The UK has a long history of trade and exploration, and much of what’s on a modern menu has its origins in the far-flung places that ruddy and moustachioed Britons used to call home.
Brick Lane exists because of a love affair with the orient, and coronation chicken and chicken tikka are a uniquely British take on curried food. But what about another quintessentially British dish, one that surpasses even the great British curry in popularity? A dish that has become synonymous with all things British: the full English breakfast.
How British is your breakfast? Far less than you would think:
1. Baked beans
Far from being a UK treat, the humble baked bean is of North American origin. It is thought to have been adapted from a Native American dish of beans stewed in maple syrup and animal fat.
First sold in the UK in 1886 as a luxury product, it has gradually become the great British staple that we know today.
2. Chicken eggs
First domesticated in India around 7,000 years ago, chickens are fairly new to our shores. No one is certain when the first chook set foot on British soil, but it was probably around the same time as the Romans.
Popularity waned drastically after the fall of the Roman Empire, with geese and partridge becoming a far more common site on a medieval banquet table. It was only after the First World War that chicken farming began on an industrial scale.
3. Fried tomatoes
Yet another plant that has its origins in the Americas. The tomato made its way to the UK in the 1500s but was only grown locally in the 1590s because they were widely believed to be poisonous and unfit for human consumption.
This theory was debunked by the 18th century and tomatoes were being eaten and grown across the country. The real cause for toxic tomatoes: the lead in the pewter plates that the acidic tomatoes where being eaten on was to blame.
4. Tomato ketchup
Ketchup (or catsup) originated in the Far East but Brits have been considered masters since the 18th century, making sauces from mushrooms, oysters, mussels and even walnuts.
The standard tomato ketchup, however, has a much more recent history. The first recorded recipe appeared in an American cookbook called the Sugar House Book at the start of the 19th century.
5. Sausages and bacon
Finally, a part of the full English that does seem to come from the UK. Pigs have been domesticated and reared for their meat for as long as people have been here. Pork sausages and bacon as we know them today are about as British as it gets - you’re welcome world.
6. Tea and instant coffee
The traditional British cuppa has its roots in China and India, but if you prefer instant coffee you can thank David Strang. This New Zealander invented and patented the first freeze-dried coffee in 1890. It was first marketed commercially in 1910 in the United States.
So, how British is the full English?
The mighty fry-up is, in our humble opinion, the finest culinary example of all that is great about being British.
They have begged, borrowed or downright stolen things from all over the globe and made them their own. This multicultural British staple serves as a tasty reminder of everything that has made the UK the great international melting pot it is today.
To be British is to be part of a truly global institution and what better way to celebrate this than with a hearty breakfast at your local greasy spoon.
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