Red Sauce Brown SauceA British Breakfast Odyssey

The charming and joyful follow-up book from ‘the nation’s taster in chief,’ Felicity Cloake.

If there’s one thing that truly unites Britain, from Aberdeen to Aberystwyth, St Ives to St Pancras, it’s an obsession with breakfast.

We all have an opinion on the merits of brown sauce versus ketchup on our morning bacon sarnie. In this eagerly awaited follow-up to One More Croissant for the Road, the nation’s favourite taster-in-chief Felicity Cloake sets off on a cycle trip of condimental proportions to investigate and celebrate the legendary Great British Breakfast. Travelling the length and breadth of the UK to establish once and for all what makes a perfect fry-up, she rates them on criteria from the crispness of the bacon to how long they keep her pedalling. But a woman cannot live by All Day Breakfast alone, so as well as recipes for the Savoy’s Omelette Arnold Bennett and proper Scottish porridge, she lavishes her attention on the regional specialities she encounters along the way, from a desi breakfast in Birmingham to a Greggs Geordie stottie cake. This is a freewheeling gastronomical tour like no other.

Eaten with as much relish in The Wolseley on Piccadilly as in Glasgow’s University Cafe, Britain loves nothing more than a good breakfast. The only question is: what do you have with yours?

Felicity Cloake

Long story sort: One day Felicity Cloake got on her trusted bike Eddie and went out to get some breakfast. She found it by traveling all over the U.K. Then she wrote an award winning  book about it.

As with most things in life the truth is much more interesting. Red Sauce Brown Sauce  is part travelog, part history lesson,  partly a  love letter to British craftsmanship and well as to the odd eccentric. There are also some good first aid tips thrown in as well. It is an appreciation of the unifying nature of The Great British Breakfast. In a laughter filled conversation Felicity Cloake was kind enough to take the time as talk to us about her wonderful book.

BAF: Well, first I got to say congratulations on the Fortnam & Mason Award.

Felicity Cloake: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, I’ve got a slightly strange trophy here on my desk. I’m not quite sure what it’s intended for. But it’s nice to have. I’m not complaining.

BAF:Well, it looks like there should be a bottle of whiskey or something inside, or champagne.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. I did think about wine, but it’s not really got a cooling function and I think I’d look like a bit of an idiot if I got this out at a dinner party. But, yeah, maybe a vase. The only thing is, I have to warn you, sorry, my timing is terrible. I didn’t think this through. In about seven and a half minutes, I just have to go and turn the oven off. But hopefully, you can cut that out of-

BAF: No, we’ll just leave it on, just a pause.

Felicity Cloake: … A bit of authenticity. I didn’t think when I put those beans in, actually, this wasn’t good timing.

BAF: Oh, beans, huh? I know you have a thing about beans.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. Actually, the Gigantes Greek baked beans, but it’s still baked beans, so hey.

BAF: Yeah, there you go. The UK has a reputation about British breakfast. And it’s considered to be fairly standard, give or take a few takes on ingredients. What made you decide to blow up that myth?

Felicity Cloake: Wow. I wanted to get people talking. And I knew that this would start a few arguments, which is always good to get people talking about your book. But, more seriously, I know that British cuisine doesn’t have the best reputation globally or domestically. But, I think there are a few things that we do pretty well. But, the breakfast seemed to me the thing that united us as four quite disparate nations. It was the one thing that we all had in common, even if we like to argue about what a proper breakfast is. And, you don’t have to be a foodie to be into breakfast. It’s not seen as at all pretentious, or very gendered. It truly is the one thing that unites us culinarily. And so, that’s what drew me to look at the country through the lens of breakfast, as opposed to say, fish and chips, or roast dinners, or baking, all of things which we do well, but the breakfast seemed to me as something a bit special.

BAF: Yeah. Well, actually, I was trying to be diplomatic and mention the reputation point, I was going to say, the breakfast and roast beef are things that they have a good reputation for.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah, I mean, I think that no one can say worse things about British food than British people themselves. So, I wouldn’t be at all offended by being highlighted.

