Muffins -- 10/26/06

One day last week John Bailey (The Old Grey Poet) alluded to a traditional English breakfast -- even included a photograph of such, complete with eggs (omelet), hash browns, English bacon, sausage, baked beans, and tomato.
So I just had to write in John's Comments area... Yes, that does look like a proper English breakfast. I can recall being quite puzzled the first time I saw a sign outside a English cafeteria restaurant advertising their breakfast special that included beans, tomato, mushrooms, sausage, potato, eggs, and a newspaper. My first thought was that it was a joke. Then I went inside and saw people eating it and realized that it was indeed what was considered a proper breakfast.

Then another memory of breakfasts in England popped into my head... English muffins.and so I just had to add.... Oh... about "English muffins" -- I was in the employee cafeteria at IBM Basingstoke and asked the lady behind the counter for a toasted "English muffin" -- she gave me a puzzled look and I repeated my request and she still didn't understand so I pointed at them and she told me that they were just called "muffins."

Later in the day I recounted this incident to a group of locals with whom I was working. Those who had never been to the U.S. looked puzzled and those who had been were laughing as soon as I said "English muffin."

I then asked what they would call what we over here call a "muffin" and was told it depended on whether they had been over to this side of the Atlantic or not.

Gillian bakes a lot. The other day she baked a large batch of blueberry muffins, taking half away with her to feed her friends as they gathered around an autumn evening bonfire and leaving the rest to feed us. (Thank you, Jill)

Well, combine a platter covered with blueberry muffins (in two different sizes because she was using two different sized muffin pans) with that recent thought about muffins and English muffins, and I could see a journal entry forming...

There you are: two different sizes of blueberry muffin...

And then one of the supermarkets in town had a sale on Thomas' English Muffins this week -- two packages for the price of one.

An "American" muffin, split in half.
A toasted English muffin, with butter melting into all of those delightful little "nooks and crannies" and some strawberry jam spread on one half... yes, I could not resist taking a large bite out of that half.

The closest thing to an "English muffin" in England (until the product was brought across the Atlantic) is the crumpet. A bit of Internet research indicates that Samuel Bath Thomas migrated from England to the U.S.and by 1880 had his own bakery in New York City. In attempting to replicate his mother's recipe for crumpets (perhaps not remembered quite accurately) he ended up with what he marketed as an "English muffin."

The other kind of muffin -- like Jill's blueberry muffins -- came about in the 19th century with the invention of baking powder. Because they usually have some kind of fruit or nut mixed in with them, people think of them as being healthy. Now that they have found a new home in coffee shops... which tend to serve huge muffins with two or three (or more) items (like cranberry raisin chocolate almond) they can pack considerable caloric impact.

Hey, did you ever wonder what they call French toast in France?

Say, I'm getting hungry...

[They call it pain perdu -- "lost bread"]

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