Madam, breakfast is served
For me, breakfast, not dinner, is the most inspiring meal of the day. These days, you can get a very decent breakfast in the Museum’s restaurant. And afterwards, you can wander the collection and marvel at objects inspired by the most inspirational meal of the day.
Start in the British Galleries, 4th floor, in a side gallery (room 118a), with a table from the mid-eighteenth century. Not just any table, but a mahogany breakfast table designed by Thomas Chippendale, furniture designer extraordinaire, and made by an unknown maker somewhere around 1760.
Apparently, Henry VIII had a walnut breakfast table in his Privy Chamber. In the 1700s, the rich and fashionable continued to have breakfast in their bedrooms, and tables were adapted to include storage for writing and reading, for those with multi-tasking skills.
Eggs are, of course, a staple of the Anglo-Saxon breakfast (although in the past both broth and sardines were popular, and our Continental neighbours in Germany and the Netherlands prefer hams and cheeses). The rich would have had cups for boiled eggs made of silver, but the designs were for everyone and were made in less expensive materials for the less wealthy.
This egg cup stand, also in room 118a, is from about 1790 and was made in moulded creamware, in a design probably originally made in Sheffield plate.
You would need a toast rack to serve the toast. While in this part of the British Galleries, have a look at the toast rack in the Woolfson Gallery, room 118 – a stunning example of toast rack design in an unusual shape of a lyre.
This one is from 1790, not long after the toast rack first appeared on English breakfast tables, and is made of Sheffield plate (copper-plated silver).
Now consider what to wear to breakfast, and head to room 125b, case 3.
This dressing gown from the mid-nineteenth century would have been the perfect outfit – casual but beautiful and very warm (for those draughty houses). It’s made of jacquard woven silk, quilted and silk-lined, in a style of a frock coat.
Often, men wore these over their nightshirts if they had just jumped out of bed, but some put on their trousers and shirt first, then the dressing gown.
Breakfast attire can be even more outrageous, as in this dress of Dame Edna Everidge’s that pays homage to the Full English. You can see it in the Theatre and Performing Arts Gallery, a mini-museum within the V&A.
Complete with sausages, bacon, eggs and baked beans, the dress celebrates breakfast with the irreverent fervor this most humorous of meals deserves. Dame Edna (Barry Humphries’ ‘housewife superstar’ creation) said she felt like ‘a transport caff on legs’ wearing this.