“At what mute, inglorious juncture in the history of British cuisine did the ‘all-day breakfast’ make its appearance? I can’t recall it being scrawled on a yellow cardboard sunburst in Magic Marker until the early 1990s – which makes sense, dating it to the same era as 24-hour rolling news and the export of western values through the cross hairs of a USAF bombardier.
“This is not to suggest that Saddam could have been ousted during the first Gulf war by laser-guided egg, bacon, sausage, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, chips and toast – but the all-day breakfast coincided with a devastating new onslaught by irony on Britain’s social structure. Certainly, as the British middle classes loft-converted their way out of the recession of the early 1990s, they began eating all-day breakfasts (or ‘fry-ups’, as these are known to graduates), while washing them down with copious amounts of ‘builder’s tea’. Before this jumbling of mores, a café was a caff, and its clientele was decidedly proletarian.
“Lunching with the writer Nick Papadimitriou at the Max Café on the Wandsworth Road, we mulled over caff food as we dabbled our chips in the shocking fauvism of our oval platters. Nick observed that the meal was a Proustian madeleine, a sense datum linking one unerringly to the past. But which past specifically, I wanted to know? Nineteen seventy-four, Nick snapped – it’s always associated in my mind with leaving Emerson, Lake and Palmer concerts feeling incredibly hungry. But why, I pressed him, were you famished after prog-rock gigs? He grimaced: because they went on and on and on – especially Greg Lake’s bass solos.”
Read the rest of the latest Real Meals column here at the New Statesman.