How to make the perfect breakfast in bed this Valentine's Day
Breakfast in bed seems simple. You are in bed, eating breakfast. This is luxurious. What else could it be? But be honest – is it really such a treat? There is a tray on your lap. There is crumb-fear in your mind. Are you feeling decadent and pampered, or imprisoned and a little squalid? Does some part of you long to be sitting at a table?
The dirty secret of the in-bed breakfaster is that much of the time they are not enjoying the meal at all. This staple of birthday and romance is merely being put up with so that later it can be boasted that it was done. Nothing says ‘our relationship is going well’ more succinctly than ‘we had breakfast in bed’. (It seems significant, meanwhile, that it’s hard to say ‘don’t lend me money’ more directly than ‘I had lunch in bed’).
So if people don’t actually like it, should it be done away with altogether? This would seem over the top. For all its drawbacks, breakfast in bed is a beautiful gesture and the joy of what it means is more than enough to carry you through the ordeal of receiving it.
In any case, it’s almost inevitable that at some point, whether because of expectation or expedience, you will need to make it for someone else. The key to breakfast success in the bedroom is realising that just putting some breakfast on a tray and taking it to a sleepy recipient is not enough. Breakfast in bed should be presented with ceremony. The small details are important. Try to do it in a way that combines the best bits of the breakfast table (space, freedom, options) with those of the bed (comfort, horizontality). Here are some of the key principles.
The Pillows: Hugely important. Don’t try to serve breakfast in bed if the recipient only has two thin old feather pillows and a sofa cushion. You’ll need enough pillows to create a triangle with a wide enough base and a tall enough peak to support both back and head while they are sitting upright.
The Tray: use a large tray that gives you space to present the breakfast in style. If you have a tray-cloth then use it. It will look better and stop everything from sliding around treacherously.
The Small Touches: add these to the tray before the food, so you’re ready to transport it as soon as it’s ready. Put some butter in a small dish and on to the tray (yes, strictly speaking it is part of ‘The food’ – but it’s the letting it soften that’s a small touch). A small vase with one or two wild flowers is a classic (and occasionally classy) touch, as is a newspaper, a well-chosen soundtrack and cutlery wrapped in conical napkins. (Note: Remember to remove the flower vase at the moment of serving to avoid spilling water.)
The Food: Whatever you’re cooking, try to time it so that breakfast is served no later than when the breakfaster would naturally get up. This avoids the nagging sense of being imprisoned by kindness. Spoon all the various condiments and sauces into small, attractive dishes and place them around the tray, leaving space to then add any main plates or dishes. Toast should be added, in a rack or small wicker basket, at the very last moment.
The Drinks: serve on a smaller tray, separate from the food. Leave by the side of the bed to avoid spillage, but still within easy reach on a surface at least as high as the base of the mattress.
The breakfaster must now throw aside concerns about crumbs and just go with it. Enjoy the moment. Eat with gusto. Pretend you are in a hotel. Remember the adage ‘dance as if no one’s watching’? Breakfast in bed as if someone else will change the sheets, even if it will actually be you.