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The Biggest Difference Between America and Britain: Breakfast

british breakfast The Biggest Difference Between America and Britain: Breakfast

America and Britain are alike in so many ways. I’d argue that as each year passes, the United Kingdom becomes more Americanized. But there’s one thing I haven’t been able to get used to in the States even though I’ve lived here for 28 years of my life. And it has nothing to do with soccer.

It’s the American breakfast.

How can so many things in British and America culture be so similar, yet the most important meal of the day be so dramatically different? It’s left me puzzled all these years.

The bacon? Completely different. Sausages? Different. Toast? Not similar. Americans call jam, jelly. Brits call jelly, jello. And the list goes on and on.

While a British breakfast is a heart attack on a plate, filled with plump pork sausages, thick slices of bacon, fried bread, fried mushrooms, fried potatoes and baked beans, served with a cup of hot tea, an American breakfast can be quite varied in contrast. French toast, pancakes, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, waffles, steak and eggs and so on. All of these American dishes are very foreign to British tastebuds, so it’s no wonder that since I’m very set in my ways, I always look like a deer caught in the headlights when I look at a breakfast menu at any American restaurant.

It gets worse when I go to a deli where there’s an ever greater assortment of strange breakfast choices such as the myriad of bagels, some served with smoked fish or lox.

The only thing I can usually order that is halfway between American and British breakfast food is an omelette, which — funnily enough — is French.

Am I the only one who enjoys American food except for breakfast? Other than making a great breakfast meal at home, have you been able to find that little bit of Britain in America?

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About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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99 Responses to The Biggest Difference Between America and Britain: Breakfast

  1. steven wade says:

    I used to go to the Globe Pub in Chicago, where an ex-pat serves up English breakfast along with the Premier League matches of the day. I would love to try a traditional English breakfast, but seeing as I am a vegan, it’s a tough find. I am sure there are some restaurants in the UK that serve a veg version. Next time I’m over to see my beloved Hammers I’ll have to seek one out.

    • The Gaffer says:

      I need to go to my local British pub for a breakfast one of these days. It’s about 20 miles away, but I can make a day out of it and watch a match there for a change.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • De Selby says:

      Yeah, vegan is tough. I was for 10 years but when I started going to Ireland in the late 90′s I went back to eating dairy as well. I like milk in my tea (I suppose soymilk would be ok) and cheese is too hard to do without.

      I’ve never been to England but I imagine an Irish breakfast is very similar. All the B&B’s I’ve stayed at have been very accommodating. Basically I just skipped the bacon/sausage/blood pudding and had more of the other stuff.

      Ireland is what got me onto tea. Love tea. I don’t go out for breakfast. I always make my own, ranging from just tea and toast to sometimes adding potatoes, mushrooms, tomatoes, and sometimes fake sausage (which isn’t vegan).

      I have to say that while I like beans I’ve never been able to incorporate them into breakfast. Just seems weird.

      Oh yeah, and don’t forget the HP sauce. That’s vegan.

    • Eplnfl says:

      I have been at the Globe for EPL matches along with Atlanta Pompey when he was in town. Do not recall the English breakfest but willing to try. I am from Chicago, do you often go to Globe? Any other EPL Talk fans there?

      I have had 3 different trips to England mostly just London and the latest just last June. I never have been tempted to try the full breakfest experience. Most of the time the hotels have free breakfasts that are more than sufficient. Actually I have had occasion to try English breakfests in other places like the Cayman Islands. Very good but I am used to the American breakfest. Can not beat ham off the bone and hash browns.

      • steven wade says:

        Hiya Eplnfl,

        I moved away from Chicago a few years back and therefore my Globe visits went by the wayside. I did go to the website to see if they were still doing the breakfast and indeed they were, $10.50 for a huge plate. I miss it there, I hope you enjoy your visits.

    • Gillyrosh says:

      The Globe is wonderful!

  2. RBP says:

    Breakfast was one of my favorite things about my recent trip to London. Stereotypes of British food are grossly wrong, was one of the big things I came away with from overseas. But the breakfast.. that’s how you do it! That said, American bacon is vastly superior.

    • Guy says:

      Can’t agree on the bacon, RBP. See below. :-)

    • The Gaffer says:

      I know I can order Canadian bacon, but it doesn’t taste anywhere near as good or similar to British bacon. I disagree with you about American bacon. Bacon in the States is more crunch than taste, in my opinion.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • andrew says:

        If you live in the south, you might try getting country ham instead of canadian bacon or American bacon.