BAF: Which, all things considered, it’s a little ironic, because the UK has access to a lot of wonderful food items that they grow themselves domestically. There’s great produce and things available.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. I think, the great produce available here, and particularly, the meat and the dairy, because obviously, we get a lot of rain, but we’re quite temperate and really good fruit and veg of the non-Mediterranean type, that could be treated quite simply. So we never developed a particularly complex rich cuisine, like say, the French. Britain and Ireland have quite simple food. And therefore, these days, it’s slightly looked down on as being very bland. Whereas, I like to say, it’s quite delicate. And of course, we slather it in lots of condiments of which more later. But, I do think it’s unfair. But equally, we do eat some very strange things as well.

BAF: Well, you give them strange names as well, in some cases. But, I should point out, I’m a fan of British food. I like British cuisine. I like the simplicity. There is something comforting about it in a lot of ways.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah, I think, I agree, I would say, that one of the things we’re strongest at is, we’re rarely going to surprise you, but comfort foods, we are very good at, I would say. Because we have such terrible weather, you need a bit of comfort.

BAF: Right. That’s why tea is so popular. You come in and stay warm.

Felicity Cloake: Yes, exactly. Tea and cake.

BAF: Well, so how did this project come about? How did you sit down and say, “I’m going to leave my house for X amount of time and ride all over the country on my bicycle eating breakfast”?

Felicity Cloake: So, it was actually followed on. I’d done a similar trip around France in 2018. And I wrote a book about that. And that seemed perhaps a much more obvious choice, because France is known for its cuisine. And, it was based on the Tour de France bike race with 21 stages. And I picked 21 French classic dishes, and I went to the place where they’re made, and I talked to people, and I ate them. And along the way, I ate a lot of croissants and it was great fun.

But I really wanted to do something closer to home. And as I said, I considered various options, fish and chips, baking, et cetera. And, the breakfast thing seem to me the most interesting. And also, it’s fascinating, because very few other countries are known for their breakfast. It tends to be a little bit of an all so ran meal, because people tend to take it at home. It’s not celebrated in the same way. So, that seemed to me an interesting thing about it, that, “Where did this come from? Why is it such a big part of our psyche? Why do we talk about it endlessly and argue about it?”

BAF: Well, that is a good point. Nobody ever really considers breakfast unique to a country as well known.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah.

BAF: So, you started off, and I guess, the goal was to hit all the various corners and the part of the Four Nations. I should ask, how did you do your research? Because, you found some very interesting nooks, and crannies, and things.

Felicity Cloake: Let me tell you, I had a lot of time to do my research, because I signed the contract on this book in March, 2020, which wasn’t the best… It was during 2020 or 2019? 2020, the pandemic. I’ve even forgotten, I’ve glossed over it so much in my mind. So, I was meant to do the trip in 2020, and for obvious reasons, that didn’t happen. So, I was stuck for a year just looking at this enormous map that I’d bought of the UK, just trying to find places that would be, as you say, not only interesting from a breakfast point of view, but where I had a good coverage of the country, because British media is often blamed for being very, very London-centric. But breakfast culture obviously stretches to all corners of these islands. And, things like the World Porridge Championships, I’ve worked in food journalism for 15 or so years, so I knew that those things were happening. And, sorry, that’s my-

BAF: That’s the beans? Okay.

Felicity Cloake: … Yeah, let me just go and take some baked beans out the oven. It’s very on brand. I put them in the oven and forgot I was doing this interview. Okay.

BAF: Beans are good.

Felicity Cloake: Beans are good, I hope. Yeah, it’s very warm here, so it’s a great day to be baking beans.

BAF: Oh, of course. Why not?

Felicity Cloake: It’s a hot day of summer.

BAF: There you go. Enjoy it while you can.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah.

BAF: Well, first of all, I got to ask, how’s your hamstringing doing?

