Humor: An Ode To Our National Meal, The Full Irish Breakfast

To fight the sudden onslaught of cholesterol, an aspirin is recommended

By Breda Heffernan

Half a pig and a side of pudding may not sound like an appetizing (or healthy) way to start the day. But that’s the “Full Irish,” and it isn’t fading away any time soon.

Actually, the full Irish is undergoing a Renaissance, particularly in Dublin cafes. Young professionals nowadays head into the city center earlier and earlier to avoid the morning traffic chaos. Then, with an hour to kill before work, many head to their local cafe, paper in hand, with the best intentions of ordering a grapefruit, perhaps. That idea is quickly forgotten, however, as the smell of frying meat reaches their nostrils. At that moment, we Irish forget we’re supposed to have joined the skim latte and bagel brigade. Who were we ever kidding?

The Perfect Ingredients

Regional variations of the Full Irish exist, but there are only eight true ingredients. In descending order of importance, they are: rashers (commonly known as bacon, though no self-respecting son or daughter of Ireland would call them that), sausages, black and white pudding (the monochrome coloring adds a certain touch of elegance), egg, tomato, mushroom and soda bread. All this is washed down with copious amounts of well-stewed tea. Finally, in order to aid the body’s battle against this sudden onslaught of cholesterol, an aspirin is recommended.

Beans, toast and hash browns have managed to gain a foothold in less salubrious Irish cafes, which often serve a full Irish all day long. But these ingredients are not part of the traditional dish, and establishments that include them carry a connotation of greasy spoons, frequented by long-haul truck drivers.

I recall reading there is actually scientific evidence that even arteries of a young, healthy adult can stiffen immediately after eating a Full Irish and can remain so for three hours. But why worry about that when your goal is self indulgence? Besides, isn’t the Atkins diet based on eating meat, meat and more meat?

A Healing Touch

Of course, in one particular area, the healing properties of the full Irish are legendary. After a night hitting the bottle, common sense might dictate drinking plenty of water, and having some fruit and wholegrain cereal to boost your energy. Claptrap! What a banging head and churning stomach really need is fried pig and lots of it! Nutritionists claim that the Full Irish actually prolongs a hangover. But speaking from personal experience and the experience of friends, including a doctor, I’ve never found this to be the case.

There’s always a downside, naturally. With an Irish breakfast, it usually relates to the contents of pork products. Sausage horror stories abound about pig teeth, trotters and whatever turning up at the breakfast table. But the real Frankenstein foods, in my opinion, are the puddings – black or white – they’re both equally grotesque. The black variety is made by cooking down pig blood with meat, fat and fillers until it’s thick enough to congeal when cooled. Yum! White pudding has no blood, but instead has suet, the hard fat on the kidney or loins.

But don’t let this turn you away from what is arguably our most treasured national dish. Remember the pleasure is more from the sum than the parts. Bon appetite!