I must have been about eight or nine years old when I met my first English muffin. My father and I were going fishing early one Saturday morning and we stopped at a local diner for a quick breakfast on the way to the trout stream near the Vermont border. We sat at the counter and there was a clear plastic tube standing in front of us with something that looked like thick cookies piled neatly inside of it. I asked my father what they were and he said “English muffins.”
He ordered one with his eggs, so I did also. The cook behind the counter asked if I wanted it toasted or grilled. Not knowing any better, I said, no. He and everyone around me look at me incredulously. “You want it raw?” the cook asked. My father said, “No, toast it for him.” I was embarrassed enough that I still remember the awkward moment to this day. But the unique taste of that muffin, slabbered with butter (in those days we did more slabbering than we do today) and a little raspberry jam melted in my mouth, and I was addicted for life.
English muffins bear little resemblance to anything eaten in England. The closest item on the British diet might be a crumpet, a pancake-like item which resembles an English muffin in size, shape and texture. It, too, has crevices into which the butter and topping can drain. But it tastes more like a pancake than what we have come to know as the English muffin. American English muffins are more bread-like.
In many ways, an English muffin is a fast food, although one whichI would put high on the scale of fast foods. It is prepared and packaged undercooked, and is meant to be plopped into the toaster or smacked onto a griddle for final preparation. Put a fried egg, sausage, and cheese on it and you have a breakfast sandwich which is really tasty and filling.
I have a habit of smearing the English muffin with peanut butter, loving the way the peanut butter melts and fills the cracks and crevices of the muffin. But the traditional way of eating it is the butter and jam method, creating a taste that is unique in the world of breakfast foods.
English muffins are, I fear, the sole food of breakfast on some mornings when things are rushed. They can be toasted, prepared and carried to the car for the ride to work or to my desk in the family room where it can be handled easily with a fresh cup of coffee while pounding out a posting for this blog. It doesn’t “crumb” easily when toasted properly, so the chance of crumbs getting into the keyboard are slim.
My one caution about English muffins is that there are many options among marketers out there. It might be tempting to go for the less expensive ones, but you will pay the price in taste and texture. (We always buy Thomas’.) I suppose the best way to deal with English muffins is to make your own. If you click on pinchmysalt.com you will find an illustrated recipe for making them which sounds easy enough. I’ve never tried it, but who knows? It may happen.
Photo Credit: pinchmysalt