Several Victorian books and articles with recipes, menus, and advice for serving breakfast in genteel British homes are reproduced in Kaori O'Connor's book The English Breakfast: The Biography of a National Meal with Recipes. These are "a feast of lost dishes that richly deserve rediscovery," a collection that she includes to encourage her readers to try the foods of the past. In her view, "When reading or writing about food, one should also be able to taste it." (p. 54-55)
Despite O'Connor's exhortation that I, the reader, should try the recipes, I can't honestly say I see any of them that make me curious to eat them -- especially not for breakfast! All those strange fish preparations, all those meat pies, all those game dishes for which I couldn't legally obtain the main ingredient... snipe on toast, anyone? Cooked with its head tucked underneath its wing? Uh-uh.
In reviewing the book, however, I would like to give you at least some information about the recipes and menus, of which there are an overwhelming number. I have decided to focus on one dish that is often mentioned in literary breakfasts, like country house detective stories. That would be kedgeree, a dish of rice, hardboiled eggs, and smoked fish. In modern recipes the dish usually includes curry powder and other Indian spices, but not so much in the Victorian cookbooks included in O'Connors selection.
|Kedgeree from a modern recipe on the BBC website.|
The text below the menu explains: "This dish, from which the so-called 'kedgeree' of English cookery books was doubtless taken, was originally a dish of rice cooked with butter and an Indian pea called dál, but now it may either be composed of cold cooked fresh fish, or of salt fish that has been soaked and either boiled or fried." He continues with a detailed recipe using hardboiled eggs, shallots, and turmeric, used to color the dish "a nice light yellow color." (p. 265)
Another book included by O'Connor is Breakfast Dishes for Every Morning of Three Months by Miss Allen. This includes kedgeree on the menu for "January 4, Wednesday." (p. 209) It consists of