”

I have used this photo (above) before, so apologise for that, but this was a breakfast my husband made for me to enjoy in bed – scrambled eggs on toast with a slice of grilled bacon and grilled tomato

When we have guests – which is rare as most of our friends live close by and don’t need to stay – it is nice to pull out all the breakfast stops and present food as attractively as possible.

 A fruit starter to be followed by a cooked breakfast for one person, and toast and preserves for the others

I really don’t know what I enjoy the most – breakfast in bed, a hearty breakfast in winter in the warm kitchen, or in the garden in summer …

Indoors or …

Out of doors …

Breakfast today (below) was a simple meal but it sustained us until we had a roast chicken lunch …

Fruit, consisting of lychees, pineapple, raspberries, and banana, followed by a boiled egg & toast (for husband) and just toast, butter and marmalade for me, with mugs of tea

I wonder what your favourite breakfast food is, even whether you eat breakfast, dash off to work with a cereal bar in your bag, or whether you have food that is quite different from our English fare?

Until next time.

About Margaret Powling

Margaret Powling
Margaret’s main interests are her husband and family, her friends, her home, her garden, writing, literature, architecture, décor, social history, photography, historic houses and gardens, and towns, villages and the countryside. She writes about the things she enjoys: flowers, scent, fine soap, monthly style magazines, and other such small indulgences, such as afternoon tea or simply enjoying her summerhouse with a book. She invites you to enjoy this virtual visit to South Devon, England.

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28 comments

  1. Mmm breakfast, quite possibly my favourite meal of the day, always eaten at our dining room table overlooking the back garden and usually accompanied by the radio being on, either R2 during the week or R4 at weekends.
    If I start with fruit it’s usually a kiwi or half a grapefruit, there is always a cup of my favourite ground Italian coffee (not keen on juice as find them too sweet) and followed by something cooked. Balsamic mushrooms on toast, scrambled egg and grilled tomato or, if we are pushing the boat out, we have smoked salmon as well. We usually eat around 8 to 8.30 apart from at weekends when it can be a little later, Sunday morning usually means a bacon sandwich followed by the Archers omnibus. If we ate late or had a larger meal the night before we might just have toast and marmalade, Rose’s Lime for me and Frank Cooper thin shred for my beloved. Can you see how much we like breakfast in our house ☺️.
    On the odd occasion we do go out for brunch I usually opt for something along the lines of Eggs Royale and then beloved will have a full English but I still usually have my fruit at 8am only because I find it hard to wait for my first meal of the day!

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Your breakfasts sound delicious, Elaine! As I’ve started taking statins for high cholesterol (not that it’s very high, only a bit higher than the medical people would like to see it) I can’t eat grapefruit – I don’t know why, but grapefruit and statins don’t mix. Which is a shame as I adore grapefruit. I think I can have a little, but I’m just removing it from my diet. I’ve never been keen on kiwi fruit, it’s just too sour for me, but grapefruit I love. I’ve not tried balsamic mushrooms, so I’d be interested to hear how you cook those. And I love lime marmalade. I’ve not had any for about a year, so time I put Rose’s lime marmalade on m y next shopping list! Another one who loves fruit for breakfast.

      • How strange that your new medication means that you are not allowed to eat grapefruit Margaret and what a shame if you enjoy it.
        My balsamic mushrooms are very easy to make, my preference is to use the large, flat chestnut variety which I quarter and then cook down in melted butter until they are soft, splash over a little balsamic vinegar and then turn the heat up a tad to finish off, they go a little sticky and caramelised, yum!

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          Ooh, that’s easy-peasy, Elaine, I shall do that, hopefully for breakfast tomorrow. I have a few Portobello mushrooms in the fridge – I’ve just been making a chicken and mushroom hot pot with some of the left-over chicken from our lunch roast – and I always have butter and balsamic. And I love food that goes sticky and caramelized! What a very good idea for breakfast!

      • Have you tried gold kiwifruit ? They are much sweeter than the traditional green kiwifruit.

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          I looked for gold kiwi yesterday, but only saw green ones, or green with a slight tinge of gold, and I’m sure they aren’t the ones you are referring to.

  2. I love the look of your breakfasts, Margaret, and it inspired me to add fruit to mine, too. Well, I eat less of what I was having and add the fruit, so I’m not just eating more than I need. Green kiwifruit – ugh! I only eat golden kiwifruit, they are delicious.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Ratnamurti … I’ve not seen golden kiwifruit, only the green, which is so sharp that I’m surprised that anyone eats it. What a shame we don’t seem to have the golden ones here, or perhaps I’ve simply not looked closely enough and they might be there, waiting for me to try them! But fruit at breakfast is lovely, if I have bran flakes, I add banana to that, or even a small handful of sultanas (Of course, I never add sugar to cereal unless I’m having porridge, in which case I add golden syrup, my one weakness!)

