“Dainty Breakfasts”

The following is from a delightful British cookbook published in 1899. I promise you it is worth your time to read through it.  It may be the most entertaining cookbook I have ever read.  The title alone makes me laugh.  The full title is:

A Dictionary of Dainty Breakfasts, by Phyllis Brown, With a Tabular Introduction by A Mere Man.

Here is the mere man’s tabular introduction (some of which loses formatting in this blog post)

A breakfast should consist :—

  • A. Of a fundamental dish.
  • B. Of one or more trifling accessories for the benefit of
  1.      (i) those who are so hungry that the fundamental dish does not suffice, and
  2.      (2) those who feel so sick that they cannot touch it.
  • C. Of fresh fruit, stewed or tinned fruit, jam or marmalade.
  • D. Of drinks.
  • E. Of bread, toast or scones.

(DHM’s note- I gather you would select something from each of categories A-E for your basic dainty breakfast)

A. FUNDAMENTAL DISHES. These may be considered under the heads of : —

  1. 1. Ham or bacon, alone, or in combination with other articles.
  2. 2. Eggs cooked in various ways.
  3. 3. Fish and allied products.
  4. 4. Certain internal portions of the animal economy. (DHM: that is what it says)
  5. 5. Meats of different kinds, hot or cold.


1. Ham or bacon. (DHM: here he resorts to some greek and other odd characters as part of his numbering system)

  • (a) A cold ham or gammon of bacon may serve as the fundamental dish or as an accessory dish.
  • {V) Fried or broiled ham, or bacon, alone. This cannot be recommended as a primary dish, except for those who are feeling chippy as the result of the evening previous,
  • (f) Combinations of fried ham or bacon with other substances. These are much to be commended : the more important substances with which bacon may be combined are as follows : —
  • (a) Poached or fried eggs. Sheep’s kidneys, stewed, with a thick, nourishing gravy,
  • (y) Liver : the pieces should be small and very well cooked.
  • (8) Mushrooms.
  • (e) Tomatoes, or even bananas (not much to be commended).
  • (£) Oysters or scallops.

Eggs cooked in various ways,

  • (a) Simply boiled : these are more properly to be regarded as accessory trifles.
  • (b) Poached, on toast.
  • (e) Fried : these are impossible, apart from bacon.
  • (d) Scrambled or buttered. They should never taste of vaseline.
  • {e) Tomatoed eggs : much to be commended.
  • (f) Omelettes. A perfectly plain omelette is not sufficiently nourishing as a piece de resistanee. It is better to add fragments of bacon, chicken, kidney, or tongue.  Or it may appear as : — Savoury omelette. Omelette aux fines herbes.   Cheese or sweet omelette (not very suitable at breakfast)Tomato omelette.
  • g) Eggs may also be cooked in recondite and fancy ways, such as ” peafs a L’Aurore” “sunshiny eggs,” “hashed eggs with gravy,” and last, but not least, ” curried eggs “.

3. Fish and allied products.

  • (a) Real fish. The following kinds are suitable : —
    • Salmon cutlets (when salmon is down to 1s.).
    • Trout (when you can get it).
    • Fried soles (if expense is no object).
    • Lemon soles, filleted.
    • Fried plaice or brill.
    • Cod cutlets.
    • Fresh herrings (in season).
    • Bloaters : these should be gently smoked and not salted. It is best not to split them, or remove the backbone, as by these processes the natural anatomy of the fish is disarranged, and you get your mouth full of bones. It takes ten minutes longer to eat a bloater the backbone of which has been removed; and there is an added risk to life.
    • Kippers : the same remarks apply to these ; there is risk in eating them, and they are usually too dry and too salt.
    • Whiting : these should be quite fresh.
    • Mackerel : split and fried, or better stuffed and baked. Smelts : these should be quite fresh.
    • Sardines and Anchovies: these are accessory trifles.
    • Dried haddock : not too often.
    • Skate : an unpleasant dish, rather to be deprecated.
    • Sprats : excellent, if you don’t mind the smell all over the house.
  • {b) Crustacea.
    • Lobster, if you can afford it in London.
    • Dressed crab.
    • Curried prawns : perhaps the best breakfast known to man.
  • (c) Molluscs.
    • Oysters, even tinned ones, stewed in cream : many will avoid fresh oysters on account of the dangers of typhoid. Good scalloped.
    • Scallops.
  • (d) Products of fish, etc.
    • Cod’s roe : excellent.
    • Herring’s roe, on toast : an admirable accessory.
    • Kedgeree, from the remains of yesterday’s fish (not very good).

