The great Scottish/Irish/English/Welsh fried breakfast, just the thing for a day’s cycling?
When cycling on longer trips in the British Isles you will need somewhere to stay. Almost every hotel or bed and breakfast will proudly tell you that they provide a Full Breakfast. They may staunchly assert that their breakfast is distinctively Scottish, Irish, Welsh or English, justified by some national delicacy lurking in a corner of the plate, but the offering is greasily consistent across all these countries. Some places provide high quality sausages from local craft butchers, others serve up cheap nasty discount sausage, deep-fried if you are particularly unlucky, but the theme is the same – fried food and lots of it.
The photo above by Phil Campbell shows an unpleasant version including baked beans, tinned tomatoes and suspicious-looking sausages but you can get a very good fried breakfast and I won’t pretend that I don’t enjoy having one from time to time. The problem for touring cyclists comes when you have the same thing every day. Last week on a 7-day tour of Argyllshire I found myself feeling lethargic and queasy for an hour each morning, my partner suffered from acid indigestion on most days.
The problem is lack of choice. You have paid for this breakfast, you feel you have to get value for your money and so you eat it. At a couple of places last week there was an alternative. The Stables B&B in Achnamara provided a fresh fruit salad which went down well with muesli and yogurt and their breakfast buffet included home-baked bread, pastries, cheese and cold meats. The Kilberry Inn (an up-market restaurant with rooms) also offered a fresh fruit dish and a variety of cooked options. Otherwise it was an unremitting barrage of fryups with little alternative except maybe sugary packaged cereals and underripe whole fruit
The disease starts right at the top. Collette and Steve, who run the Stables B&B, were criticised by the national tourism promotion agency Visit Scotland who award stars to guest houses. Because they both have day jobs they only offer a cooked breakfast at weekends, with a very good cold buffet as described above during the week. Visit Scotland insisted that they should provide a cooked breakfast every day, clearly a national policy to encourage foreigners to eat the same crappy diet as the Scots, so Scotland can move off the bottom of the dietary league tables (Scotland’s obesity problem is only second to the United States)
Cyclists tend to eat a lot, obvious really since they use a lot of energy. At least we can burn off some of that fried food building up in our arteries unlike many of the overweight car-bound tourists we saw, but fatty high protein food is not the right way to start a day’s cycling.
The UK Food Standards Agency stresses the importance of breakfast in a good diet, people who skip breakfast tend to over-eat during the day. They say that fruit, and good quality carbohydrates like wholemeal bread and whole grain cereals are the ideal and if you have a cooked breakfast it’s best to avoid fat – suggesting poached eggs and mushrooms cooked in a non-stick pan with minimal oil.
One of the best breakfasts I have had was at a small hotel somewhere in Wales who gave us muesli soaked in milk for half an hour with yogurt, grated apple and other fresh fruit mixed in. Some whipped cream folded in at the last minute made it even more luxurious. Not fat free but not fried and full of energy and freshness.