Special Dispatch: Lifebuoy Café, Fowey, Cornwall
8 Lostwithiel Street
Fowey, PL23 1BD (Map)
by T. N. Toost
For my third breakfast out in as many days on holiday, I was not surprised to find the Lifebuoy Café – like at least two others we went to - full of familiar Ikea furniture. I liked it, and I liked the beach-themed blue and white interior, and the large open kitchen which took up half of the room. Two women, seemingly mother and daughter, ran the establishment, the mother cooking and the daughter taking orders and shouting abruptly but inoffensively at patrons. The windows were completely steamed up, which gave the place a slightly oppressive feeling.
I had my full English with fried bread, which Annie instantly coveted. It was the most interesting part of the whole meal, the rest of which was nevertheless good and tasted fresh. The eggs and tomato were particularly well done, with the sausage and tea coming in at merely above average. With the fried bread, the whole meal turned into a minor luxury.
Save for the beans: they were the same as everywhere else in Britain. People crave variety and uniqueness in food, yet beans are always tinned. Who has had above-average beans? Below-average? Why is it that this staple of breakfast prides itself on conformity? Do the beans in Fowey remind us of home, and is familiarity, even on holiday, what we seek?
When we paid up, about £5 each, both mother and daughter thanked us, then turned back to their work. Even with the obvious locals at tables and the gossip being shouted across the small space, the obvious dependency on tourist money made it seem like we were giving pennies to beggars. We were disposable, interchangeable money machines, accents and appearance annually altered but one as good as another, year after year. Maybe that’s why all the cafés around Fowey have the same furniture, the same beans – they treat us as they see us, and that’s what we secretly want.