You are probably familiar with the idea of the “The Full English”, or “The Full Irish”, a breakfast consisting of various fried items. Bacon, sausages and eggs always feature, and then some combination of tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, black pudding, white pudding and a fried slice (of bread). You might have strong opinions about what exactly constitutes a full English or a full Irish (baked beans are entirely redundant in my view, not least because you can’t fry them), and you are probably aware that neither of them is restricted to breakfast-time. In my family, and in most Irish families, the meal is referred to as, simply, “the fry”.
Like most of their generation, my dad and his older brother (my Uncle Paddy) were very partial to the fry. In his 70s Paddy suffered a few minor strokes. The doctor told him that his diet would have to change. He’d have to cut down on the fried food. His wife made sure of it when she was around, but when she was out he would still put the frying-pan to good use. One time my dad was visiting Paddy and his wife in Dublin. The wife was out for the day and Paddy cooked up the fry, as in his pre-stroke days, served my dad, and then placed the contents of his own meal between two slices of bread. When the wife phoned later in the afternoon she said something along the lines of, “You didn’t have the fry now, did you?” He answered, more or less truth truthfully, “No, Jim had the fry. I just had a sandwich.” I suspect that placing bacon, sausage and egg in between two slices of bread does not make it a healthy eating option, but I’m not a nutritionist and will reserve judgment for now. In the meantime, many of us in the family, in response to being offered “the fry”, will say, “I’ll just have a sandwich” and, if necessary, explain the derivation of all this.
In 2013 my dad had a more severe stroke than his brother had suffered. The ambulance got him to the hospital quickly enough for the effects to be counter-acted swiftly. Within seven weeks he had recovered enough physically to return home. His speech had returned much sooner than that, but on that first night in hospital he was hardly able to speak. He had that classic lop-sided look that some severe stroke victims never recover from. We weren’t sure how badly his memory and other faculties had been affected. I leaned over and said, “You’ll have to cut down on the fries now, like Paddy.” With great effort, and just about comprehensible, he said, “Have to … stick … to the sandwiches”. It was a clear indication that his brain was working fine even if he couldn’t get the words out easily. Nearly five years on, aged 87, he’s still hanging in there and mostly keeping away from the fries. My Uncle Paddy also made it to his late 80s but died around 7 years ago. I don’t think it was the sandwiches that killed him.