A Full Breakfast

Juicy sausages, bursting from their burnished-brown skins; savory back bacon, gently sizzled and satisfyingly salty; earthy fried mushrooms; sweet baked beans; acidic and sweetly-caramelized fried tomatoes; a fried egg for good measure, unctuous and rich; and crisp, good bread, fried in the aromatic pan juices. A Full English Breakfast, otherwise known throughout the British Isles as a Fry Up, a Chub, or a Full Monty, is nothing to be trifled with. True you may feel the walls of your arteries flinch in apprehension before you even take fork in hand, but a Full Breakfast is a mastery of balance, utterly satisfying regardless of the time of day, pairs equally well with a cup of tea or a Guinness, whichever seems most called for, and makes what is possibly the world’s finest hangover cure.


When I was growing up in Scotland, we spent summers back in New England. Upon our arrival each June, rumpled and weary from travel, the first thing we’d do was head to our local pizza place (there was no pizza to speak of in Scotland at that time) and feast. There would be Greek salad too, and Welch’s grape soda. The next morning we’d venture forth again for vast blueberry pancakes the size of dinner plates, doused in maple syrup and crowned with some extra crispy American bacon. And freshly squeezed orange juice (orange juice in the UK at the time was torturous, metallic stuff). These were the treats of my childhood summers, reserved for special occasions and best behavior. But by the end of August it was another story.


Though it’s essentially a dessert constructed of layers of various creams and confections, the subtleties of trifle have changed dramatically over the years and differ wildly from chef to chef, and house to house, even now. While many of the variations out there today are delectable, the truth is that trifle has suffered much over time.  It started life quite humbly in the 18th century as sponge dipped into custard, covered with jam, and topped with various sweetmeats. But trifle enjoyed its real heyday in the mid 19th century, by which point it had evolved into a dessert constructed out of layers of sponge or macaroons, soaked in sherry or white wine, covered with custard and then citrus-flecked syllabub, and topped with whipped cream. So far, so good.

A Proper High Tea

High tea, so named because it is eaten at a dining table rather than in a living room at a tea or coffee table, is a term much bandied about in the States. Visions of sterling, doily draped serving trays and raised pinkies poised over porcelain tea cups come to mind at the first mention of the phrase. But be wary, high tea is no light, lady-like pause for refreshment. The meal, for that is what it is, is a far cry from the lighter afternoon or low tea we tend to replicate on this side of the pond. High tea takes fortitude and self-possession. It is a commitment, a mission you accept, and you should come apprised of what you are entering into. Sound daunting? Press on. High tea is, at its best, one of the world’s great feasts.

Toad in the Hole

Bubble and squeak. Spotted dick. Girdle sponges. It occurs to me that British food may have acquired its undeserved, unfortunate reputation thanks to some of its more regrettable recipe titles. Personally though I happen to like the colorful names.

Diana’s Ring (American Style) & What’s a Fascinator?

As we’ve spent the week featuring British items that are not exactly for everyone’s pocketbook, we thought we’d take one day to feature a couple of cheaper, more attainable things. First, the ring. Knockoffs of it are abundant online. I think the best was QVCs. Americans supersize everything so naturally QVC’s replica of Diana’s ring is utterly ginormous compared to the real thing. But, since it’s beyond gauche to actually have a replica of Diana’s ring — now Catherine’s — it seemed in much more good taste to have an over the top replica.

A Superior Bra — Rigby & Peller

Technically, I have no idea if Rigby & Peller’s product is actually superior. But, they have had HM the Queen’s Royal Warrant since 1960 and a wealthy woman like HM the Queen — with a net worth around $600-700mm excluding the Crown Jewels — likely purchases the finest quality undergarments. While not technically a billionaire, she’ll never hurt for cash like her former daughter-in-law, Sarah Ferguson, so often does. Therefore, by my grand powers of deduction, I conclude that Rigby & Peller bras must be superior. Also, Amanda Darrach Filippone — having grown up in the UK — told me that having custom from them is a milestone for the bustier members of the boarding school set.

The Queen’s Stationery — not to mention Prince Charles’, The Duke of Edinburgh’s etc.

I imagined Catherine Middleton secretly having purchased this Wedding Planner from Smythsons back in October — but according to Vanity Fair, hers is purple. It looks and feels so regal. And it is since the Queen uses them. Of course, Her Majesty the Queen could also use other shops to provide her stationery and diary needs but if so, I’d have to ask, why? Why mess with the perfection that is Smythson’s?

The Quintessential Hairbrush

I’ve wanted a Mason Pearson for years yet being a sometimes cost conscious Classic, I still haven’t justified the purchase. I guess I’ve put it off because I know the brush isn’t going anywhere — having been around since 1885 in essentially the exact same form. It’s a comforting institution that remains the same even as the scenery changes. Not unlike the British Monarchy. But, no. Both have changed a bit over the years — the Queen has a Facebook page and Mason Pearson even has new versions for kids.

The Rolls Royce of Umbrellas

Or is it a Bentley? Swaine Adeney Brigg’s umbrellas are THE classic umbrella. I don’t know if you can be a true gentleman unless you own one. (See photo of Princes William & Harry at left.) These babies are handcrafted with a single piece of fine wood for the handle — you have your pick between Ash, Chestnut, Hickory, Maple, Oak, Cherry or Whangee — oh and the canopy comes in either nylon or silk — yes, SILK. I didn’t even know umbrellas were made of anything but vinyl. They’re not for ever personality type for a very specific reason. But, I know just who’d adore the mysterious sounding Whangee.