Grease – Café life in Britain

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Grease – Café life in Britain

Greasy spoons very rarely appear in guidebooks, but they are an essential part of life in the UK, especially for people living in the bigger cities.

In London, the capital city of the greasy spoon, there are hundreds and hundreds, fuelling the population with bacon, egg and sausage. These small restaurants are so common and everyday – like baked beans or phone boxes – that they are barely even noticed, but if greasy spoons were removed, the country would be on its knees.
Greasy spoon cafés are so called because any cutlery that comes into contact with the food on offer is immediately coated with a sticky, greasy layer of lard. It almost seems like an oily mist hangs in the air, as if fat drips from the walls. More calories can be found in a cup of tea in a good greasy spoon than in a whole meal at a normal restaurant.
The setting

Greasy spoons are generally found slightly away from the main streets of most towns, on the shabbier roads. Always a bit dirty and down at heel, they usually have large (grease coated) glass windows, a plastic sign with the name of the café - usually containing the name of the owner e.g. Mario's, Bob's place, Rita's café - and a huge menu offering a wide variety of artery clogging delights.

Inside they are generally clean, functional and scruffy. You'll see old wooden seats, tables covered with cracked linoleum and plain walls.

Each table has on it a bottle of brown sauce, tomato ketchup and vinegar, and pots of salt and pepper. In the background, behind a chipped counter, are huge gleaming tea urns and a steaming kitchen where the gruff chefs work their magic.

The people
In a typical greasy spoon, you will find people from all walks of life: Poets, drop-outs, hurrying businessmen, students lazing around with huge mugs of tea.

Some read novels, some stare into space, and others catch up on the day's news. There will be young couples staring into each other's eyes or lonely old men coming out for a change of scene. At weekends there will always be large groups of friends, recovering from a night on the town. They are all united by one thing: the food. They are all looking for an absolutely substantial meal.

The meals
The meals are dangerously unhealthy, and absolutely delicious. All kinds of fried food can be bought for incredibly low prices. The centrepiece is usually the traditional English breakfast.

Although it is called a breakfast, it takes a brave soul to eat it first thing in the morning, because it is huge. At least two pieces of bacon, two sizzling sausages, two fried eggs (sunny side up), fried mushrooms, baked beans and bread soaked in hot oil and fried. The very finest greasy spoons will also offer several pieces of black pudding – surprisingly tasty, considering that it is made from – wait for it – pigs’ blood and lard.
The English breakfast is full of meat and fat. If you want something less filling, there is still a lot to choose from; particular specialities are bacon or fried egg sandwiches (or of course, bacon and egg sandwiches). There is also often a range of vegetarian sausages and burgers. Greasy spoons have some devoted followers. Tapping “Greasy Spoon” into an internet search engine will bring up hundreds of entries – with pictures, reviews, menus and stories it is the next best thing to going to a greasy spoon café yourself.

But of course, nothing can beat going to a real one – especially on an empty stomach.

Questions to the text:

  1. What are the typical features of a Greasy Spoon?

  2. Why would the doctor not recommend the food in a Greasy Spoon?

  3. What does an English / a continental breakfast include?

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