I was on my annual staycation and its during this time I get my yearly overexposure to our famous Irish breakfast. Now we will have one at home every now and again as a late weekend morning treat and when lunch is being skipped. It is never the full line up mind you, usually just a couple of decent quality rashers or sausages never both, an egg or two, several mushrooms, a nice grilled ripe tomato or beans and a few nicely sautéed onions. Any leftover cooked spuds will be sliced along with them in the pan and a slice or two of toast or soda bread to finish it off. I once knew someone that would have liver, kidneys and steak as well as the bacon, sausages and puddings. You might not get out of the chair after that feed.
After a week or so however of these fry ups one really needs a break, so the pan will not be out again for a week or so. It always makes me wonder though what impression our visitors to Ireland might make of the sheer range of ingredients and their attempted cooking as part of this national dish of ours that they might have on them. The breakfast chef job is one of the least liked positions in kitchens but someone has to do it and I did my fair share of it over the decades covering for the no shows or when there was simply nobody to cover the shift.
So I was standing lately beside a four star hotel breakfast buffet with a couple of elderly bemused Italians from a tour group as they were muttering away under their breath while looking at the sad dried up fried eggs and steaming mountain of scrambled ones like they were a failed scientific experiment. In stark contrast the bacon was actually cooked nicely, retaining a crispness and not bad quality at all. They were watching my plate for the pointers so hopefully they will have not had any culinary trauma.
The budget priced puddings seem to hold their own being kept warm but the poor sausages had done quite a bit of shriveling up and Italians know their sausages.
Then there was the sinned against deep fried mushrooms, hash browns, tomatoes and beans and along with a couple of wedges of good soda bread and butter, sure you are away in a hack then and could move mountains with the ten thousand calories or more you will have consumed.
My breakfast nemesis is always the artificial fruit juices so I resort to grabbing a couple of the oranges from the fruit bowls and squeezing my own with a fork at the table. A case of needs must. When the hot buffet is a trail of destruction with nothing at all looking edible which does often happen then I play it safe and just go continental.
I fare better in the bed and breakfasts where things will be mostly cooked to order and I would rather wait for it patiently knowing that a bit of care and attention has gone into the effort. I will always have a foodie chat with the hosts and they are ecstatic when I tell them something is perfectly done.
They will always find out where one is from and what guests do for a living and so I inevitably have to break the bad news that I am in food and very much so. Some faces will drop at the revelation; others will rise to the challenge. Some just don’t care either way.
Whether we like it or not our national Irish breakfast is part of our identity all across these isles and the one common factor I have noticed over the years has been the decline in the quality of the ingredients as costs and margins are severely squeezed so providers cannot afford to spend more on better raw produce. Therefore the final result for the visitor will be a poor one never mind the sub standard cooking of them so its double trouble for our reputation. As we try to get tourism back on track I do not see any improvement coming anytime soon in this area. Sunny side definitely not up.