Killing time at work before a book launch and browsing through some books on our office bookshelf, I found The Breakfast Bible, by Seb Emina and (yes, really) Malcolm Eggs.
Page 87 has a good riff about breakfast and class barriers, followed by a run-down of things that are considered U and non-U (or posh vs common). His entries are charmingly brief.
'Jams and Preserves:
Good homemade marmalade is wonderful. Robinson's Golden Shred less so. Marmite is rather working class but acceptable.'
I think we can agree on the first part, though Marmite is hardly working-class any more.
Later on, he quotes George Orwell on the same subject. Orwell described a typical three-course breakfast as consisting of porridge followed by fish or meat (i.e. bacon, kidneys, sausages and ham) and eggs, 'then finally toast, which, he stipulated, would be served with butter and orange marmalade. On this point he was unambiguously firm: "It must be orange marmalade, though honey is a possible subsitute. Other kinds of jam are seldom eaten at breakfast, and marmalade does not often appear at other times of day." '
It is true, though odd, that we just don't eat marmalade at any other time; and usually don't eat jam for breakfast. How particular we are as a nation.
As a sign-off, Mr Eggs explains: 'Today, of course, those other kinds of jam are naturalised residents of the breakfast table, clustered around your hotel toast rack in those cute little jars they provide. Some claim this is a worrying symptom of a dumbing-down society, that the complexity of marmalade has become too much for the breakfasting mainstream. But the stats say otherwise: with just shy of 95 million jars being sold each year, marmalade is still king of the breakfast spreads.'
Not everyone shares his confidence, as sales seem to decline year on year, but his description of the transformation of Seville oranges 'into something aromatic and magical' is very cheering. Roll on January, I can almost smell the Sevilles.