  3. I love a cooked breakfast!

    Unfortunately, my shift pattern means bringing something with me to work. It’s usually Greek Yoghurt, a fruit and nut bar and an apple. If it’s a really stressful day, I’ve been know to fall off the rails and have a “Sunny Start” which is a soft hamburger bun, cheese, fried egg and your choice of bacon or sausage topped with red relish and mayo. The hospital staff call it a “heart attack in a bun”! My friends know it’s a rough morning if I say it’s bacon day. However, they are few and far between since I was ill last Spring. Bacon is not my friend.

    What I do have add is I know you love fruit for breakfast and that you also have bowel concerns. If it’s diverticulitis, avoid those fruits with tiny seeds. Bananas hurt me so much if I eat fresh ones. Kiwis, strawberrys, anything with tiny seeds can trigger an attack if and when they become stuck in the pouches/pockets of the bowel.

    We will be traveling around Scotland for a week in October and my friend is looking forward to breakfast every morning. There is something about not having to cook or clean up a breakfast.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      That breakfast sounds ideal for when you are working, WonderCollie/Linda. That sounds a really well-balance and light meal to start the day, yoghurt, a fruit and nut cereal bar and an apple. I’ve not heard of a Sunny Start and I don’t think I’d fancy cheese with a fried egg and bacon or sausage, but I’m sure when you’re really hungry, it really hits the spot. Yes, heart-attack-in-a-bun! I wonder why so many lovely things that we enjoy eating aren’t good for us!
      Yes, things with seeds can exacerbate diverticulitis. I’ve had this for years – I know that I do have it, not just imagine I have it as I had an X-ray which showed it quite clearly.
      You are right, breakfast is even better when we haven’t had to cook it and clean up after it! Enjoy your trip around Scotland! I hope the weather will be better for you than it is today – yet more mist and rain!

  4. I have always been a breakfast eater, unfortunately I have never been able to convince my husband to be the same. He tends to skip breakfast. Typically I have an egg of some sort (fried, scrambled, or hard boiled), toast, juice – orange or grapefruit, and hot chocolate (I am neither a tea nor a coffee drinker). I do occasionally make a one egg omelet adding chopped onion, chopped sweet pepper, ham, and shredded cheese. I do enjoy French toast or pancakes along with bacon or sausage as well. Occasionally I make oatmeal and have it with brown sugar, milk, dried cranberries, and walnuts or pecans. (I don’t have oatmeal as often as I should – it is so good for one.) I also enjoy baking things like cinnamon rolls, caramel nut rolls, muffins or coffeecake and will have those with scrambled eggs.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Jeannine. When my husband worked he too skipped breakfast but he took a packed lunch with him, and also a sandwich to eat around 10 am when he felt more like eating. It sounds like you have really lovely breakfasts, but I’d not thought of having hot chocolate at breakfast time, what a good idea if you don’t drink tea or coffee. Oh, I love the sounds of cinnamon rolls, caramel nut rolls and nut rolls, but I don’t think I’d fancy coffeecake with scrambled eggs, that sounds really unusual to me, but obviously it must be tasty otherwise you’d not eat it!

  5. simpleliving31.blogspot.co.uk

    What a very interesting post Margaret.
    I can never go without breakfast, it makes me feel rather ill if I don’t have anything.
    This morning we had porridge, with fresh raspberries and strawberries, in bed, it was bliss.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Glad to hear that you also enjoy breakfast, Marlene, and porridge with fresh raspberries and strawberries sounds lovely!

  6. Gorgeous breakfasts! It makes me feel peckish to look at your photos. 🙂
    J x

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Sorry I made you feel hungry by just looking at the photos, Joy! But I love breakfast, provided I don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to have it. I can’t ear early on, it would make me nauseas, but having breakfast around 9 o’clock or even later is fine. My other favourite meal is afternoon tea because it’s not essential, it’s a luxury.

  7. Eloise (thisissixty.blog)a

    Husband is an early riser so we rarely eat breakfast together. Breakfast on workdays for me is either porridge and fruit (the most likely) or bran or oat flakes (Oatibix) served with a banana.
    On non-workdays it is either the same, or toast with peanut butter.
    Only on holiday do I ever have a cooked breakfast but even then I am more likely to go for porridge.
    Your breakfasts always look fab, but it’s not a meal that we tend to make much of.
    When I wrote my afternoon tea post I was surprised to find that the evening meal was served at 8pm and that was why afternoon tea was introduced – to bridge the gap. I wondered why they ate so late. This now makes more sense; if breakfast was eaten as late as 11am, there was probably no lunch so that gap from breakfast to dinner would felt long. What do you think, Margaret?

