1948 Bodkin Memorial Prize Essay
"Breakfast in Bed" by Patrick O'Byrne
Bodkin Memorial Prize Essay
BY PATRICK O'BYRNE
BREAKFAST IN BED
Good morning, Mary! Thank you, I'm quite awake—just leave it on the table. Oh—and, Mary, would you pull across the curtains, please. Thank you!
Yes, I'm quite awake, now. What a beautiful morning it is, and what a beautiful bed. I shall wait a while before I begin to eat, and tantalize myself with pleasant anticipation. How sweet it is to mortify the lawful appetites, and, then—to bite and chew and smack the lips. However, this has gone far enough. Mortification is all very well, but in the morning—no!
Corn-flakes to begin with, fresh from the Waxtite Heat-sealed Inner Wrap. Here is breakfast-food at its very best—crisp, colourful and tasty. Sugar? But, of course—three, four, five generous spoonfuls. See! how they fall, little white grains on a floor of golden wafers. Then, the cream, splashing from the jug, and falling noiselessly on the laden plate. The dish is now ready for consumption, and, as I crunch the flakes joyfully between my teeth, I think to myself : All this, and healthful, too!
Again I recline on the yielding pillow, while the wireless downstairs provides a sleepy intermission. "Good morning, housewives! " comes the cheery voice, interrupting the sweet strains of the orchestra. " We bring you another batch of your favourite recordings, to cheer you as you bustle about the homestead." The voice dies away, and, with background music of just the right .flavour, I return to my tray.
Cook and psychologist, that's our Mary! Now, she could have sent me up a boiled egg, but, somehow, that would have been inappropriate. If she had poached the thing, half the luscious yolk would have been lost and, besides, poached eggs always leave a taste. A fried breakfast is fine when you are sitting down at table, with stomach erect, and plenty of elbow-room. You want to dig lustily into rashers and sausages, and scoop up the yolk with golden-fried bread. But, with a tray balanced precariously on the knees, style is very much cramped, and vigorous eating is impossible. What joy, then, to find Mary's scrambled eggs artistically arranged on a piece of warm-buttered toast, and crowned with a sprig of parsley! That woman is a priceless treasure, her kitchen a home of genius!
The eggs well disposed of, (although their memory still lingers), I sink back into my favourite pose. Here, I run into trouble, serious trouble : my conscience is disturbed, and I am required to justify- my sloth. The case for the prosecution is undeniably strong! Morning is far advanced, and already the sun is high in the heavens. I, the defendant, am young and, to all appearances, perfectly healthy. Yet, here I lie, indulging myself fondly, and contemplating food like an epicure. This demands an explanation. Badly rattled for a moment, I begin to think feverishly. I was out late last night, and, after all, some allowance must be made for youth on holiday. Besides, I never really asked to have my breakfast in bed. It was there before I had a chance to even think of getting up.
The logic may be somewhat faulty, but, anyway, the result is wonderful. I decide to drop the matter completely. Feeling infinitely pleased with myself, I turn with great relish to the toast and marmalade.
This is a food of noble character, an age-old institution, an indispensable part of the breakfast ritual. It is universal in its appeal, and finds its place on all kinds of tables, in all kinds of houses. It is never missing from mine—I would not hear of it!
Extremely generous in all matters relating to food, I cut deeply into the little pile of butter, and spread it thickly over the first piece of toast. The marmalade, too, comes in large lumps. An excellent brand—" Little Chip," I think they call it. In all the best novels of modern life, the morning paper is read over toast and marmalade, but this added joy is denied me. The paper is late! By the time I have spent my disgust at this mild inconvenience, three pieces of toast have been tucked away. I reach for the last, and linger over its dressing. A few deft bites, a series of noisy crunchings, and the tray is laid bare, except for the glass of milk!
I never drink tea in the morning—milk is so much fresher, so delightfully cool! Now it is all that remains to me for contemplation, so I take the glass in my hand, and dwell on the wonderful food-values of this sweet, white liquid. Rich in calcium! A wealth of protein! Laden with carbohydrates! A gold-mine of good heavens, I've spilt it!!
Breakfast, m'lord, has been served! The sheets are a trifle damp on the surface, and no beverage passed my lips this morning. The paper was a little late, too, and for a time I was troubled by scruples of mind. Nevertheless, the meal was fine, I am ridiculously comfortable, and everything is now completely under control. From my snug position between the warm sheets, I scorn the cheerless floor, and can even disregard the allure of the sun. My spirit cries in open defiance: What hath morn to do with rising?