Over a hundred cafes and restaurants in Pattaya offer the full English breakfast, usually on an all-day basis. It has been a staple offering worldwide for as long as anyone can remember and apparently made its first appearance in an English cookbook of 1861. Its popularity is almost without limits and the dish is available not only in restaurants and greasy spoon cafes but in five-star hotels and luxury cruises. It is even doled out to bleary-eyed passengers at the tail end of overnight flights to Manchester and London.
It is known as the full English – a combination of bacon, sausage and egg with ad hoc additions of baked beans, black pudding, cooked or tinned tomato, mushrooms, fried bread, hash browns, ketchup, brown sauce, buttered toasts, dollops of jam, and a cup of tea. Sometimes there are variants according to size such as “small English” or “big English” or even “very big English”. A huge breakfast may be a “gut-buster” or, less happily, “the cholesterol special”. One restaurant in Pattaya even said it would refund your money if you could manage two “gut-busters” one after the other. The owner had to withdraw the offer after losing a lot of hard cash.
It is amazing that the full English remains as popular as it is in this health-conscious age. A recent report by the World Health Organization’s international agency suggested that processed meats such as sausage are in the same nominal category of carcinogens as asbestos, alcohol, tobacco and arsenic, albeit with lower levels of hazard. The findings a few weeks ago received global publicity but resounded particularly strongly in UK where the battles between health and indulgence continue unabated, with the latter usually winning. You can always start living healthily tomorrow!
The British, at home and abroad, are well-known for their personal ambiguities. Prime-time television in UK accords equal prominence to exercise machines and physical prowess as to belly-bulging cooking shows specializing in chocolate fudge cake and the various ways of frying fish and chips. Gym memberships sell very well in Britain although some practitioners have been observed creeping out at lunchtime to order a mammoth burger with extra cheese or an outsize sandwich squelched with mayo. Urged to eat at least five portions of fruit or vegetables every day by their doctor, some Brits seek refuge in five portions of French fries or multiple banana splits.
Back to the ’70s
Processed meat has been the butt of comedy since a Monty Python sketch of 1970 which revolved around Spam, the canned meat that gave its prewar name to a newer generation’s unwanted email. Based partly on ham, spam today is sold in 100 countries and, in 2007, was applauded for the seventh billion tin actually sold since its first appearance in 1937. Whether this total included the countless tins at the bottom of the Atlantic, thanks to Hitler’s submarines, is simply not known. All diet sheets tell you to avoid spam. Not only is it fattening, but it’s full of salt.
British newspapers love to join the bandwagon to frighten the masses. The tabloid daily The Sun recently proclaimed below a front page photograph of the sausage, “Banger out of order”. Another paper called to full English “the killer in the kitchen”. Almost every health column in periodicals is forever harping on about the evils of fatty breakfast meals, urging instead a return to an apple, a crispbread and some unsweetened porridge. Whether these campaigns are successful is another matter entirely.
But warnings seem to bring out the devil in people. One contributor to a national website remarked, “My work is very stressful so I often grab fast food. I do no exercise, always travel by tube or bus and am admittedly rather obese.” He added that he intends to go down fighting: with a bacon sandwich in one hand and a bottle of beer in the other as he sings the national anthem. Another wit commented, “If I had known that smoking was only as dangerous as eating sausages, I would never have given up cigarettes.” The same guy read that red wine is actually good for you and has begun consuming a bottle and a half every night. He believes that the roads to good health can be a most inebriated one.
Mind you, the Continental breakfast isn’t a whole lot better for you: all that butter, croissants, pastries and French bread. A recent hospital survey that changes in diet could prevent 9 percent of all cancer cases was read as meaning that it could not in 89 percent. Another poster wrote, “I don’t care anyway. We all have to die of something sooner or later.” Of course, he is right about sooner.