James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

The Full English in Andalusia

Photo by: Lesamourai

The Full English in Andalusia

Black Pudding in the White-Walled Towns

It is, of course, an abomination. To walk into a café in southern Spain on a sere and cloudless morning, under the least English skies on earth, and order the Full Breakfast. There is little about the white towns of Andalusia that would seem to call out for back bacon, black pudding, or baked beans. This part of Spain is desert, North Africa in a mirror. Monty may have girded himself to fight the Nazis at Alamein by taking down the Full English in his field tent every morning, but it still seems like a fundamental mismatch of climate and menu. The Andalusian palate tends toward something lighter: coffee and toast with jam or a touch of lard. The local analogue to the Full English, the chorizo-spiked plato alpujarreño, isn’t breakfast at all, but lunch.

And yet.

I can’t even remember which of these villages they were—Alcalá or Arcos, Véjer or Grazalema—but I’ve slid through many of them on extended road trips through southern Spain. Nearly all seemed to have some café or hostal with a fry-up on the menu. It can seem off-putting; your goal was Cádiz, not Kent. But the British are so numerous—more than 300,000 of them throughout Spain—and their breakfast arguments so compelling that I began to enjoy the association. Eventually it became Pavlovian: show me a picture of a white-walled hill fortress under a blazing sun and I can practically smell the mushrooms frying.

There’s an old joke about the Brits who moved to Spain because they were sick of all the immigrants in the U.K., and there’s too much lazy grousing about the pace of life (and waitstaff) in Spain. But far from the beer-swilling holiday goons on the shore, the expats in the hills are easy enough to like. They have diverse reasons for having left the U.K., but share certain joys that come from having found somewhere infinitely cheaper and less grim than their homeland. They remind me, more than anything, of the Minnesotan and Canadian snowbirds I grew up with in the Florida Keys.

I think about them now, in the world of Brexit. Many are trudging back to the U.K., worried about pensions and health coverage. I would still go to Málaga if there wasn’t a single Wayne Rooney fan left, but I’d miss their breakfasts fiercely.

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