WORDS BY BETHANY RUTTER
ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVIA PILLING
WORDS BY BETHANY RUTTER
ILLUSTRATION BY OLIVIA PILLING
We all have habits and quirks when it comes to eating. Nibbling the chocolate off a Kit Kat, stuffing crisps into a supermarket sandwich, mixing baked beans and mashed potato into a saucy mush whenever the two appear side by side... secret joys from simple foods. Bethany Rutter explains the way she extracts maximum pleasure from her favourite cooked breakfast.
My iPhone notes are full of random junk. One beautiful sentence that will probably never turn into a finished piece. To-do lists for work. Stuff I need to pack for a trip. A book someone mentioned I would like. But there’s one note I couldn’t do without. The note says:
Without that note, I would make a lot of bad decisions.
Now, I’m someone who gets overwhelmed by options. I like a short menu. And I’m also someone who is very susceptible to the power of suggestion. Which is a real negative when you’re presented with a menu as extensive as the ones you find in cafes like the cafes where I want to eat breakfast. But most of all: I really know what I like, and I really hate wasting an opportunity to eat exactly what I like.
I’m not anti-bean per se, I believe they have their place, like specifically located on toast, and at no other times
Too long did I waste my life trying to decide between constructions named ‘set breakfast 5’ or ‘big breakfast’ or ‘all day breakfast’. I was trying to find a happy medium: something that contained everything I like with minimal inclusion of things I don’t. I was trying to play by the rules, engage with a pre-established breakfast order of items that are combined to create an ideal breakfast.
Once my breakfast arrives... I take a photo of it to post on social media, because there is nothing more beautiful than a photo of cafe food. And almost every time I post a photo of these six items, I get the same comment from someone. Not the same someone every time, but someone. "Isn’t that a bit dry?" or "What? No beans?" or "Where’s the sauce?"
No, I say. No. The whole problem with the pre-constructed breakfasts like breakfast number 5 or big breakfast or all day breakfast is that they would inevitably come with beans. And then the sauce that the beans comes in would spread around the plate and touch all the other beautiful items on my plate, the items that I really wanted and it would ruin them.
Now, I’m not anti-bean per se, I believe they have their place, like specifically located on toast, and at no other times. The thing that makes me really not want the beans on my plate is that they interrupt the key feature of the breakfast: the dryness.
This is what I like to call a no-moisture breakfast. I want the plate to be completely dry when I finish eating it.
What happens when I start eating it? Well, that’s when it really kicks off. This is my favourite breakfast in the whole world, and if I’m eating it with someone other than my boyfriend or my best friend, I know I’m going to have to explain myself.
"Look," I say to my breakfast companion, "I know this is going to make me look and sound like a child. But it’s just what I need to do to extract maximum pleasure from this experience." And then I explain to them that I eat every item individually, one after the other. They look aghast, and try to convert me. They try to sell me on the merits of mixing my food. They try to tell me how nice it is to have hash brown AND sausage AND egg on the same fork. I smile and shake my head. It’s too late for me. I’m in too deep.
I never met a sausage I didn’t like. A fancy sausage. A cheap sausage. I love them all
And then I begin. And let me tell you how I do it.
First, I eat all the mushrooms. I often regret this if the mushrooms have been cooked especially well, because the logic of this system is that I’m eating the items in reverse order of preference, so the stuff I like the least goes first.
Then I eat the egg. This is where the ‘no moisture’ really peaks. If I’ve been served some free toast, or a breakfast companion has a slice they’re willing to surrender to me, I’ll put the egg on the toast and the toast can soak up the yolk, but if there’s no bread, I carefully cut around the yolk, eating all the white, then I eat the little yellow circle LAST so I can put it all in my mouth in one go and create no yolk-spillage on the plate.
Then, and here is where I make a concession to mixing things up, I alternate one hash brown with one slice of black pudding. I find it’s hard to do these things really well in most cafes, so I end up heavily salting both. They should be the centrepiece of the breakfast, in my opinion, because when they’re good, they’re not just good, they’re phenomenal. But black pudding can be flavourless and hash browns can be kind of insipid, so I like to spread that risk by alternating them, rather than throwing all my hope into the fact that one of them will be REALLY good.
After that rigmarole, I like to eat the main body of the bacon. You know what I mean? Like the main substantial bit of a rasher of bacon. I cut the fat off and eat the kind of oval-shaped main bit. I like pretty much any bacon that I could reasonably be served in a cafe, so this rarely lets me down.
And then it’s time for sausage. I am going to go out on a limb and say: I never met a sausage I didn’t like. A fancy sausage. A cheap sausage. Anything in between. I love them all. I think sausages are one of life’s greatest joys. So I save it for last. I like to lightly sprinkle some salt on my plate and cut a piece of sausage and press the exposed inside bit into the dusting of salt. It is pure joy.
Finally, I like to round the meal off with... well, let’s call it a reverse-amuse bouche. An anti-palate cleanser. I eat the delicious, greasy, lightly crispy bacon fat for a final salty hit. Come on, you didn’t think I was cutting the fat off because I didn’t want it, did you?
And with that, I have curated and consumed my perfect breakfast for no moisture and maximum pleasure.