Felicity Cloake: Remarkably well, given that I managed to rip it twice in the space of a week. I wouldn’t say it was back to completely normal. I still can’t really stretch that leg out as far as the other one. But, I think it’s probably as good as it’s going to get and it will be a permanent reminder to be more careful, basically. And not to fall in any streams.

BAF: Yeah, I guess unfortunately, it wasn’t the most exciting of accidents. It’s always the simple ones that get you.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. So yeah, I wasn’t even on the bike. When I tell people that I managed to end up in two knees in the process of riding around the UK, having never ever had a serious accident on my bike before, they assumed that I fell off. Actually, both times happened off the bike. One time when I was wheeling the bike over a very narrow wooden bridge, and managed to mistake a tuft of grass for solid ground, and ended up doing the splits in a stream, which, it’s not a position that I’m used to, I have to say. And then I made it worse, even more humiliatingly, wearing flip-flops and slipping on some mud a few days later. And yes, it was quite a bad tear. And I couldn’t cycle for about a week. But luckily, it turned out that you can cycle with a hamstringing tear a lot sooner than you can walk. So, for a long time, actually, the bike, it was almost like my wheelchair. As soon as I got off the bike, I could barely hobble across the street. But, on the bike I was all right.

BAF: Maybe if I could just backtrack a bit, and ask our breakfast, why is it such a strong meal in the UK? Why is there such pride in the breakfast?

Felicity Cloake: I think it’s probably something to do with our climate, in the sense that people did need a hearty way to start the day. And so, there is a tradition, for example, in France, because I looked into it, that cooked breakfast were more of a thing until relatively recently. But it tended to be more of a peasant thing. If you’re working in the fields, whereas obviously, city dwellers would’ve had their bread and their pastries. In the UK, I think that, because it’s colder and damper, we did tend to go in for more hot breakfasts.

And also, we’ve just been historically quite a meat heavy culture. We do eat a lot of meat. It’s been much cheaper than it has been in other neighboring regions. And so, I don’t know. It’s interesting, in the course of my research, that although the Fry Up as a meal appeared relatively recently, all the different components are quite ancient. So you will find Elizabethan cookbooks referencing bacon and eggs as a good breakfast. And actually, Queen Elizabeth the First herself, who is 16th, 17th century, she ate breakfast like a complete trencherman, and was eating roast beef, and all sorts. So, I think, we’ve got very hearty appetites in the morning for some reason.

BAF: Well, you talk about hearty breakfast, the breakfast buffet that you mentioned at Castle Howard is just ridiculous.

Felicity Cloake: Yes. Yes. Yeah, I mean, I would say that when you ask certainly most British people for their dream of a cooked breakfast, they think of Downtown Abbey/Castle Howard style, Ed Edwardian country house breakfast with those silver chafing dishes that the butler lifts off to reveal deviled kidneys, and jugged kippers, and all sorts. But actually, I mean, I don’t think I’ve got any ancestors that would’ve eaten those, sadly. And I think very few people do. But most people, at that time, it would’ve been bacon and eggs. And then, if you’re a bit middle class, then you probably would’ve had some sausages, or some fish, or something in there. But, that breakfast was not what most people are eating at any time in history.

BAF: No, that would sustain you for a couple of days, just the list that was written out for breakfast itself.

Felicity Cloake: Yes, just astonishing. Yes. And I don’t think they did that much exercise either, so I’m surprised more of them weren’t huge.

BAF: Well, they didn’t live that long.

Felicity Cloake: That’s true.

BAF: But this seems like an interesting combination. It seems like a very fun thing to do, but also, very stressful as well, trying to get to the right place, and avoiding injuries, and whatnot. It just seems like an interesting balance of a trip you took.

Felicity Cloake: Yes. And it’s funny, because people would come and join me. So I did the trip primarily on my own, on my bike. But then, people would come and join me at various places. And they would all say, “Oh, this is such great fun. I can’t believe that you get to do this and call this work.” But actually, the logistics were quite stressful. And I’d found that in France previously… France had its own set of challenges because everyone was on strike when I was there and the weather was terrible. But in the UK, COVID was still lingering. So I did the trip in ’20, the spring and early summer of 2021, and various variants kept popping up. And for example, I really wanted to go to a place called Berry in Lancashire. It’s famous for its black puddings, it’s blood sausage. But, I certainly found that that area was closed off to non-essential travel.

