The unsavoury reality of breakfast in bed
With Valentine’s Day approaching, our columnist faces the unromantic truth behind breakfast in bed.
Like toast crumbs in bedding or jam stains on pillow cases, the halo of glamour that surrounds breakfast in bed is difficult to shift. It speaks to our dreams of luxury, of Hollywood stars in black-and-white films, Downton Abbey and a parallel universe where every morning a butler arrives at your bedside with freshly pressed juice, a neatly ironed newspaper, smoked salmon and eggs.
‘Yes,’ you think, while hurtling around half-eating a banana at 7.43am on a wintry Tuesday morning, ‘I could get used to that.’ But could you? Really? With Valentine’s Day approaching, it is time to face facts.
Like many of the things you fantasise about enjoying in bed (role play, light bondage, licking chocolate spread off Tom Hardy), eating breakfast is better in theory than reality: more pain than pampering. For a start, someone has to get up and cook it; a subject of tense negotiation for most exhausted couples. And little wonder.
Unless you are incredibly organised (did you soak oats, buy in bagels, make your muffin mixture last night?), breakfast often takes far longer to prepare than the reluctant chef or dozing recipient would like. Is there a more demoralising feeling in cooking than reappearing, ta-da!, with perfect eggs benedict and finding your partner fast asleep? No.
Comfortably eating and drinking on a sprung mattress, moreover, is impossible. You might imagine anything you can hold in one hand would work. But as anyone who has ever leant over to take a slurp of tea, wobbled on their elbow and soaked the bed will tell you: ‘It does not.’ Similarly, no matter how big a plate you use, if you eat a croissant, toast or a breakfast sandwich in bed (think of the lava-like yolk dangers!), you will – as you repeatedly fail to prop up your book or tablet at a readable angle – inevitably scatter food debris. You will be sleeping in it for days, potentially suffused in a lingering odour of kippers.
To eat anything more complex, even a bowl of cereal, requires much plumping of pillows and rearrangement to ensure you’re sat up at a 90 degree angle. Then there’s the proximity issue. Who wants to nuzzle up next to someone noisily crunching granola or cornflakes? True, you could make a quieter breakfast bowl of natural yogurt, syrup, roast fruits and chia seeds, but anyone who wants to eat that healthily on Saturday morning will already be half way through a 10k run. Treat yourself to shakshuka while they’re out.
Attempt to eat anything that requires a knife and fork – full breakfast, avo toast, omelette arnold bennett – and unless you own a specialist padded or fold-away breakfast tray (no, me neither), breakfast will descend into a cramped chaos of slip-sliding crockery, spillages and agitated discomfort. Throw young children into this maelstrom and you will be mopping up spilt milk with kitchen roll before your first mouthful.
Do I lack commitment? Possibly. Nigella Lawson reportedly keeps soy sauce, mustard and other condiments in her bedside cabinet, and on Instagram has displayed the ‘food towel’ she uses when she wants to eat pizza without dropping pepperoni on her pillows.
Nonetheless, I am steadfast that eating in bed is only enjoyable when you are too ill to move and have the duvet to yourself. A hungover tub of ice cream or a recovery bowl of chicken soup (keep it simple and spoonable), can, as you sprawl out, feel like a life-saver. But breakfast in bed? No thank you.
If you want to treat your lover, get up, cook, and call them down. The kitchen table is a wonderful invention.
Read more articles by Tony Naylor
20 food trends for 2020
Christmas food shouldn’t be an endurance test
Salted caramel has gone too far
How to use your phone at the table responsibly
The 10 worst things that can happen to a cuppa
Why I'll be ignoring Valentine's Day
Do you enjoy breakfast in bed? Leave a comment below...
Tony Naylor writes for Restaurant magazine and The Guardian.