What does a full Scottish breakfast mean? Will I have to eat haggis? Can I get coffee or will I have to drink tea? I am vegetarian… How about if I’m vegan? What if I need to eat gluten free, or can’t handle dairy…
The thing to remember about eating breakfast — or other meals for that matter– in Scotland is that it is about hospitality. The hosts want you to enjoy your meal, and you want to be respectful while sorting out what you need and want to to eat. Whether you are staying at a small bed and breakfast, a moderate sized guest house, a large hotel, or having your breakfast out, keep those things in mind and you’ll do well.
At a lodging, for breakfast you will often be offered a cooked breakfast, and may find cold items on a sideboard from which you serve yourself. Usually your server or host will enquire if you’d like a full breakfast. Typical items in a cooked breakfast include
Eggs, usually fried. You may request them prepared in other ways.
Sausage, usually a link or two of pork sausage. Vegetarian sausage, usually soy based, may be available.
Bacon — this is back bacon, a lean cut of meat which those from the United States will find somewhat akin to ham, though it’s often less salty.
Beans, usually in a mild red sauce, baked beans from a can, most often.
Tomato, often a half or in quarters, usually roasted.
Potato scone, a thin crispy (usually fried) triangle or square made from potato and wheat flour. One of the main things you can enjoy doing with them (though such scones, known informally as tattie scones, are quite good on their own) is sopping up the sauce from beans and/or dipping them in egg. Scone, by the way, is pronounced to rhyme with gone.
Toast, with jam and/or butter to put on it
Other cooked items you may be offered for breakfast in Scotland include
Black pudding: This is not dessert sort of pudding. It’s sausage, often cut in rounds and fried or baked. The ingredients may be a bit off putting — black pudding is basically blood sausage with spices.
Haggis: This is made of parts of the animal left after the chops and roasts are made, along with spices and oats. There are vegetarian versions available, too, usually based on lentils and other beans.
Porridge: cooked oats, which may be cooked in water or milk. You can have it as is or top with more milk, fruit, or butter and salt.
Mushrooms, usually roasted or fried, sliced or whole.
Salmon, kippers, and other fish: if you are in coastal area, you may be offered such dishes for breakfast or find them on the cold food board.
On that cold food board, you may also find
Cereals of several sorts
Fruit, either whole or cut up, sometimes both
Cheeses of several sorts
About those concerns expressed above:
No, you do not have to eat haggis, or anything else you do not wish. It is courteous to find out, when you make your reservation or when you arrive, if the host would like to know your requests in advance or would rather take them at breakfast time.
You are free to decline any meat dishes. or anything else you may not wish to have. Vegans may wish to know that there is often a dairy free breakfast spread available for your toast. Non dairy milk, yogurt, and cheese are less common as usual offerings but your host may choose to provide them with advance notice. That is also true of gluten free breads. Usually a choice or two of cold cereals will be gluten free
Beans and toast, by the way, is a quite common breakfast choice in Scotland by many who don’t follow meat free diets.
Of course you can have coffee, it is commonly offered. If you are a tea drinker or decide to try this out while in Scotland, you will want to know that tea in Scotland is stronger than that found in the US — teabags contain half an ounce more tea, for one thing. Ask for hot water with which to dilute it should you find the tea too strong for your taste.
When eating out at breakfast, you will find many of these same choices in varied combinations. Often you’ll also find breakfast on a roll, also known as a breakfast bap. Bacon is most common for these but combinations of breakfast items and vegetarian versions are also common. The link above takes you to a menu for Martha’s Cafe in Glasgow. where you’ll see what a selection of rolls and other quick breakfast dishes may be like.
Sharing food and sharing welcome are two of the best ways to enjoy your travels — may you have great breakfasts in Scotland.
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