And, although I wanted to think that my book was essential travel, I had to concede that probably it wasn’t that important. So, it was a slightly shifting landscape at that point of view. At one point I got to the Isle of Man, which was closed actually when I did the most of my trip, it still wasn’t accepting any visitors that weren’t resident. So as soon as it opened up, I went, because it’s famous for its kippers, its smoked herring. And, when I got there, the guy that I had arranged to meet, clearly wasn’t expecting me, and it turned out that he’d sent me a text message canceling, because he was so worried about COVID. I feel guilty about this, but genuinely, I never got that text message. So I went anyway, thank goodness. Because then, he did talk to me for about three hours about herrings. And it was brilliant. But, it made everything a little bit uncertain. So, that added a layer of complication.

BAF: I have to say that the Isle of Man part, and the hearing was… Not a big Kipper fan, but I found it extremely interesting about the traditions and the history of it all. And I never thought I would be interested in kippers. No offense intended.

Felicity Cloake: I think there are a lot of people feel like that actually, sadly, because one of the things I found very interesting in the course of writing the book was how fish-centric the British breakfast used to be, until probably the 1950s. And, the only fish generally you’ll find on the breakfast table these days is smoked salmon. It’s just taken over from every other fish. And that just seems to me a bit sad, because obviously, fish is not only really great for us, but we should be eating other fish that may be more abundant, and more interesting, and offer a more diverse breakfast diet.

BAF: Yeah. Well, I guess, could we make the argument that smoked salmon isn’t particularly British to begin with? I don’t know.

Felicity Cloake: That’d be a very contentious argument. I think, the Scottish might have something to say about that.

BAF: Well, actually, I was just going to retract and say maybe in Scotland. But I think, overall, it’s not a… Well, nevermind. Digging myself in a hole here.

Felicity Cloake: I think there are so many different traditions of smoking salmon within the Nordic and British isles. Ireland does really fantastic smoke salmon as well.

BAF: Because I was say more Nordic. That’s what I was thinking.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. I mean, well, in my experience, I think, they’re more of the sorting than the smoking.

BAF: Right.

Felicity Cloake: Things like gravlax. But, I mean, the more the merrier. I love smoked salmon. I just would like other things on the menu as well, including kippers.

BAF: Okay . Well, we’ll just edit that part out. Well, what was interesting is that, we’re talking about the “traditional English breakfast” was the type of thing, again, in what we here call a cafe, but you call it cafe. Which, I’m a huge fan of, I have to say. But it was nice to see getting back on how things are completely different, other parts of the country, how you essentially took everything out of the cafe, and you even brought in some of the newer communities into it, and how they’ve incorporated their tastes and their influences, or have been adopted in different parts of the country.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah, I felt that should be a very important part of the book, because I feel really strongly that if the Fry Up, as I’m going to call it for reasons that’ve become apparent, is going to survive as a dish, then it needs to incorporate new traditions, and it shouldn’t be a museum piece, it shouldn’t be this piece of Edwardian Victorian tradition. And, people do eat differently now. And, up until 1960s, probably lots of people did have Fry Ups at home every day, particularly if the woman wasn’t working, then she’d be cooking those things. These days, very few people do that. They might go out to a cafe in a week, but it’s more of a weekend thing. And so, it will disappear if we don’t, A, incorporate new traditions and things like… I had a vegan Fry Up in Glastonbury, spiritual home of the hippie in the UK. And, my local cafe here in London does a halal Fry Up with Turkey sausages and Turkey bacon. I had some great Polish breakfasts. I had brilliant Indian and Pakistani breakfast.

