With that, I thought that I'd compile a short list of the best of British food. I had, however, not truly anticipated the level of detail required to pay full testament to the food that I have identified. So please bear with me as I tackle this over the course of a few blog posts:
The Fry Up
The fry up ultimately falls into the category of 'breakfast'. It is the most hearty of all the 'first meals of the day', but can be respectably eaten at any point, thanks to the creation of the term 'all day breakfast'. There are many varieties of fry-up that can be found across the world, but all are pale imitations next to the cholesterol packed warlord that is the British fry-up:
To understand the fry up is to know its constituent parts, as identified in the above picture:
1) Bacon - Perhaps the centrepiece of the fry-up, it is also what so often leaves non British versions of the fry up sadly lacking in stature. Bacon rashers, when applied to a fry up should be large , floppy and slightly chewy. Small, crunchy, thin piddly strips that you often find in continental hotels just won't 'cut it'.
Whilst holidaying in Egypt several years ago, due to religious restrictions placed on the hotel, I was subjected to beef bacon. This was basically trussed up 'beef jerky' and had no place in any self-respecting fry-up.
2) Sausages - This is my favourite element of the fry-up. Plump, juicy, mouthwatering, meaty motherfuckers. A crowning moment during the consumption of any good fry-up, is hearing the subtle 'pop' as you pierce through the skin of a sausage with your knife.
The perfect British sausage is a plain, high quality, pork sausage. In recent years, Beef sausages have become more popular, but in my opinion you just can't beat a good pork banger. Again, the continental, chipolata style mini-sausage is an affront to the true fry-up and not fit for the plate.
3) Eggs - Sterile foetus casings have never tasted so good! The fried egg is a truly marvellous addition to the fry up. Neither meat nor vegetable, their rich protein packed goodness makes them a tasty and oddly nutritious addition to this fabled meal.
Eggs can come in a wide variety of styles (scrambled, boiled, poached etc), all of which have their own individual charm. However, as implied by the title, only a FRIED egg has a right to be part of a FRY-up.
Specifically, the egg should be sunny side up with a securely contained yolk that once breached, will deliver its yellowy goodness to your fry-up.
4) Baked Beans- To provide balance, every true and proper meal should have a vegetable in its midst. However, greenery has no place in a fry-up, so baked beans nicely fill that niche with minimum offense caused. Heinz beans are probably the most famous and flavoursome - but a rare treat in your average 'greasy spoon' cafe. You are more likely to find a supermarket own brand baked bean gracing your plate. But no bother - baked beans are largely very similar regardless of their origins, and anyway, their primary purpose in a fry up is merely to lend texture and added flavour to the other more important elements, such as the egg, sausage and bacon.
5) Toast and/or Fried Bread - I've bunged these two bread based fry-up accompaniments together, despite them being very different beasts. Their similarity really lies in their chief purpose in the fry up - to serve as a 'mopper-upper'.
The first major difference is straightforward enough - toast requires butter, fried bread does not.
The second difference is in the preparation - fried bread goes straight in the pan to be cooked by and to absorb the flavours of its fry-up bound brethren. Toast is strictly toasted (duh!).
Rules applying to the form in which these items are presented are simple and as follows:
TOAST - Light to medium brown with butter. Margarine is not an acceptable alternative
FRIED BREAD - Crispy, greasy to the touch.
n.b - brief scientific fact: It was previously believed that a black hole was the densest object in the known universe. However, it is now a widely held opinion that fried bread may actually be more dense*
Many greasy spoons tend to offer an either/or option for Toast and Fried Bread, which is another reason I've put them together in this list. However, I think this is a tad unfair and detracts from the individuality of each item. Unlike Ant and Dec - these inanimate objects are clearly very different.
and the nominations for best supporting actor..............
The above 'big 5' are as described, the chief components of the fry-up. If any of them are missing, it cannot truly be called a fry-up. However, special mention must go to some other options, which while not in the upper echelons of the fry-up hierarchy, are by some, seen as unforgivable absences:
- Fried Mushrooms
- Black Pudding
- Plum tomatoes (as a confessed tomato hater, I add these begrudgingly)
- Hash browns
The following should serve as a reminder that there are many lousy imitators that are often paraded as 'fry-ups'. Please click on the pictures to get a close up view of these abominations:
Reasons for failure:
Cherry tomatoes!!! In the words of a 15 year old social networking addict....OMG, WTF!
As I said previously, I can't abide tomatoes myself, but I understand their importance to some people. But little girly, cherry tomatoes on a fry up. "Red card! You're off!"
Oh....and what else do I spy? Grated cheese??? "La-di-bloody-da!" On a baked potato? Definitely. On a fry up? Get the fuck out!
Finally, hmmm....something seems to be missing!?? What could it be??? Oh, only a couple of fairly insignificant ingredients. Only the fundamental, life-giving, beating heart of the fry-up - bacon and sausages!!!! Seriously, whoever made the decision to replace these with what appears to be a wafer thin slice of salami, should be executed by firing (or should that be frying) squad.
Reasons for failure:Usual opening faux-pas. No bacon.......
Secondly, more piddly little cherry tomatoes.......
Now we get seriously messed up, there appears to be some sort of jam involved here! Honestly, i despair.
Finally - quick fry-up colour check:
White & Yellow - all good.
Brown: No problem.
Grey/Black: In position.
Red: Accounted for.
Green: Present..................Hang on -Green!!!?? Yes, that's right some schmuck has added a little leafy garnish to the plate. Do you know what I have to say about that?...GET THE FUCK OFF MY FRY UP! You have no place here. This is heart attack country and you my friend, are not welcome! Be gone before you are drowned in the juice of a hundred baked beans.
So next time you wander in that little roadside caff', remember, don't settle for anything less than the fully fledged, cholesterol extravaganza that is...The Great British Fry-Up.
* source: Bob from the Penguin Caff.