Essential Life Skill: How to Make Breakfast in Bed Like You Mean It

In the Grand List of Essential Grownup Skills, somewhere between changing a flat tire and tying a half-Windsor, you'll find an entry for serving your loved one their first meal of the day before leaving the room where they woke up. It's a simple act, but with some care and a little finesse, it can be an incredibly thoughtful gesture that will reverberate throughout the rest of the week.

Let's take a look at some of the considerations for a perfect breakfast in bed!

The basic design principle we're following here is thoughtful simplicity. A really good breakfast in bed has to come from the heart, so ditch the frills and play up the essentials. 

Here are the four basic elements you're working with:

1. Platform

You've got to have a place to set all this goodness, right? If you've planned ahead sufficiently—and I hope you have—a basic butler's serving tray like this one is perfect, and you'll be able to reuse it for a long while afterward.

2. Food and drink

“Breakfast in bed, without breakfast, is just bed.” —Abraham Lincoln

or was it Mark Twain? I'll have to check my Dubious Internet Quote Sources.

Pick out your significant other's favorite breakfast food, preferably something you can make yourself—unless the only thing you're likely to cook up is a skillet full of fire extinguisher powder, in which case, please get takeout.

Throw a little twist on your dish. If you're dynamite with pancakes, make a batch with blueberries. (Or you can try out this super simple  mini puff pancake recipe that I used to make the ones in the photos, then make a 30-second fruit compote by zapping a few spoonfuls of preserves in the microwave.) Add a cup of chopped fruit to the side; even toast can be thoughtful if you make sure to spread a nice, even layer over the entire face of the bread.

Just remember: you're trying to serve breakfast in bed, so unlike me this morning, you'll need to make sure you finish cooking the meal in time.

(And for goodness' sake, don't forget the coffee! Bonus points if you serve it in a 12-ounce French press.)

3. Aesthetic context

Keep in mind that the way the breakfast looks is just as important as it tastes; after all, we eat with our eyes first. It's probably a good idea to keep that commemorative plastic cup you got from the barbeque joint 5 years ago in the cabinet for this occasion, but you probably don't need to bust out the fine China either—stick with something you'd serve to company for an informal get-together.

Dress up the tray with a fabric napkin (you can't go wrong with gingham checks), and top the whole thing off with flower or two in a small vase. If you weren't able to make it out to the florist, origami is a great fill-in. (Here are directions for a tulip that's even easier than the one I followed.)

4. Emotional context

I don't know about you, but after nearly 10 years of marriage, I've learned that romantic gestures work best when not immediately following a grand display of boneheadedness. If you've been a total pain to be around that week, I'd recommend trying to first focus for a little bit on being kind, selfless, and loving in smaller, more subtle ways. The last thing you want your breakfast in bed to do is completely faceplant into the sidewalk because you've got some unresolved relationship tension that you've been responsible for keeping going.

After all, the point of doing something nice is to amplify the love that's already there; if there's something gumming up the works, remove the obstacle then crank the romantic gestures up to 11.