Looking For A New England – In A Full English

The Full English is the one meal England does well, with fat bangers, sizzling rashers and eggs oozing sunshine, strong tea and two buttered toast. This is food that makes you feel good just thinking about it, a platter that pulls on the heartstrings (as well as straining the heart).

It’s an icon of Englishness, as much of a symbol as the flag of St George, but here’s the thing: who really eats it these days?

Less than 1% of the population starts every day with a cooked breakfast, compared to the 1950s when it was more than half of us. I was thinking about this the other day, chewing (and chewing) my compulsory muesli while dreaming of bacon and eggs. If the full breakfast is so representative of the English, what does it say about us? And if our attitude to it has changed so much, what does “the Full English” really mean — not just in the sense of what is on the plate, but in terms of being fully English?

Those questions inspired a mad, bad, saltsoaked road trip from culinary heaven to hell and back, and from one end of the country to the other. Come with me, if you want to see what the English are really like now. But prepare for some very strong and surprising tastes. Continue reading “Looking For A New England – In A Full English”

Firle: In An English Country Melting Pot

Nowhere in England looks more like the perfect English village than Firle in East Sussex. It has an ancient church, with bells that ring out across beautiful countryside. There is a fine old pub with a roaring fire. The cottages, made of brick and flint, have roses growing in their gardens. Children are playing in the lane, pretending to be on the village cricket pitch — which is one of the oldest in the country, and a model of its kind. And to add to the feeling of fantasy, Firle even has a working post office.

The little shop looks as it did nearly a century ago, when Virginia Woolf strolled up from her rented cottage to post letters. Outside is a classic red Gilbert Scott phone box. Inside, a woman smiles as she hands over bread and milk, writing down the cost in a till book to be forgotten about until the end of the month. “I know everyone by name,” says the postmistress, Ami Reece. “I trust my customers. They are my friends.” Can it be for real? Continue reading “Firle: In An English Country Melting Pot”