And, it’s such a rich tradition of having a proper meal at the start of the day. And I wanted the book to reflect that. And also, to make people think, you don’t need to be cooking these things in the morning before you go to work because that’s just not realistic for a lot of people, it’s not what they want to do. But you can incorporate them into, say, your dinner, or your lunch, or whatever. And so, to keep that tradition alive without needing people to be tied to the home frying bacon at 7:00 AM. Because frankly, that’s not going to happen.

BAF: No. Nobody wants to leave the house smelling of bacon.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. Unless you want to attract neighborhood dogs, I suppose.

BAF: When I was in London about a month ago, I always try and go off to a cafe. So, do you know the Regency Cafe or Regency Cafe?

Felicity Cloake: Yeah, it actually is the place that I finished the book at the Regency Cafe in Pimlico .

BAF: Oh yeah, that was it.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah.,Yeah. Yeah, it’s a great choice.

BAF:Yeah. No, so I’ve been there a couple of times and both times there’s that same woman yelling across the room, “Get your thing.” And, there’s a line out the door. And, there had been one before, and there’s some guy clearly blogging suddenly, hit the camera with microphone on, and taxi driver goes, “Ah, never seen this before. But look, we got a better place around the corner.” I don’t know if it was the astral cafe right around the corner.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

BAF: I have a place where we’re sitting next to the sink, to the washer, because I guess, it wasn’t room in the toilet for the sink. So it’s out in the dining room.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

BAF: I thought, “This is good. I like this.”

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. And I think, the Regency Cafe is great. And it’s less busy during the week. I don’t know if you went during the week or at weekends. But I like the fact that you will get these people that are filming everything, or people that have read about it in guides. But also, last time I went, there’s a guy just sitting there oblivious to the enormous cue just reading the racing post on his own with his big cup of stew tea. And you get your cabbies and whatever. And, I love the fact that it’s… As you say, you get shouted at by the woman. The tea comes from an enormous urn, and that’s probably been made about three hours ago. But the food is really great. And, one of the things that is very London that you don’t find on Fry Ups elsewhere in general is Bubble and Squeak.

And that is the mark of a really good greasy spoon, in my opinion. They make their own Bubble and Squeak, which is, mashed potato and leftover. It’s a dish of leftovers, mashed potato and cabbage or greens. I had one the other day a local cafe that had leaks in it. And it was just delicious. And I love that, because it soaks up all of the grease of the breakfast. So, hash browns, obviously, have been creeping ever since McDonald’s introduced them. And, I’m not going to say anything against the hash brown. But for me, Bubble and Squeak is better.

BAF: No, I’m a chip guy myself.

Felicity Cloake: Oh, chips. Well, that’s okay as long as you’re not having it for breakfast. Chips after 11 are fine, it’s like an Italian cappuccino.

BAF: But you know what it is? It’s because I got introduced to the British breakfast with chips, so it’s the first child.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah, that would be referred to here as a builder’s breakfast.

BAF: Yeah.

Felicity Cloake: I think, if you’re wearing high-vis clothing, then you can have chips with your breakfast.

BAF: Well, that was it. We went to the Astral. I was so intrigued by the customers, because there was a bunch of high-vis guys and taxi drivers. I took a picture of the dining room. I didn’t take a picture of my food, because where’s the high-vis stuff?

Felicity Cloake: Yeah.

BAF: And, what was nice about that place was nobody was filming anything. This is just the locals. Nobody was blogging anything. And it struck me, because I know that… I have this book by Russell M. Davies. (Egg, Bacon, Chips & Beans: 50 Great Cafes and the Stuff That Makes Them Great)

Felicity Cloake: Yeah.

BAF: I don’t know if you know it.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah.

