Goo, grease and goodness – what's in your fry-up?
It started with a sauce
As a translator, I’m regularly confronted with the great questions of life. What’s the difference between a BBQ and a grill? A screen and a monitor? Brown sauce and HP?
As always in times of doubt, I turn to my colleague Eva Francis. What starts as a brief exchange of opinions on brown sticky sauce grows into a passionate food debate and culminates in the following project:
Re-creating a fried breakfast with ingredients you can buy in Switzerland’s leading supermarkets.
No doubt, you’ll find a great selection of British brands and products online and in specialised shops. And we're all for supporting local shops. But for this challenge, we decide to restrict ourselves to Coop and Migros.
Before we could start our search for original products or acceptable substitutes, there was a fundamental discussion to be had.
Eva’s a Welsh-born daughter to a Swiss mother and an Irish-English father. I’m a Swiss-born daughter to a Swiss father and an Irish-English mother. And I’m married to a Geneva-born Mexican Scot. So far so confusing. So what do we make? A full English, full Irish, full Scottish, full Welsh or an Ulster fry? Huevos rancheros?
Unlike the English breakfast society, a self-proclaimed learned society of fellows, «dedicated to the tradition and heritage of the full English breakfast», Eva and I don’t take things so seriously. Our goal is neither to create a purist-pleasing dish nor a culinary highlight. All we want to make is a simple but satisfying fry-up that will cure a hangover or just fill your belly with greasy goodness.
#keep it greasy
Scouring the Internet for more breakfast inspiration, I come across the Fry Up Police – a Facebook mob dedicated to brutally rating people’s attempts at a fry-up. The group has over 54,000 members. It’s hilariously offensive. Just to give you an idea, here's their disclaimer:
This group is not suitable for children or the faint of heart, by joining the group you are aware and accepting of potentially brutal criticism at every opportunity. That is the nature of the beast and why people love it so do not expect any sympathy when you post a picture of a fu--ing croissant then someone calls you a c--t.
I step up to the extra challenge, join the group and mentally prepare for a bashing at a later stage.
There are so many articles and websites dedicated to fried breakfasts, it’s mind-boggling. I even come across a poll on the ingredients that make up a «genuine» fry-up. Granted, the Mirror is not your most scientific source but still. 2000 people took part in the poll.
To avoid lengthy debates about authenticity every step of the way, we focus on our favourite ingredients and build on those.
Eva’s essentials * British-style bacon * British-style sausages * Hash browns (frozen for convenience)
Like chips, or fries for you non-Brits, the last ingredient is often pooh-poohed by purists. But Eva loves her hash browns and is having none of it. Our apprentice Luca is a bit taken aback at our relaxed attitude towards soft drugs until Eva explains that hash browns are more like Rösti and less like space cakes. He laughs but looks a little disappointed.
Jess’ essentials * Baked beans * Thick slice toast bread * Salted butter
Both of us insist on a nice cup of tea to wash it all down. Here, we also go for a straightforward approach. No faffing around with bone china, milk first or pre-warming teapots.
The shopping list
The easy items: * Eggs * Mushrooms * Tomatoes * Baked beans
The above items should be readily available in most Coop or Migros stores. We went for organic whenever possible. When it comes to beans, I prefer Heinz original but a no-name alternative will also serve the purpose.
Fun fact: Heinz sell 1.5 million tins of beans a day in the UK.
The tricky items:
* British-style bacon
* British-style sausages * Hash browns (frozen) * Thick slice toast bread
Finding the tricky items is all about compromising.
For the bacon, we get two types. Coop’s organic bacon that’s shaped like British bacon and called «Bacon» and naturafarm veal bacon called «Kalbsbacon». The former seems to lack fat. The latter is fattier but looks wrong. We get both. For the sausages we choose «Schweins-Cipollata» and «Pro Montagna Bauern-Bratwurst mit Kräutern».
For the hash browns, we buy «Coop Qualité & Prix mini Rösti». Not perfect but convenient. Maybe we’ll make our own next time.
Migros «American Favorites XL» toast looks good and is the right size.
We start off by frying the bacon and some of the sausages in the only decent frying pan I have. We set them aside to make room for the rest of our stuff and realise there’s no way it will all fit. So I dig out a recent bad buy from the depths of my kitchen cabinets. Although the massive red frying pan is still far too big for any of the hot plates on my stove, it holds and keeps warm a large part of our ingredients.
The beans are a lot more forgiving. Pour them in a pot while the other stuff is sizzling away and gently heat. Just make sure not to burn them.
Meanwhile, the decent frying pan has been washed up and is ready for the eggs. Fried or scrambled is a matter of taste. We go for scrambled.
Last but not least, it’s time to make the toast. At this stage, some people will stick a couple of slices in the frying pan to soak up the remaining grease and juices. The whole dish is greasy enough for our taste and we just go with regular toast. I’m a massive toast fiend and was lucky enough to get a high-end Dualit toaster as a wedding gift from my French translator colleague Anne Chapuis. Bless her. And what did my husband get, I hear you say? He got a priceless piece of wisdom called happy wife, happy life.
By the time we’ve shopped, prepped and taken photos of our ingredients, we're starving. To tide us over until the food is ready, we stuff our faces with salt and vinegar crisps and wash them down with beer. This kind of spoils our appetite but also makes us more critical of the food. And a bit tipsy.
Eva’s main concern is the bacon. Although the taste is fine, Swiss bacon just doesn’t have the same consistency or flavour as British bacon. The rashers are too thin and the meat-fat-ratio is wrong. Our bacon discussion ends abruptly when Eva exclaims: «We forgot the hash browns!». They’re still in my freezer now. What silly sausages we are.
I’m not a big meat eater myself so I'm particularly critical about the sausages. In my opinion, the bratwurst is quite good in its own right but not great as a British breakfast sausage. It’s too big. But the cipollatas are surprisingly nice.
«I wouldn’t be upset if I got served this», my husband says. He’s just happy to be there.
The shaming on social media
Time to upload a beautiful photo of our fry-up and have it destroyed by the Fry Up Police.
These were just some of the comments:
We need you!
After surviving the harshest fry-up critics out there, we want to step up our game and need your help.
• What is the X in your full X breakfast – Irish, English, Welsh, Scottish, other? • What ingredients go in your fry-up? • Where do you get your ingredients? • Do you have any good vegetarian/vegan alternatives?
Now it's your turn. Fry, eat, enjoy! We look forward to your comments.
Senior Translator, Zurich