Milena’s Cooking Adventures
The internet– which you must know because here you all are, on it– is a terrible place. It’s insulting, disappointing, petty, ugly. And that’s why I like The Fry Up Police. In an online world of hatred, swearing, infighting, and incredibly irritating memes, this group stands as a shining beacon of love, support, and welcoming comradery amidst the chaos.
The Fry-Up Police is the sort of group that Americans have a bit of difficulty understanding. Since I’m only half-English, I only half-understand it. For one thing, for anyone not British out there, the word “fry up” means a conglomeration of greasy breakfast foods such as sausage, bacon, fried eggs, and baked beans (Yes, they ARE a breakfast food!) shoved in enormous quantities onto a plate and eaten with good strong tea.
The process of posting on The Fry Up Police consists, mainly, of the following steps:
- A member of the group posts a picture of their fry up.
- All other members worth their salt pile on immediately, viciously insulting the fry up, the poster, the plate, the tablecloth, the foot visible under the table, the choice of tinned tomatoes over fried, the choice of fried tomatoes over tinned, the choice of having posted anything at all… you get the idea.
- If the poster is wise, they shut their mouth and do not respond. If they do not yet understand the ways of the Fry Up Police, they might foolishly attempt either to defend themselves, or to enact friendship with the attacking hordes. None of these actions is wise.
- The poster, in 85% of the cases, is banned from the group. This is a seemingly random choice by the moderators, that may have been prompted by the person’s name, the colour of their tea mug, their use of a snapchatesque filter, or perhaps because a mod accidentally hit a button. Usually about half the commenters also get banned in the carnage.
- Anyone banned in this round is given the option to be reinstated by appealing to the Gods That Be in various ways, such as dumping baked beans over their head, grovelling with a contrite sign, or sending in pictures of their cat.
I think it’s the most incredible social experiment; will outsiders get it? Because here is the astonishing thing: to me, my dad, my twin brother, and all other British people I have shown it to, this is the most hilarious, and reassuring, group we have ever seen. It makes complete sense. The rules are unpredictable, and the insults scathing, and yet– it is also so hilarious and so relatable that I have snorted tea out my nose reading it. It makes me feel content somewhere deep inside.
I have many, many friends (mostly Americans) who have stared at the Fry Up Police page, read carefully, re-read even more carefully, then looked at me blankly, muttered something polite, and backed away slowly. For those not acquainted with the deeply ingrained art of the insult in British culture, the group seems utterly opaque. But for a culture that values hiding your feelings at all cost and bending over backwards to avoid conflict, a space of free insult and encouraged aggression is absolute heaven– not to mention a place to show off your wit while being simultaneously reminded of your own utter incompetence, along with everyone else’s. In other words: Muddle through, because everyone else is certainly doing so.
I, of course, immediately decided that the best thing for me to do was to post a vegetarian fry up, which I tend to make every weekend for myself. I figured I would be banned.
Somehow, remarkably, I wasn’t. It was most likely a fluke of the universe. I did, however, receive more than the usual amount of vitriol, which gave me a sense of accomplishment. I really couldn’t argue with the fact that my fake bacon was indeed neon pink, and that my “black pudding” was only black because I burnt it. It was deeply satisfying. Of course, my brother, foolish mortal that he is, decided to join in the fun, insulting my vegetarian nature.
The hordes shrieked in glee. They raised their (pitch)forks.
Here were TWO utter fools, and evidently related! The mods gathered up their infinite power and challenged us to a Family Fry Off, winner gains a lifelong achievement award (translation: absolutely no prize whatsoever) and loser is banned, to be reinstated only by pouring a baked bean bath on the cranium. We had no choice. Forced by the fates, we twins prepared for our gladiatorial battle.
I, of course, cheated.
While I am a vegetarian, I have a chip on my shoulder about having to be a better cook than my twin. And I knew that no vegetarian fry could ever sway this group. So I have to admit, I threw my morals away, cheapening my principles for the shiny allure of the prize (remember, there was no prize. The winner gained literally nothing). Well, I actually felt enormously guilty and spent wads of money on local, incredibly happy meat, but one could still say my morals were compromised.