        But if the American bacon you’ve had is more crunch than taste, I feel bad for you. There are ALOT of high quality and very flavorful American bacons. The one I cure and smoke myself is one of them. If you ever are in Seattle, I’ll show you how good it can be. I’ve also made British bacon before and it’s quite nice as well.

    • Eplnfl says:

      Have to agree that over a twenty four year period that I have visited England and Ireland I have been more impressed with the food each time. This last trip I did not have bad meal period. More places seem to be operated by people form other countries I will admit.

      The bad thing is that American fast food franchises are now all over! Stop that. I did not need to eat at a McDonald’s after a show at the Horse Guards Parade.

  3. Guy says:

    Nice one, Gaffer. I love breakfast! We are going to Scotland for the third time this fall and one of the things I am looking forward to the most is a “proper” breakfast! We here in the States have no idea what real bacon is to say nothing of the other delicacies of a full English…..or in this case, Scottish. ;-)

  4. Smokey Bacon says:

    Finally, a post I can relate to! I hear you Gaffer, the typical American breakfast is sh*te. The bacon is terrible and don’t get me started about pancakes or French toast. And wtf are grits?

    That said, if I had not come to this country I would not have discovered Huevos Rancheros or the Breakfast Burrito. In my experience, go Mexican or at least southwest. A little salsa or hot sauce fixes most things.

    I’m starvin now and it’s 12 hours until breakfast. Thanks Gaffer!

    • The Gaffer says:

      LOL! You’re welcome.

      I love Mexican food, but I’ve never had Huevos Rancheros. I don’t think there are any Mexican places open for breakfast here in Suburbia, but I’ll keep my eyes open. But I do enjoy a breakfast burrito.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • De Selby says:

      Hey! Don’t say nothin’ bad about grits! They’re fantastic. And you can either eat it like a cereal all mushy with some nice cheese or pour it out into a pan and let it cool. Then you can fry it up. Maybe add some cheese and some tabasco. Awesome.

      And while I’m here, let’s not forget some Irish (or Scottish) steel cut oatmeal. Yes, please.

      • Guy says:

        I generally whip up a good sized pot of grits, then put the leftovers into small loaf pans and refrigerate them. Next time slice and coat with flour. Fry ‘em up. Oh, yeah!

        Welcome to the EPL Talk cooking channel. ;-)

    • Guy says:

      Now, now, Smokey, I enjoy my grits, too! :-)

      • jtm371 says:

        Guy
        i have been to your great state and you my friend are on your own when it comes to grits.not enough butter brown sugar or syrup to make them eatable.

        • De Selby says:

          Dude (or dudette), grits are not supposed to be sweet. Of course adding sugar to them would be unpleasant. Try cheese and/or hot sauce.

          And I assume you know that another name for grits is “polenta”.?

          It’s delicious.

        • Guy says:

          That’s OK, jtm. We all have our little culinary quirks. If mushrooms were the last food on earth I would choose to starve to death. ;-)

          • jtm371 says:

            Guy
            no problem just giving you a little stick.i am all in on your statement on mushrooms and we all no what they use to grow mushrooms.if you don’t just look it up.

  5. jtm371 says:

    if you get rid of the fried mushrooms fried bread and the beans then i am all in. cheese bagel 1/2 pound of bacon and hash or fried potatoes and tea will do just fine. only once a month if lucky for this breakfast.to long on treadmill to burn it off.

  6. De Selby says:

    Also, British folks help me out here. My experience (granted, it has only been Ireland) is that the people there did not actually eat a full breakfast all that often. Maybe more of a once a week kind of thing. I seemed to understand that only tourists would eat something like that on a daily basis. (Of course tourists, by definition, would only be there for a relatively short period of time.)

    • Smokey Bacon says:

      I’d say that’s correct. If we ate full English everyday we’d look like Americans :)

      It’s a regional thing. The full English is arguably more popular up north. In London it’s all skinny lattes and blueberry muffins.

  7. Mufc77 says:

    Nothing beats getting to the pub every sat/sun morning at 7:30am and ordering a full Irish Breakfast. Proper irish sausages & bacon, eggs, beans, black & white pudding, mushrooms and some nice freshly baked soda bread. Luckily I can buy all that good stuff in a irish shop in my neighborhood but it always tastes better when someone else cooks it for you.

  8. dust says:

    LOL…

    There are a plethora of greasy spoons in London that serve a full english with doorstep bread and Fried Bread. When I go back to the lane for the man city game I will be visiting several.

