While in the UK and Ireland, we’ve stayed in numerous of bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) and guesthouses. As the second B implies, the room also comes with breakfast in the morning. More often than not, breakfast isn’t merely yogurt and cereal but a hot, cooked breakfast usually consisting of sausage, bacon, beans, an egg, tomato, and toast. Sometimes you also get black pudding; sometimes you get hashbrowns or mushrooms. Sometimes the tomato is missing.
Before arriving in the islands, we’d heard these referred to as “English” breakfasts. Imagine our surprise when we got to Wales and saw “Welsh breakfast” on the menu. “Neat!” we thought. We were interested in trying something different. The difference? Absolutely nothing but name. Sausage, bacon, egg, tomato, mushroom, beans, and black pudding. As we continued traveling, the same held true for “Scottish” and “Irish” breakfasts. Well, the latter sometimes included Irish pancakes, but that was the only difference.
That said, we found that the biggest B&B faux pas one could commit is to call that breakfast by any other name. We saw this in action in Scotland when an unfortunate Englishman asked for a full “English” breakfast in the dining room. The host paused, laughed, and asked “Scottish breakfast?” while fellow diners looked over and snickered derisively. The poor guy stammered and giggled and managed a “oh, yes, Scottish breakfast, of course”.
You wouldn’t think the regional name of a breakfast would be a big deal (and perhaps it isn’t), but it seems more of a reflection of regional pride and a need to distinguish one’s area from the former mother country of England. We have observed and often commented between ourselves about the general attitudes of both British subjects and the Irish. It’s a broad generalization, but here it is anyway: the Welsh, Scots, and Irish have a deeply-rooted suspicion and dislike for the English, and the English hold a general disdain for anyone not English. The latter seems subtle in everyday life, but the former is a matter of pride and usually worn on one’s sleeve. We heard anti-English comments regularly outside of England.
Before visiting Europe, I never knew that Continental breakfast referred to the kind of breakfast you usually find on the “continent”– pastries, muffins, bread, and tea/coffee. As we leave the islands tomorrow, I will indeed miss the breakfasts, especially the egg part. 😉 More than that, though, I am going to miss these countries. They are jam-packed with history and culture, and I have had a great time. Hope to get back again soon.