BAF: So, I got it a few years ago. So I visited a bunch of the cafes in there. And, a lot of them, unfortunately, have closed down. So, it almost seems that the British breakfast as we associated it with the cafe is almost a dying breed, because the cafe are going out of-

Felicity Cloake: Well, it’s interesting. Yeah, I do know that book. And, I’m sad to say that a lot of the really classic cafes have gone out of business. And, I think it’s not because of the dying popularity of breakfast, so much has to do with rents in certainly… I think it’s largely London-centric, that book. Rents in those parts of London have just gone sky-high, and chains have moved in, and these independent cafes cannot compete with the likes of Starbucks. And it is quite sad, because those places were the extension of people’s front room. You would go in and you would be mothered, and told off, and et cetera, and they really feel like a home from home, in that way, in a way that you can’t get from a chain, unfortunately.

But, there’s a brilliant Instagram account called cafs, not Cafes, and it’s dedicated to documenting these places. And a lot of them aren’t as perfectly preserved, 1950s style Fornica et cetera, as say, the Regency Cafe. But, they’re from all walks of British life. They’re not necessarily British food. There’s all sorts, Chinese cafes, et cetera. But they all have that thing in common. It feels like a home from home, and it’s very informal. And the food is good, and quick, and cheap.

BAF: … Yeah. Like the New York City Diner, which unfortunately are closing as well.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah, I suppose, it’s the same thing that they tend to be independent businesses, and it’s very hard to compete in the current environment, which is sad. Because once they’re gone, I can’t see them coming back.

BAF: Exactly. Because they were an anchor for the neighborhood. Well, you touched on the big chains. And so, how did you find all these little independent places spread out all through the country? How did you find these really wonderful people and experiences?

Felicity Cloake: A lot of it was purely circumstantial, as in, I would cycle somewhere. And the thing about being on a bike, it’s great in many ways, in that, you can cover a fair amount of ground quite quickly, but you’re very nimble. So if you see something, you can just turn around and go. You don’t have to find somewhere to make a U-turn, find parking, et cetera. But it means that you can’t take a big diversion. You are unlikely to want to travel 20 miles out of your way just to visit somewhere. And so, a lot of them were just places that I found that were on my route. And, sometimes I’d ask social media for advice. But most often, I’d go and see what I could find.

Some of the things I did set up in advance, for example, the World Porridge Championship chaps up in the Highlands. I wasn’t going to cycle the Highlands without knowing that I had an interview set up with them. And they were really, really kind. But people in general, I think, and I found this in France, but I was expecting to find it less so in Britain, and was pleasantly surprised, people love that you’re interested in their food, and they share your excitement about there being something really special, and they want to help you. They want to give you tips. They want to talk about their product or their local specialty. And so, I found it quite easy, to be honest. People just wanted to celebrate, particularly probably coming out of the pandemic when life had been very tough for a lot of these small producers and small businesses. People were really willing to talk, except for the guys from Heinz, who were not. That’s the only stumbling block I found.

BAF: Oh, yeah. Big conglomerate there.

Felicity Cloake: Yes. Well, yeah, I get that they have their health and safety procedures. But, the fact that I never saw the world’s biggest baked bean factory is still a regret of mine.

BAF: Oh, well. It adds to the bucket list, maybe could squeeze it in somewhere.

Felicity Cloake: Yes. No, that’s true. That’s true. I should get-

BAF: Out of all the experiences, is there one that you get asked more about than the others?

Felicity Cloake: … It is, I’m afraid, baked bean related. Sorry. As I say in the book, I’m not a fan of baked beans on my Fry Up, which is quite unusual. Certainly in England, they do seem to have become an integral part of the dish. Personally, I love baked beans on toast, which I know causes mirth in American audience.

BAF: It’s not a thing in the States.

Felicity Cloake: I have seen TikTok videos of people trying it and being bemused, which is obviously funny for us, because it is literally comfort food extraordinaire.