    Gaffer got it bang on about the Canadian Bacon v english bacon,its not close…

    Looks like you are missing an egg on that as well as the door step bread on the pic too Gaffer…

    Monday’s at my local cafe you’d get bubble and squeak too!

    One other thing I’ll be seeking is a good Chip Butty..

  9. trickybrkn says:

    When I lived in London, I once ordered a full English… Never again. Now, I still to this day keep Marmite. and put HP sauce on my eggs, and prefer Irish bacon to the fatty American bacon. But, thing is… In England, outside of the greasy spoon it is more and more a Denny’s menu then say a banger, beans, shroons, tomato and beans with a fried egg. Don’t believe me? well check out the Denny’s of the UK… http://www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/home/food/menu/breakfast/breakfast-9

    Now… my favorite breakfast is marmite soldiers and a soft boiled egg to dip. and as much as I do enjoy a ‘cuppa’ of PG tips, Coffee is still my choice as a morning pick me up.

    And I wouldn’t call British cuisine as becoming Americanized. I would say internationalized.

    • Paul says:

      That’s only a sample of the special deals. Take a look at their full menu – http://www.jdwetherspoon.co.uk/static/pdfs/admin-generated/breakfast-10.pdf – the full English is very much still there!

      There’s nothing better (well, maybe a Sunday roast!) than a full English on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Even sometimes for tea (or dinner as you might say!).

    • The Gaffer says:

      I agree that, for the most part, British cuisine isn’t becoming Americanized, but British culture in general is very Americanized.

      But at the same time, the number of American food chain restaurants in the UK is growing. Pizza Hut, KFC, McDonalds, Subway, etc, etc.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • trickybrkn says:

        i miss the Wimpy Burger.. served on a real plate, and with beans.
        in terms of fast food, its not just the UK, but those joints are world wide.. I’m speaking more of menus at pubs. You find curry, spring rolls, pad thai… in short, the days of a toast cheese and chips is a thing of the past. Because it is probably called a croque madame.
        And don’t get me wrong… I love a roast up with yorkshires and gravy…
        in fact before every West Ham match I try and get to Ken’s cafe… a total greasy spoon. here is their menu board. http://www.flickr.com/photos/herschell/179919415/

  10. Morgan Green says:

    I can’t believe there’s a post about breakfast and no one has brought up Chipped Beef & Biscuits or Chicken & Waffles.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Now that’s one I’ve never heard of before. Chipped beef and biscuits? What’s that?!

      Chicken and waffles is certainly something very American. That’s another dish I don’t understand.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Morgan Green says:

        Haha it’s basically a concoction of shaved ham, butter, milk and flour. Its creamy and when it’s put over biscuits it’s amazing. Unfortunately once you eat it you’re down for the day. I’ve never accomplished anything after eating that in the morning

  11. Mufc77 says:

    You haven’t lived until you have had the Moons over my hammy from Denny’s at 4am after a night of drinking.

  12. cantona says:

    my mouth watered looking at the picture.. nothing beats a couple of fried eggs, a tin of heinz beans, button mushrooms, scottish bacon, black pud, fried tomato, some chipolatas… drenched in brown sauce.. mopped up with a nice piece of toast.. drenched in county time butter(makes a huge difference)… lovely..

    Cantona—

  13. Sara says:

    I like to think of myself as fairly open minded, but if a slice of bacon doesn’t shatter when you it it with a fork then it’s just extra fatty ham. You’d be surprised how many Americans get that wrong,too.

  14. Sammy says:

    Interesting piece, some very nice food I see there.

  15. Guy says:

    Just wondering this morning if Gus has had a full English yet.

    BEANS! Too much!! :-)

  16. Marc L says:

    Ha ha, good piece! As an American who lived and worked in the UK for a couple of different stretches, I have a bit of experience with both.

    England for me for breakfast food. But I’m kind of a meat and potato sort of guy to begin with.

    Rest of the day’s menu? U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!

  17. Larry says:

    I think the picture above might be useful to the American Heart Association :-) .

  18. Pete says:

    Why you Americans go to London is beyond me, London is a dump, You should go to Lake district or the Yorkshire dales or go in the hills in Scotland and Wales. There are many beautiful places to visit in Britain, London isn’t one of them.
    I love full English breakfasts, I don’t like black puddings or mushrooms but I love the rest.
    It is true that bacon for some reason doesn’t seem to be the same anywhere else, I’ve been all over Europe and it isn’t the same there either.
    As for Britain becoming more Americanised, well it certainly has more KFC’s and Mcdonalds than any other country outside the US. I love both though so I’m not complaining, I’m a bit of a fast food junky.

