An English breakfast is a cooked hot meal that, for many English speakers around the world, represents the quintessential breakfast. There are numerous variations on the breakfast, most of which are named for the regions they borrow from; a Scottish breakfast, for example, includes traditional Scottish foods in addition to the standard components. People may also hear this meal called a fry up, and fry ups tend to be especially popular during the weekends, when people enjoy taking time to eat comfort foods at leisure.
Two classic components of the English breakfast are bacon and eggs, but the food doesn't stop there. A fry up may also include hash browns, toast, sausage, black pudding, beans, grilled tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, porridge, and kippers. It is also common to see an assortment of condiments, including jams and ketchup, and in some regions, fresh fruit may be offered as well, for people who find the traditional components of the breakfast too heavy.
Classically, a fry up is accompanied with numerous cups of strong black tea or coffee, which may be mixed with sugar and cream or milk. Orange juice is also not uncommon, especially among more health-conscious consumers who may want to attempt to temper the artery-clogging impact of the traditional meal. Leftover mashed potatoes, vegetable hash, and a variety of vegetarian meat alternatives are also starting to gain ground on the breakfast plate.
The concept of the English breakfast appears to be relatively recent. It seems to have emerged in the mid-1800s, and it was especially popular among wealthy members of society, although farmers may have eaten similar meals before this point. In wealthy homes, the components of breakfast were often spread out on a buffet, with people serving themselves as desired, and the meal was a display of wealth as much as it was an array of food, given the expense of meat.
Many diners and greasy spoons in English speaking nations offer some version of the English breakfast, with a focus on regional specialties. You may also hear this meal called an “all day” breakfast, in a reference to the fact that it could potentially fuel someone for a day, and to the fact that many people like to eat it over a leisurely period of several hours, rather than trying to cram it all in at once. Inns may also offer some version of it to their guests, since people often enjoy indulging in favorite foods while on vacation.