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Tuesday 23 April 2019

Top breakfast baguette rolls into Irish history

comedian Pat
Shortt, posing as
his stage
Sheamie the
Builder, scored a
big hit with his
song 'The Jumbo
Breakfast Roll'.
Popular comedian Pat Shortt, posing as his stage character Sheamie the Builder, scored a big hit with his song 'The Jumbo Breakfast Roll'.

Brian McDonald

IMMORTALISED in song by Pat Shortt and beloved of truck drivers and early-morning building workers, the Jumbo Breakfast Roll (JBR) has now taken its place in the history of contemporary Ireland.

It may be a calorific nightmare in the eyes of any self-respecting dietician, but the JBR has finally come under the academic microscope.

Sociologist Dr Perry Share, of Sligo Institute of Technology, has carried out a detailed study of the Jumbo Breakfast Roll and its place in Irish society. His findings are contained in 'Belongings: Shaping Identity in Modern Ireland', just published by the Institute of Public Administration.

Dr Share, who is head of the Department of Humanities at the Sligo Institute, also delivered a paper on his research into the JBR at the annual conference of the Sociological Association of Ireland in Galway.

He concludes that the jumbo breakfast roll is "perhaps the ultimate symbol of our contemporary Celtic Tigerland".

He puts its phenomenal popularity as the food of choice for hundreds of thousands of Irish commuters, workers and students down to the marriage of the Irish conglomerate IAWS and the rocketing development of forecourt convenience stores.

IAWS is now a €2bn-a-year business, with its Cuisine de France rolls, or demi-baguettes, a massive seller and the packaging of choice for the JBR.

Meanwhile, the fastest growing type of convenience store in Ireland is the petrol forecourt.

With most workers preferring to drive to work and inevitably driving through traditional meal times, the forecourt has increasingly become a place to start the day.

Dr Share said: "We have a fluid approach that tends to equate 'food' with 'fuel' -- so it is doubly appropriate that much of our food is now purchased at outlets that can offer both."


But Ireland is not alone in its love affair with the JBR. Its first cousin is the Breakfast Burrito, which originated in the west of the US and also features pork products and eggs.

In the US, one-fifth of commuters now eat breakfast "on the go" at least three times a week. In 2006, 33 meals per person per annum were eaten in the car -- including eight breakfasts -- the highest level ever recorded in the US.

Given the close links between US and Irish food service companies, it is likely that similar trends are operating in Ireland, Dr Share says.

He traces the history of the JBR back to Victorian England when roadside vendors would set up their stalls on the routes to factories. Large soft rolls containing ham, sausage or egg filling were sold to the workers.

And just for the record, the modern JBR with a cup of tea with milk and sugar provides 1,200 kilocalories -- almost half a male adult's daily energy requirement.

The saturated fat content of the JBR alone usually greatly exceeds the recommended daily allowance.

"And this damage is done even before the roll is supplemented with cola, crisps, chocolate, mayonnaise, coleslaw or spicy wedges -- all of which are quite likely to appear as an accompaniment to the JBR," Dr Share added.

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