Post by Alison Hein.
All you Downton Abbey fans are familiar with the habit of married ladies languishing in their boudoirs while gentlemen fetch their own breakfasts in the drawing room (wow, what a great idea!). The fact that one has the time and means (and someone to serve them) to partake of an indulgent breakfast in bed has come to symbolize the epitome of luxury.
Today, I thought I’d share with you some other Breakfasts in Bed of which you may not be aware. First up, Mary Cassatt’s endearing painting of a quiet morning shared between mother and daughter. Women and children were prominent figures in the work of Cassatt, an American Impressionist who studied in Pennsylvania before settling in Paris. This lovely painting was created in 1897 and currently hangs in the Huntington Library in California. Curators there have this to say about the painting: “With the child centrally located in an upright pose, Cassatt depicts a quiet but charged moment in which a mother embraces her daughter, whose attention is elsewhere. Contrasting the mother’s protective action and gaze with her offspring’s curiosity and the world beyond her reach, Cassatt evokes the subtle tensions implicit in the relationship of parent to child”.
You can read more about Cassatt’s Breakfast in Bed on the Huntington Library site.
Now then, have you heard Dusty Springfield’s sultry and bluesy Breakfast in Bed? It was released on her 1969 album Dusty in Memphis, and was later recorded and popularized by Baby Washington on Cotillion. The R&B song was written by Muscle Shoals songwriters Eddie Hinton and Donnie Fritts. They knowingly paid “homage” to the line “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me,” the title of a song which had previously been a number one hit for Dusty in the UK. Watch her performance on YouTube:
Many other performers reproduced Breakfast in Bed, including three reggae versions performed by Lorna Bennett, Scotty, and Bongo Herman.
Then there’s the German comedy movie Breakfast in Bed (Frühstück im Doppelbett) that came out in 1963. It’s about the wife of a newspaper editor who grows sick of his frequent absences. Don’t worry – they reconcile in the end. I’m not sure what to make of this but you can see a snippet of it here:
Finally, I’d like to leave you with a few words of etiquette wisdom penned by Emily Post in 1922 (see the full text here: http://www.bartleby.com/95/25.html ):
BREAKFAST DOWNSTAIRS OR UP: Breakfast customs are as varied in this country as the topography of the land! Communities of people who have lived or traveled much abroad, have nearly all adopted the Continental breakfast habit of a tray in their room, especially on Sunday mornings. In other communities it is the custom to go down to the dining-room for a heavy American (or English) meal.
PREPARING BREAKFAST TRAY: The advantage of having one’s guests choose breakfast upstairs is that unless there is a separate breakfast room, a long delayed breakfast prevents the dining-room from being put in order or the lunch table set. Trays, on the other hand, stand “all set” in the pantry and interfere much less with the dining-room work. The trays are either of the plain white pantry variety or regular breakfast ones with folding legs. On each is put a tray cloth. It may be plain linen hemstitched or scalloped, or it may be much embroidered and have mosaic or filet lace.
Every bedroom has a set of breakfast china to match it. But it is far better to send a complete set of blue china to a rose-colored room than a rose set that has pieces missing. Nothing looks worse than odd crockery. It is like unmatched paper and envelopes, or odd shoes, or a woman’s skirt and waist that do not meet in the back. There is nothing unusual in a tray set, every china and department store carries them, but only in “open” stock patterns can one buy extra dishes or replace broken ones; a fact it is well to remember. There is a tall coffee pot, hot milk pitcher, a cream pitcher and sugar bowl, a cup and saucer, two plates, an egg cup and a covered dish. A cereal is usually put in the covered dish, toast in a napkin on a plate, or eggs and bacon in place of cereal. This with fruit is the most elaborate “tray” breakfast ever provided. Most people who breakfast “in bed” take only coffee or tea, an egg, toast and possibly fruit.
Well, I’ll be sure to check that the Downton Abbey staff keeps their crockery in order. And you should be sure to luxuriate in your own form of breakfast in bed, whether culinary, musical, or lyrical, whenever possible.