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Start Your Day the Irish Way

A History and How-to of a Full Irish Breakfast

By Jasmine Loubriel

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

We’ve all heard this saying before, whether from a dietician or your mother. By the time you were old enough to make or buy your own food, the alleged importance of breakfast being the first and therefore, most important meal of the day was understood. The widely-circulated phrase was initially used as a marketing tactic by the famous Kellogg cereal brand in the 20th century to widen the market for breakfast foods. The phrase gained so much popularity that it became an accepted health “fact” that many base their daily eating habits on.

Today, it depends on who you ask; breakfast might be more, less, or equally as important as other meals. If you proposed the question to an Irish farmer about a century ago, there’s a good chance they’ll say breakfast is undoubtedly the most important meal of the day, thanks to the old-timey full Irish breakfast. With St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, here’s all you need to know about this mouth-watering, uniquely cooked breakfast dish.

Otherwise known as the “fry-up,” or simply “the fry,” the full Irish breakfast dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries. During this time, Ireland mainly consisted of farmers who spent most of their days in the fields, planting and collecting food to bring home to their families. Sounds tiring, right? Farmers made sure to eat a hearty, fulfilling meal at the start of the day to provide them with enough nutrients and calories to get through the hours of laborious work ahead. Hence, the full Irish breakfast was born.

To break it down, there are some indisputable essentials to the full Irish, and then there are some interchangeable sides that aren’t necessarily fundamental to the dish. Firstly, it isn’t a proper Irish breakfast without a hefty portion of protein incorporated into your plate. The meat section of the dish comes in the form of bacon (also called “rashers”), pork sausages, and of course, fried eggs. Along with the meats, the full Irish is composed of fried tomatoes, baked beans, some form of bread (usually, either Irish soda bread or Irish brown bread), and hot breakfast tea or orange juice to wash it all down.

As with many cultural dishes, there are infinite variations that the Irish breakfast has. A popular addition to the main components of the dish is either black or white pudding. Black pudding is made by mixing pork fat and blood with barley and oats, whereas the white alternative is bloodless. To make your Irish breakfast even more Irish, you can add any form of potato that your heart desires. Add mushrooms or a green like lettuce or spinach to make the breakfast a little more healthy.

What makes the full Irish breakfast stand out from other breakfast dishes is its wide variety of flavors and the method of cooking used. The idea behind this meal is that everything-besides the beans-can be cooked with Irish butter in the same greasy, steaming pan.

The name says it all; this full Irish breakfast will undoubtedly leave you feeling full. Although it used to be eaten any day of the week by hungry farmers, this feast of a dish is now only prepared on special occasions such as Christmas or for Sunday breakfast with the family. If you want to start a new tradition, cook your own full Irish this St. Patrick’s day. Here’s a recipe to get started.


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