BAF: Well, Prue Leith wrote a whole book about just stuff on toast. (Bliss on Toast) 

Felicity Cloake: Yeah. There’s nothing I truly believe you cannot have on toast. But, I do like baked beans, as I said, even just not on my Fry Up. Because I don’t want them touching my fried egg, and my bacon, and whatnot. And I wanted to cover them. And because I couldn’t go to this world’s biggest baked bean factory, Heinz, in Wigan, which is in the northwest because of COVID. I ended up going to the Baked Bean Museum of Excellence, which is in Port Talbot in South Wales, quite near Swansea. And, this was the most wonderfully eccentric place. Anyone that’s read the book always asks me if it really was that mad. And the answer is yes. It’s a guy who has a museum, but he runs it from his council house… Council flat, sorry. His social housing flat, on a housing estate in this ex-industrial, quite depressed part of South Wales, but very beautiful, just near the Bristol Channel, and the beaches of Swansea.

And, you have to ring up to make an appointment, because it is literally in his flat. And, he’ll give you two and a half hours of his time, and he appears dressed as a baked bean themed superhero. And then, he’ll sit you down and tell you his life story. He has changed his name by Deed Poll to Captain Beany from the planet Beaness. And, he’s just an extraordinary character, mad as a box of frogs, but just astonishing. And we were in there for about three hours, and it was just brilliant. It really is. There’s various short films about him online.

And, there is actually genuinely a museum. You talk to him about how he became Captain Beany, and he does a lot of work for charity as Captain Beany, and raises money for various good causes. But he’s decorated his flat. There’s a Heinz baked bean kitchen, a Branston bathroom, that’s another brand of baked beans here. And then, in what I assume was once the sitting room, there’s a professional level museum with display cases, and lighting, and all sorts of baked bean memorabilia from around the world. There’s quite a bit from the states with the the Boston baked beans, and bean crocks, and et cetera. Just absolutely extraordinary. And, I certainly would never have come across it had Heinz not turned me down. So I’m quite grateful for that. But yeah, I loved everywhere I went, just because they were so different. I think my favorite Fry Up of all the different ones was in Northern Ireland, because it was just so carb heavy and I love carbs.

BAF: Well, actually, that was a bit of a rhetorical question, because I was 99% sure that, that would be your answer. It’s just such a wonderful part of the book. And the British eccentricity is on full display there.

Felicity Cloake: Yes. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I actually think I read that he’s trying to sell his museum. So, if anyone listening has… I’m sure, monetarily, it might not be valued of that much money. So you could get a real piece of British history, the Captain Beany’s collection. I’m not sure if you get the flat thrown in. I think that might belong to the local council.

BAF: I was very intrigued by this book, because to me, it just demonstrates the beauty unifying aspect of food. And you touched on it earlier, where people would be happy to talk to you about things. And, just so you could travel around to a small, but yet, diverse country, and you would’ve more or less the same conversations in a good way with people from the other side of the country.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah.

BAF: And again, then you’re bringing in the different ethnicities… Edit that part out too. You more or less would have the same conversation as well, but over different ingredients and different-

Felicity Cloake: And it’s nice, because Britain does feel very divided at the moment for various political boring reasons. And it is really nice to just have a straightforward conversation, where people feel strongly, for example, about say, baked beans, or whether you should have black pudding and white pudding, or et cetera. But it’s all done with good humor, and a shared passion for something, even if the details are different. And that felt really nice, because it’s easy to think that people don’t want to talk to strangers, and they’re not interested in getting into these big chats. And actually, everyone loves to chat about breakfast, I found. Even if they’re working in a bakery and they haven’t got lots of time, they want to give you recommendations. If you show interest, then they open up, and that’s such a lovely feeling.

BAF: … It’s something about the breakfast, which you can go to lunch or dinner, you can have a very highbrow, expensive meal, but something about breakfast is very unifying, because you don’t really want to go out and have a highbrow breakfast. I mean, that would be a brunch. But, everybody wants more or less the same thoughts for breakfast.

Felicity Cloake Yeah. And it’s very democratic. And obviously, you could pay probably twice as much for a breakfast, at say, the Savoy in London as a cafe down the road. The quality will be different, but the basic ingredients will be exactly the same. And I love that, the fact that it’s recognizable to all sections of society. And, I love and hate the fact that when we go abroad to places that are very popular, British tourists, like the Costa del Sol in Spain, you will find people eating Fry Ups even on their holidays, which is just extraordinary. But, it shows that, that’s what they think, that it’s such a treat for them, that they’re on a holidays. So of course, they want a Fry Up. They don’t want to have any churros. They don’t want any bread and tomatoes. They want their Fry Up. That’s fair enough, I guess.

