While Italy is worldwide renowned for its dishes, the full English breakfast is arguably a competitor for food fame. So which nation wins when it comes to coaxing us out of bed? Let’s start where I started; England.
Any English mother will tell you that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it is unsurprising that the best loved morning dish is the calorific feast of a good ole’ fry up. Bacon, sausage, eggs, baked beans, mushrooms, toast, hash browns, black pudding, and – if you want a healthy addition – tomato. Just thinking about it makes the stomach rumble and the blood pressure scream. Of course, as good as it is for a hangover remedy or a lazy weekend, it isn’t an everyday thing (or else we might be beating America in obesity levels).
Generally the English have a slightly lighter start to the day, with their preferred cereal, toast, or – if they still fancy a treat – a bacon or sausage sandwich, or eggs on toast. Still all plenty filling meals to see one through to lunchtime.
So how does the Italian breakfast compare? Well, its certainly a change from the meat and bread focused plates of its northern friends. Instead it takes a sweeter focus. The non dieters enjoy brioche, biscuits or even all out chocolate cake, while those more health conscious opt for crackers with marmalade or yogurt. Although cereals are sold in all supermarkets, the lack of brands and the high price is evidence that they’re more a tourist commodity. Toast is also off the menu, with loaves of sliced bread being half the height (I still don’t understand the reason for this), and toasters not existing as a common kitchen appliance (the “toast” you see on lunch menus is actually the favoured ham and cheese toastie of the Welsh – done in an Italian style, obviously). As for the meat part: well, any fellow bacon fans will be very disappointed. Pancetta is delicious, but it just doesn’t give the same crispy, salty satisfaction as bacon. However, if you’re lucky, there’ll be an Italian nonna or mamma to bake a cake specifically for breakfast: often appearing like the British sponge cake, the butter is substituted for milk, and yogurt or fruit are added to make a slightly healthier but still tasty start to the day.
Drinks wise, both cultures are fairly similar – Italians are obviously dependent on their espresso, and the English also need a caffeine boost via a tea or long coffee. For those who somehow create their own energy, fruit juice is the way to go in both cases.
But which one comes out best in terms of morning motivation? Well I’ll be honest, when I first moved to Italy I was ready and willing to denounce my homeland as soon as I breakfasted here – cake, for breakfast! I could hear my mum tutting, and judgy colleagues thinking I had hit a low point. But here, it was completely normal and even encouraged.
That said, the novelty soon wears off. Maybe it’s because I had twenty two years of savoury breakfasts behind me, but I soon found myself craving something a little less sugary and a little more meal-like. The lighter Italian options, such as a few plain biscuits, rarely see me through to midday like a bowl of bran would. And although I’ll never say no to a chocolate brioche, if I’m breakfasting alone I’ll often pay the extra euro for some cereaI.
It’s just a shame a bacon sarnie is off the menu.