The longer I live in the UK, the more starkly the differences between the cultures of my former home (US) and my current home in the UK stand in contrast, and I’m not just talking about the accent differences. The little everyday cultural changes make life the more interesting. The areas of cultural difference that I find the most significant, though, seem to be in the smallest areas of life – say around the breakfast table.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Newspapers, and mums (moms?) alike in the US and UK would agree with that. But what should breakfast look like? This is where the cultural differences come out to play.
‘Muffins are a breakfast food!’ and other cultural differences between the USA and the UK
Who in England doesn’t love a fry-up? An American wouldn’t know what that was. The traditional English breakfast, feature of mornings-after-the-nights-out and greasy spoons (a diner to those of you in the USA) country-wide, would confuse many an American.
Toast? Fine. Eggs? Great. Fried bread? Only if I’m really hungover. Then things get weird for the American audience. Tomatoes? For breakfast? You’ve got to be kidding. Those lovey little fruits are a lunch or dinner food! Maybe my grandma will sometimes have stewed tomatoes, but not me, no way, no how. Wait, mushrooms next? Gross! Fungi for breakfast? What do I look like, a worm?
And what of, horror of horrors, the final traditional English breakfast stable; baked beans? Sign of the Apocalypse! Those flavourful protein pods are the reserve of barbeques. There’s no room for those on a breakfast plate!
After almost a year here now, I can say that I will now happily enjoy my tomatoes and mushrooms. The fried bread is still a rare fixture. But I can’t convince myself to eat beans for breakfast. That’s just weird.
But it’s not only the English who have a culturally different breakfast. Muffins are another point of major contention. I’m not talking about your standard McMuffin style ‘english muffin’. I mean here the breakfast staple that looks more like a socially acceptable cupcake. Standard fare on the highways and subways of America’s commuter routes, muffin and a coffee. Totally normal. Muffins, the healthier (debateable) donut. Muffins, because it’s not okay to have cake for breakfast. No American would think twice about eating a muffin to start the day right.
Egg McMuffin, acceptable breakfast on either side of the pond. Dunkin’ Donuts’ Muffin trio? Only in America…
But I can hardly describe the look of disgust and horror that clouds over the faces of my English friends, co-workers and husband when I eat muffins for breakfast. To them, a muffin is the most horribly offense, sweet, bizarre thing to ever grace a breakfast plate. While perfectly blended in flavour to compliment a freshly brewed cuppa jo, a muffin, is in England not an acceptable fare until midday.
“You and your weird breakfasts,” my boss muttered to me the other morning, midway through a lovely lemon-poppy seed muffin and coffee. I had to laugh. Me? Weird breakfasts? There’s not a baked bean in sight!