BAF: Oh, why not? So, what’s next for you?

Felicity Cloake: That is a very big question. I’m not quite sure. I’d love to do another bike adventure. But it’s finding where to do it. And so, I’ve exhausted my one foreign language is French, and I’ve done that now. And so, it’s whether I go somewhere that’s English speaking, or whether I am the classic Brit abroad and stumble by. But, there are so many countries that I get excited about, thinking about their food. Some of them are less practical possibly to cycle around. I’ve had a few suggestions of, “Why don’t you do India?” And I’m like, “I would love to do India.” I have been on the road in India. And I don’t know if I’m that brave, even though I cycle in London. But I’m not quite sure. But, I mean, whatever it will be, it will involve food.

BAF: Well Eddie (the bicycle) be involved, or you’re not sure yet?

Felicity Cloake: Well, hopefully. Yeah, he will be involved. Yes, he probably needs a bit of mechanical work, I would say. But yeah, I’m still riding around London, so I hope that he’ll come along.

BAF: Oh, good. Actually how’s Wilf (the dog)?

Felicity Cloake: I’ve been really lucky. He’s asleep next to me on the sofa. And, I was dreading the fact, usually, as soon as I start recording anything, he starts barking. But, oh, I can just hear him gently snoring at the moment.

BAF: That’s good.

Felicity Cloake: So, we’ve been lucky. We’ve been blessed. It must be the weather.

BAF: It would’ve been fine if he barked.

Felicity Cloake: You say that.

BAF: Well, maybe I should ask again. We’ve talked in generalities, but was there any overall thoughts you had after completion, after writing the book, any findings that hit you or conclusions you came to?

Felicity Cloake: I would say, one, which I’ve already touched upon, is that, although we make a lot of this idea of the Fry Up, and it plays a big part in our popular culture, I do worry that it’s becoming almost a caricature of British cuisine and it’s not a living thing. And we’re losing parts of it, like white pudding and kippers, that are less. Everything’s becoming homogenized these days. And, we’re getting the hash browns and everything, and the baked beans and everything. And so, I do think that we need to be more like the French and celebrate those real regional specialties like Cornish hogs pudding, that should be on the menu at good London restaurants. They should be shouting about it. So, be more French was one of the conclusions I came to.

And, the second one is, just how wonderful it is that our cuisine evolves in that way. And how it’s ever-changing. And, brilliant for that. Bring on the vegan Fry Ups, bring on the halal Fry Ups. I love the fact it can encompass all parts of modern Britain. And, yeah, it makes it all the more exciting for me.

 I would just say, come to the UK and eat Fry Ups.

BAF: Will do. Excellent.

Felicity Cloake: Yeah, maybe the only thing is, to explain… I know some people sometimes get confused with the title, red sauce, brown sauce, to explain that, obviously red sauce is ketchup and brown sauce is HP source, which is sometimes likened to barbecue sauce or steak sauce, but is more like a slightly spicy ketchup. And they’re the two things that you’re likely to be offered on your bacon sandwich or your sausage sandwich in the UK. And, if in doubt, go for brown sauce. It’s so much more interesting.

© 2023

”’As a greedy woman who loves cycling around the country in search of double and even triple breakfasts, I was delighted by this book about a greedy woman, cycling around the countryside, looking for several square meals a day. In an era when too many fully grown adults munch through instant microwave oats, overpackaged biscuits or simply skip eating altogether, Cloake is making the case for a cooked, regional, calorie-packed kick off, both as a treat for your senses and as a way of supporting smaller, traditional food producers…funny, enlightening and evocative.” -Nell Frizzell, The Guardian

”’A bible for breakfast lovers.” -The Scotsman


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