    P.S not all of England lives on tea, I actually drink coffee more than tea and judging by the amount of starbucks and costa coffee shops here it seems that most people drink as much coffee as tea. Still if you’re a tourist, getting fish and chips and a cup of tea is the done thing I suppose.

  19. Nonsense says:

    You haven’t had breakfast until you have a classic New Jersey taylor ham, egg, and cheese on a roll!

    It’s all about the taylor ham.

  20. christian says:

    @gaffer, you live in Florida, you should visit Waffle House for a true southern style breakfast.

    • The Gaffer says:

      I google Waffle House last night. The closest one to me is 30 miles away.

      I don’t think the Waffle Houses in this area are as good as the ones up north. The ones here are pretty dingy.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • christian says:

        Gaffer, I don’t even know if they make waffles there lol. It’s all about the grease for the bacon. Greatest 4 AM drunk food ever :)

  21. darrel says:

    LOL? in the US we view British food as disgusting and bland.

    • The Gaffer says:

      That’s the stereotype. Just like most Americans still think British football is rife with hooliganism.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

    • Guy says:

      That is an unfortunate misperception by some in this country, but I dare say it is less and less wide spread.

      We have had world class food all over Scotland whether pub food on the run or a leisurely sit-down dinner in a nice restaurant. Freshly sourced ingredients, innovative dishes as well as delicious old standbys.

      You need to get out more. ;-)

      • IanCransonsKnees says:

        If I get my football tours idea off the ground believe me you’d be eating like kings.

        Good food is a huge thing over here now, there’s plenty of swill around if that’s your thing, if not there’s some fantastic eaterie’s around.

        Provenance is a huge factor over here (despite the horsemeat fiasco). The food channels should be lumped in with the porn they’re that titillating.

        http://www.squaremeal.co.uk/feature/hit-list-uk-top-50-restaurants/2411

        • Guy says:

          One of the things we really notice is how so many restaurants list their sourcing on the menu. They are quite proud to point out that your lamb came off that hill over there, your salmon from the Tweed down the road, the veggies from the farm around the corner, etc. Our favorite, on a daily specials board: “Pheasant may contain shot.” Now, that’s fresh! :-)

    • dust says:

      Yeah and that is based off of GI’s returning from their second world war postings in the UK during which time their was intense rationing that lasted until 1953 after Bizarre weather ruined crops in the years ending the war.

      That stereo type of British food couldn’t be more wrong…

      A lot like the stereo type that americans are fat loud mouths that wear Bermuda shorts carry cameras everywhere and have no manners or appreciation for anything that resembles anything cultural…

      Which Im sure you will agree is a completely wrong…. Both drive me crazy as the people that maintain the 1st usually fall into the category of the second.

  22. M Owen says:

    I wonder if the shirtless big lads at the Newcastle games eat the items in the picture for all three meals.

  23. IanCransonsKnees says:

    As Guy will atest to you can even wear British food ;-)

  24. Marc says:

    Being a lover of breakfast, I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this article really intrigued me. Seeing and reading about the diffrent British foods made my mouth water all day at work. I cannot wait to visit the Island. But who knows if that will ever happen.

  25. Guy says:

    Gaffer—-i have obviously enjoyed this posting. 80 comments on breakfast! Ha!

    EPL Talk readers—- culinary cognizanti of the football world! Who knew? :-D

  26. Sammy says:

    My favorite food for breakfast is still cereal, that’s always the first thing I look for in my fridge every morning when I wake up. Would also do with some nice cakes or sandwiches with chocolate spread/peanut butter now and then, in addition to a refreshing packet of Milo.

  27. IanCransonsKnees says:

    http://www.britishsupplies.com/Merchant2/merchant.mv?

    Go on try some HP.

    There’s a Stoke fan off one of the forum’s I go on over there at the minute and the thing he’s missing most is a decent curry. Apparently it’s not the done thing in the USA, it’s pretty much a national dish over here.

    Guy, try and get your hands of some of this:

    http://www.innisandgunn.com/en/Home.aspx

    • Guy says:

      I’ll look for it when I’m over in the big city (Raleigh). We have brewers here aging beer in bourbon barrels. It is, WOW!

      One of the best curries I have ever had was two years ago in an Indian restaurant in……..Inveraray, Scotland. :-D

  28. mizsa says:

    Very much informative article. I worked in usa 4 years and now i am working in uk. I really liked usa food or break first.

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