The latest issue of ARTICLE magazine is on sale now, and included in the excellent contents is my feature on the art of breakfast. Below is an edited extract. However, for the full version, and plenty of other fabulous stories, order your copy from the ARTICLE website.
MY older sister had a peculiar relationship with food, particularly with toast. She would profess not to be hungry — despite being asked several (if not more) times if she wanted breakfast — but would then set about stealing the slices off your plate. To Caroline the tanned rounds of bread, smothered in butter and jam, were far more appealing if they belonged to another person. At the time we didn’t possess a toaster, and it took a good ten minutes to grill the bread — so having to laboriously repeat the process often resulted in being late for school. I quite possibly pioneered the concept of take-away breakfast in my neighbourhood, by smuggling squares of Mother’s Pride into my bag before Caroline could snaffle them from my hands.
That subterfuge was a far cry from the glamour bestowed upon take-away nourishment by Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The opening image of an Givenchy-clad Audrey Hepburn — exiting a New York cab at dawn, clutching a coffee and croissant — made a great impression on my teenage years. THIS was how the exciting people lived. They spent their evenings dressed to perfection and partying hard, before greeting the morning with an al fresco breakfast. Now, coffee in a plastic cup is ubiquitous — but to a 15 year-old in the West Midlands in 1988, it was a novelty. It spoke of eccentricity, subversion, and a casual attitude towards social norms — everything I was striving towards in an attempt to break away from the dullness of council estate life.
But breakfast started to play a really important role in my diet after I met the most marvellous poster girl for robust health. One of my first jobs was on a daily local paper called The Lincolnshire Echo, where I was taken under the wing of the countryside correspondent — a formidable farmer’s wife called Betty Vickers. The 70-something Mrs Vickers had the constitution of an ox; she had fought off various cancers, and never suffered from colds. This she put down to a simple regime of eating. “Eat like a king at breakfast,” she’d advise me, “like a prince at lunch and like a pauper at dinner.”
For years I adhered to these wise words, and would rise early to ensure I had a decent breakfast — eating a starter of fruit and yoghurt before laying into cereal or breads. Now that my sister’s food-snatching shadow had been lifted, I made the most of this mealtime. I rediscovered toast, and at last began to give it more thought than a swift spread of Lurpak. I began to peruse the preserve aisle of the supermarket, and developed an obsession with marmalade that has never faded.
This has been helped by the category expanding wildly since the days of Robertson’s Golden Shred: this iconic British condiment is now available in a range of guises, from homemade to organic to vintage — and even comes in a version containing gold leaf, thanks to a new recipe from the East India Company. Alas, my move to London saw those pleasurable early-morning experiences sacrificed for the hope of a seat on the journey to work.