As Christmas approaches – the Season of Giving – there is no better time to reflect upon all the wonderful things given to the world by the British: cricket; railways; pencils; lawn mowers; calculus; Plimsoll lines; jigsaw puzzles; the Scout movement; plasticine, and hip replacements to name but a few. Top of the list, however, should be the Full English Breakfast, written with capitals to emphasize its magnificence, and sometimes known by Englishman simply as a ‘proper breakfast’. There is no better way to start the day.
Unfortunately, there exist two types of hotel: those which advertize an English breakfast and deliver in full, and those which claim to offer an English breakfast but fail miserably. It goes without saying that hotels which serve only ‘Continental’ or ‘American’ breakfasts are not to be taken seriously.
You might think it should be easy to provide an acceptable combination of bacon, sausage, fried egg, baked beans, mushrooms, and fried bread, but you’d be wrong. Hoteliers who eagerly trumpet the authenticity of their Chinese, Italian, or Thai cuisine are all too happy to serve up a sub-standard ‘English’ breakfast with missing ingredients, unwelcome extra ingredients, or even more shocking, foreign ingredients!*
Obviously the big challenge for guests lies in working out whether their breakfast will be a delight or a disaster before it is actually served, but fortunately there is one simple indicator which savvy Englishmen know is a pretty good proxy for breakfast competence. What they will be looking for is the presence of brown sauce.**
Put simply, if you have an English breakfast on your menu but you don’t have brown sauce, then you don’t have an English breakfast.
The UK currently consumes around 13 million kilograms of brown sauce annually, much of it with breakfast, and HP (Houses of Parliament) Sauce accounts for 78% of the market. Oddly, for such a glorious concoction, overseas sales are negligible, so one might argue that hoteliers could be forgiven for a lack of awareness since it is a mainly a product familiar only to the British and perhaps a handful of Canadians. However, once informed, there is no excuse for hotels to continue advertising English breakfasts without making sure that brown sauce is available.
If any readers are not yet acquainted with this delightful condiment, it is suggested that you broaden your culinary education and try some at your earliest convenience. Thanks to the enormous demand from British expatriates, HP Sauce is widely available all over the world, exported directly from the enormous production facility where it is lovingly produced in the Netherlands.
*Foreign in this context refers to countries which are not the UK or Denmark, which is the source of the best English bacon.
**It contains vinegar, tamarind and possibly anchovies – but better not to ask.