Nigella Lawson keeps condiments in her nightstand, and has long been an advocate of dining in bed. But what is acceptable to eat between the sheets – and what is best avoided?
Snoop through Nigella Lawson’s bedside cabinet and you will find things that could shock and appall you: mustard, Tabasco and other chilli sauces, soy sauce, salt. “I have learned to keep a little collection of condiments,” the chef said, during a talk in Australia. According to the report, the audience laughed, and Lawson became defensive: “It’s not meant to be funny. It’s very helpful.” It is. A revelation, in fact. As a fellow bed-diner, I will be stocking my nightstand with a similar assortment, once I get out of bed.
Whether you do it in bed – eating, that is; I share Alan Partridge’s abhorrence at other food-related bedroom activities – is a divisive issue. I knew an ex and I would have no future together when he caught me in bed with a packet of crisps. I can remember his look of disgust and disappointment, as I was rumbled, hand guiltily poised above a bag of sea-salt-and-cider-vinegar Tyrells (OK, pickled onion Monster Munch, but really, enough shame).
It’s hard to know what is socially acceptable, and what isn’t. Breakfast in bed is allowed, aspirational even; supper is considered slobbish. Tea in bed is fine; soup in bed is apparently not fine. People who have been asked to comment on these things have warned that the detritus of bed-eating can attract pests and, therefore, that sheets should be changed every three days, as if the flecks from an arrabiata sauce are any worse than the dribble that pools on your pillow in the night.
But these, I believe, are the warnings of pinched people who only see stains and crumbs, instead of the deep, cocooning pleasure of warm food under warm blankets. Some of my best and most memorable meals have been in bed, such as the homemade vegetarian Scotch eggs with – crucially – runny yolks (forbidden in pregnancy) that I had in the bedbound, bewildering days after I had a baby. But everyday eating also becomes better in bed. Working from home, my lunch is often a sandwich, plate resting on the layers of blankets, cup of tea on the bedside table.
A degree of thought will make bed-dining a more comfortable experience. If you’re having more than one course, ice-cream or a hot pudding won’t do, but something that will survive at room-temperature (cheese and biscuits work well). A firm pillow, so you can sit almost upright. Crockery should be sturdy, and bowls should have a large flat bottom. Nigella Lawson uses a “food towel” to catch crumbs and stains; I prefer a large napkin, or a clean tea-towel, preferably ironed to maintain some sophistication. A tray is essential – I favour one with a padded underside. One day, I will treat myself to a proper bed tray, with legs. And to that, I will add, like Lawson, an array of condiments.
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