4. Certain internal portions of the animal economy.

  • (a) Sweetbreads : too dear in London as a rule. The proper sweetbread is the thymus gland ; the pancreas is frequently foisted upon the unwary, but it is tough ; it may be known by its elongated shape.
  • (b) Kidneys (sheep’s or even pigs) : these may be fried, but are better stewed with gravy. They may be eaten with bacon. Kidneys stewed with mushrooms are a dream.
  • (c) Liver : with bacon, vide supra.
  • {d) Brains : lamb’s brains fried in bread crumbs are not bad, but rather cloying.
  • (e) The heart is scarcely suitable for breakfast.
  • No other viscera are suitable.

5. Meats of different kinds, The very robust are willing to eat chops and steaks at breakfast. Men in training commonly do so. A joint of cold meat may often be seen on the sideboard in country houses ; your hunting man eats this. The ordinary person eschews butchers’ meat at breakfast. The following meats are suitable : —

[a) Cold tongue — tinned or otherwise. Ox or sheep.

(b) Cold pheasant or grouse, when a present of game has arrived,

(c) Grilled or devilled fowl : principally the bird’s legs.

(d) Cold fowl or duck, left over from the night before.

(e) Fricasseed fowl with bacon round the edge.

(f) Any sort of fowl or game (or rabbit) may be served as a curry.

(g) Sausages (pork or beef). (1) Fried or grilled. (2) Sliced and curried. (3) As sausage rolls.

(h) Meat pies, of sorts.

(1) Pork pie — cold. Those imported from Yorkshire and Northampton shire are the best. They should be large : the smaller varieties contain an undue proportion of crust.

(2) Cold pigeon pie — containing also steak and egg.

(3) Cold veal and ham pie — containing egg-

(4) Cold beefsteak and kidney pie — containing egg.

(5) Game pie.

(6) Lamb pie.

(i. ) Hot cutlets : veal or mutton — with or without tomatoes. Fried or chip potatoes may be served with any hot meaty breakfast dish, and, indeed, also with certain varieties of hot fish.


1. Boiled eggs.

2. Cold ham or gammon.

3. Sardines, in the tin or on toast.

4. Anchovies : the best are filleted ones in oil.

5. Potted meats of all kinds, tinned, or home made when the tongue gets too low to be cut any longer. The works of a tongue, such as the lymphatic glands embedded in the fat at its root, pass unnoticed in the potted article.

6. Shrimp, bloater, or anchovy paste.

7. Mushrooms on toast.

8. Herring’s roe on toast.

9. Porridge and its allies, Quaker Oats and other farinaceous foods. These may be eaten at the beginning of breakfast, as a foundation, or at the end, to fill up the cracks.

10. Cold sausages of sorts.


Fresh fruit — especially oranges- — apples, pears and other fruit in season. These are best eaten at the beginning of breakfast, in large quantities. They are better at breakfast than at any other meal of the day.


Stewed rhubarb.

Tinned pears, peaches, apricots, etc.

Jam and marmalade.

Honey or honeycomb.

Cream is good with them all, especially Devonshire cream. The best way of eating Devonshire cream is, however, unquestionably with cheap, black, highly-flavoured treacle.


Tea or coffee. Cocoa.

When fresh fruit is taken at the beginning of breakfast, a glass of hock, is a suitable accompaniment.

A glass of good light beer is excellent after breakfast, as they know very well at Westminster school.


Stacks of hot buttered toast at each corner of the table.

Racks of dry toast.

Tea cakes and scones — hot and buttered.

Cut bread and butter.

White and brown bread.

Vienna and other fancy breads.

Hot rolls (for the reckless).

Hot cross buns on Good Friday.


Recipes for the preparation of these foods will be found in the following pages. For convenience of reference they are arranged in alphabetical order, and an exhaustive index will be found at the end of the work. In this, the attention of housewives is directed to the lists of dishes found under the headings : Made-up Breakfasts (that is breakfasts made from cooked fragments), Night- before Breakfasts (or breakfasts wholly or partially prepared overnight) and Ten-minute Breakfasts for breakfasts which can be quickly prepared).

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