Friday, May 18, 2018


It was Somerset Maugham who apparently said, “To eat well in England you should have breakfast three times a day.”  The interwebs are pretty well agreed about that, but I haven’t been able to find exactly where he said (or wrote) it.

I’m not sure if Maugham’s line was ever really true, but I think the all-day breakfast is more of an American invention than a British one.  And in fact I don’t think English and American breakfasts are fundamentally all that different; they’re just variations within the form, not of the form.  The British sometimes favour baked beans, the Americans sometimes favor pancakes – both of which I can do without at breakfast.

Surely bacon and eggs are the defining elements of Anglo-American breakfasts. So I was probably going off message at the Farmers (no apostrophe) Market in Los Angeles last week when I had pastrami and eggs for breakfast at Phil’s Deli and Grill.  

And yes, I suppose you might have to go a fair distance to kind pastrami served for breakfast in England, and hash browns and that bagel are certainly all-American, but there’s nothing hard-to-understand about it.

Incidentally, Somerset Maugham, when he was in his 60s, spent part of the Second World War in Los Angeles.  I don’t know if he ever went to the Farmers Market, and back then it probably didn't look exactly like this, but the picture is hard to resist:

And a final word from Mr. Maugham from his novel The Explorer.  One of his characters says,  “… a love for good food is the only thing that remains with man when he grows old. Love? What is love when you are five and fifty and can no longer hide the disgraceful baldness of your pate. Ambition? What is ambition when you have discovered that honours are to the pushing and glory to the vulgar. Finally we must all reach an age when every passion seems vain, every desire not worth the trouble of achieving it; but then there still remain to the man with a good appetite three pleasures each day, his breakfast, his luncheon, and his dinner.”
         The Explorer was published in 1907 when Maugham was in his mid 20s.  That passage seems like a very young man’s idea of being old.

Mr Maugham, probably not thinking about breakfast.

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