Food+Drink / Breakfast with Malcolm Eggs Part I
Seb Emina is the creator and editor of the London Review of Breakfasts blog, where he writes under the brilliant nom de plume of ‘Malcolm Eggs’. Reviews come in the form of poems, political musings and Freudian dreams, dispatched by Malcolm and a host of other contributors (all with equally ingenious aliases such as Tina Beans and Vita Bicks). Nobody knows breakfast quite as well as or is as passionate about the topic as Seb. He has recently penned his debut book (co-written with himself), The Breakfast Bible, based on his widely read and much loved blog. We caught up with him to find out what makes a good breakfast… To jam or not to jam?
Coming next week: an exclusive extract and recipe from The Breakfast Bible.
Bacon or sausage?
How and why did you begin reviewing London breakfasts?
It started in 2005, with a string of bad breakfasts (undercooked sausage, unloved egg, missing bacon etc) and a realisation that nobody else was holding the people serving them accountable. It turned out to be a fascinating and often quite funny way of exploring London. This was prehistory in blogging terms: I started a Myspace account not long after starting The London Review of Breakfasts.
If you could have breakfast with anybody (dead or alive), whom would you choose?
My great grandfather Frederick Wingett, who worked at Hammersmith Hospital and whose dining table I recently inherited.
How do you like your eggs in the morning?
I always have them either fried (the yolk lightly basted with oil), scrambled (runny with plenty of butter), poached (using a special trick I learned while researching The Breakfast Bible) or boiled (for the exact duration of Roxette’s ‘Listen to Your Heart’).
Favourite spot for breakfast?
It is always changing. Recently I’ve been enjoying J+A Cafe in Clerkenwell, just a cosy cafe with really delicious Irish-influenced breakfasts. Their fried eggs are perfect.
What do you think is the most underrated breakfast ingredient?
Mushrooms are often there as just a token gesture, which is silly as mushrooms and scrambled eggs on toast is one of the best breakfasts in the world.
How would you go about creating your perfect piece of toast?
Maybe I’d make the bread from scratch. Sourdough is nice and is meant to be the mark of a sophisticated slice of toast but sometimes you can’t get better than an old-fashioned white bloomer. What you make will often not, strictly speaking, be as good as what you’d get from a really good baker, but the main thing is that nothing beats the taste of your own triumph over a lump of sticky, yeasty dough. I’d remove the butter from the fridge well in advance and spread that on with some rindy marmalade, and I’d make sure I ate the whole thing while the toast was still hot. It’s not rocket science but there lies the danger: complacency.
Thoughts on jam?
I like jam, and generally go for the traditional sorts – strawberry or raspberry – but I prefer marmalade. It’s a spread for grown-ups.
The best breakfast you’ve ever had?
People always ask me this and I always avoid giving an answer. It’s like asking me the best song I’ve ever heard. Though I did have a wonderful breakfast when I finished the book including hand-made versions of each of the ‘magic nine’ full English ingredients. A lot of work, but worth it.
The worst breakfast you’ve ever had?
I think it might have been a Hawaiian ‘loco moco’ that I was served in a hotel. It’s a strange mish-mash of ingredients that I suppose are geographically (and historically) fitting, given that it’s halfway between North America and Japan and was once ruled by the British: rice, a burger patty, fried eggs and onion gravy. The name means ‘crazy snot’.
Ketchup, mustard or brown sauce?
No sauce for me please.
What’s your take on breakfast refreshment? Juice/tea/coffee? What sorts?
My beverage order tends to be based on the establishment in which I find myself. As a wise cafe once tweeted, ‘never order coffee in a place that serves jacket potatoes’. You should also never order tea in the Eurozone, and I don’t love the way tea is often served in posh places: either in a glass (evil) or in a pot with dainty cups. I know I’m not alone in preferring my tea, at least at breakfast time, in a mug. If I have a second drink, it will be orange juice. Occasionally, on a weekend, booze enters the picture. We have a brilliant alcohol chapter, written by cocktail expert Richard Godwin.
Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper, or so goes the saying. Why is it important to breakfast well?
I’m not a nutritionist but it seems like common sense that it’s better to eat a large meal before you start a whole day’s worth of doing stuff than it is when you are about go to bed. I do know that whatever the science, breakfast is important for inner well-being. You never regret sitting down for half an hour before the proper day begins to enjoy the simple sanctuary that is breakfast.
Is there any breakfast item you can’t tolerate?
Raisins, which are pointless and revolting.
What’s next on the agenda for the London Review of Breakfasts?
Apart from preaching the gospel of The Breakfast Bible, we are working on a radio station. More on that soon.
@sebemina / @malcolmeggs