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Eloise … peanut butter is one thing I have tried but do not like. I like peanuts and I like French butter (only in small amounts) but not English butter, but I’m not keen on the combination. Yes, times of meals have changed over the years. The Georgians used to eat early and then the main meal of the day was pushed further and further on until it was during the evening, and so afternoon tea was served, at first just perhaps a slice of bread and butter and not the grand affair that we have now, with savouries, tiny sandwiches, scones, cream, jam, cakes and pastries. My goodness, we’d find a full dinner at 8 pm difficult after one of today’s afternoon tea, would we not? I think much depended on whether you were rich or poor, too, when you ate. And in early times, meals were earlier as there was no electric light, or gas light, only candles, and the poor had few of those, too, so they no doubt ate when it was light enough to see to cook.

  8. Your breakfasts all look delicious especially since they are served on such pretty dishes and table linens.
    I have a couple of questions about your breakfast foods. I live in Kansas City which is in the middle of the United States. I’m not familiar with lychees. Is this a fruit that you buy fresh or is it canned?
    Also, you frequently serve slices of grilled tomatoes for breakfast. Do you grill them on the stovetop in a skillet or do you broil them in an oven?
    My usual breakfast is scrambled eggs and toast or a bowl of Raisin Bran. I’m looking to expand my current routines! Thank you for the inspiration.

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Hello, Cindy, and thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. Regarding lychees, I buy these in cans although they can be bought fresh (I’ve never bought them fresh, only canned). I have looked these up in my dictionary for you, and it says that “Lychee” is a variant spelling of “litchi” and it goes on to say that this is the fruit of a Chinese sapindaceous tree cultivated for its round edible fruit. It is difficult to describe the taste of lychees, though, but the fruit is soft and has a slightly – well, to me it has – melon-like flavour. I love it with some slivers of stem ginger or I serve it with canned prunes.
      Tomatoes can be sliced and fried for breakfast, or sliced and grilled (I think that is your broiled). I put them in a tin and pop them under a grill (high heat from above only) and I often sprinkle dried basil on them before grilling them. They could also be fried in a frying pan on the top of the stove (what we call the hob, where the gas or electric rings are.) We also enjoy scrambled eggs for breakfast and I also love bran flakes. I buy packets of bran flakes without fruit and then add sultanas and raisins, and some fresh fruits if I have them, for example raspberries and slices of strawberries in the summer when we can buy succulent English strawberries. So glad that I have inspired you!

      • Lychees are available fresh and canned. Sometimes you have to look for them in the “imported” foods aisles.

        And yes, Margaret, Americans call the grill the broiler.

        • Margaret Powling
          Margaret Powling

          Yes, I’ve seen fresh lychees in the supermarkets, WonderCollie/Linda, and I think when I next see them I will buy some, just to sample fresh ones, but I do love the canned ones. And I’m glad I have the terminology correct: our grill is your broiler.

          • Thank you Margaret for your reply. I’m going to search for lychees at a couple of grocery stores in my area. Thank you WonderCollie for your suggestion to look in the imported food aisles.

          • Margaret Powling
            Margaret Powling

            Hello, Cindy, and the best of luck in finding lychees. Of course, if found and bought, you mightn’t like them, but at least you will have tried them. As I say, I like them with a sliver of stem ginger, but they are lovely on their own, or with other fruits in a fruit salad. I first had them years and years ago when Chinese restaurants first made their appearance here in the UK. For dessert there used to be a dish called chow chow and that was various fruits including lychees, and I’ve liked them ever since.

  9. Breakfast is certainly one of my favourite three meals ha ha.

    I admit that I often (usually) didn’t eat breakfast in my late teens and early twenties. It was simply a coffee made with milk. Not anything as sophisticated as a cappuccino (or flat white, which is popular in Australia) but rather a spoonful of instant coffee and sugar into a mug full of hot milk. Little wonder I would be starving (and starting to fade) by 10am ! Since my mid-twenties, though, I have always eaten breakfast. As I worked full time and commuted across the city it was generally cereal (instant porridge in the cooler months or weetbix – similar to your weet-a-bix- in the warmer months with yogurt and fruit. Something that was nutritious and easy to prepare. Now that I have health issues I eat gluten free and high protein with each meal. It took adjustment but I’m used to it now. As I no longer work full time I have time in the mornings to cook eggs served on heavily seeded toast or baked beans on toast or a smoothie. I generally have a piece of fruit, too. Living in Australia our fruit is plentiful and we have lots of seasonal variety. I occasionally have gluten free muesli or porridge, just for a change. I like variety. These days I must eat within an hour or two of waking as I’m not good when I’m hungry !

    • Margaret Powling
      Margaret Powling

      Strangely enough, Lara, Weetabix is one of the breakfast cereals I really dislike. It goes from biscuit to mush in seconds, and I don’t even like the taste of it, never mind the mushy consistence. One of my favourite cereals is Jordan’s Country Crisp with Raspberries (mind you, they are a bit mean with the raspberries so I add more fresh ones.) I’m also not keen on baked beans on a breakfast plate – indeed, some ‘posh’ establishments don’t serve this rather declasse food. I don’t mind baked beans on toast as a snack supper but not for breakfast. This morning I had one small warmed brioche with blackcurrant jam while in bed – pure luxury!

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