Why do Brits like dumping a can of beans on their toast? First it's important to note that unlike, say, Boston’s baked beans, British beans on toast are supposed to come from a can—preferably a blue Heinz can of “baked beans in tomato sauce” (which remain quite different from America’s sweeter, porkier canned baked beans), although other brands are out there. Never mind that these navy beans are actually stewed: The point is that it’s inexpensive, filling, nostalgic, and oh-so-British, literally just canned beans heated up and served over (hopefully) buttered toast.So what are the origins of beans on toast? Heinz claims that an executive invented the dish as a marketing ploy in 1927, but it’s likely the dish is still around today because it was so common as a cheap protein during World War II, for breakfast, dinner, or both. Today it’s more popular as breakkie for broke university students, budget-strapped travelers, and, well, people feeling nostalgic for those days. Some people add mustard or HP sauce; some melt cheese on top; many won’t eat a traditional English fry-up without it on the side.As for the taste: It’s just exactly what it sounds like—there’s no secret hidden ingredient, though butter definitely makes it better. So if you like British canned beans, you’ll be in good shape.
Cartoon from The New Yorker. Text continues at Eat Your World.