I also cheated by pre-emptively including a cat in one of my photos. No one can argue with an adorable cat.
I had grown up with my dad’s fry ups, but had never made a meat one before. Since I became vegetarian at the age of 12, and got obsessed with cooking around the age of 13, I never learned to cook meat. Thankfully, the internet existed. I invited over my love, made the largest fry up I could, sent in my photos of Jasper the cat, and settled in to see the results.
Unbeknownst to me, my twin in Denmark struggled with unusable kitchen implements, a bolshy frying pan, an uneven heating surface, and the fact that he hadn’t been obsessively stress-cooking at 3am since the age of 13 for some strange reason. Oh, and he didn’t include a cat. I won by a landslide and my brother was doused in baked beans.
It took about two days for everyone to entirely forget who we were. The fry up cycle of life, as always, continued unabated. It’s somehow satisfying to know that glory and disgrace, effort and aimlessness, all in the end fade. But The Fry Up Police– is forever.
General Tips for a Fry Up
Everyone disagrees with other people’s ideas of a fry up. I’m sure my dad would disagree with my own. My grandmother would probably have made many tsking sounds and then gone about the house muttering rude things under her breath about my incompetence. Be that as it may, this is my way of frying up. I hope you enjoy. Include as many or as few of each ingredient as you like; I could never finish the groaning plates I see on the Fry Up Police.
- hashbrowns (my sister thinks this is blasphemy, but I like ’em)
- proper bangers (British sausages)
- back bacon
- large solid tomatoes, cut into thick (!) slices
- small button mushrooms, either cut in half or whole
- British baked beans– the best is Heinz, in tomato sauce (see picture)
- bread, sliced
- olive or vegetable oil (butter’s great, but for a large fry up, it burns when cooked that long)
- The best black tea you can find, with milk and sugar
- my dad always added onions, sliced into thin strips and then fried with the mushrooms
- black pudding– my dad never added this and I don’t like it
- white pudding– my dad never added this and it’s not my favourite
The key to a good fry up is timing. You don’t want anything getting cold. The best way to ensure this is both to plan your frying time for each item, and make use of the oven. The best way to ensure good browning and maximum tastiness is a cast-iron skillet.
Preheat oven to 375F.
Put in hashbrowns (I used Trader Joe’s readymade ones) into the oven.
First, add enough olive oil (or vegetable oil) to just cover the bottom of the pan. Fry the bangers over medium-high heat until brown on all sides, then place on baking tray and put in oven with the hashbrowns. Save the sausage fat in the pan, and put in mushrooms to cook. When you flip the mushrooms over to brown the other side, add the thick slices of tomatoes– do not stir or move them! You want them to develop a browned side underneath that will help them hold together when you flip them over. Cook until mushrooms and tomatoes are browned (my dad almost burnt them and they were delicious). Meanwhile, start frying the back bacon in another pan, until browned thoroughly on each side.
Put tomatoes and bacon onto plates, then put mushrooms on baking tray in the oven. Start frying bread in the bacon grease until browned on both sides (then immediately place on plates). Crack eggs into the pan and fry until whites are just starting to solidify. Then make a space in the pan for the baked beans, pour the beans in (they’ll sizzle), and stir quickly, avoiding getting bean juice on the eggs. Quickly put a lid over the frying pan until the eggs are just cooked, with runny yolk. This will be quicker than you think, usually only a matter of seconds. Remove the lid.
Take everything out of the oven, and quickly plate. For presentation, I start on one edge and place each item in a circle around the plate, then pile the mushrooms in the middle. For myself, I shove everything onto a plate in a giant messy pile and let my beans sit on top and soak through my fried bread. No one else appreciates this and I was attacked from all sides on Fry Up Police for daring to do such a thing.
A fry up is a glorious grease-filled delight that is best enjoyed with strong tea and a long day of nothing ahead. My memories of childhood fry ups were blissful Sunday mornings in my pyjamas, as my dad cooked for me. I’d read the comics avidly, spilling bits of egg and grease onto the newspaper and slurping up tea that was too hot but utterly delicious. It’s not a delicacy– it’s a decadence. Stand strong, relish the insults, and keep on frying.