I’d seen it done dozens of times in the movies and on TV. Dad and the kids surprise Mom – who is somehow still in bed, sleeping after the kids have woken up – with a lavish breakfast in bed. The kids climb up beside her as Dad puts the serving tray down and Mom smiles her big smile, with her hair looking well done and her face with just the right amount of glow provided from the makeup artist and lighting crew. Mom is overwhelmed by this simple gesture from her loving husband and children and that rough week she had is forgotten.
So, filled with cinema-inspired romance one morning, I decided I’d surprise my own wife after she’d gotten back late the night before from a cross-country flight. Now, this was before the logistical juggling act that is a typical morning with a child. All I had to do was make the breakfast and get it up to our room before my wife was up and about. Easy, right?
Not so much.
I know my way around the kitchen and have cooked my wife breakfast hundreds of times. There would be no ordinary over-medium eggs (the way she likes them) and buttered toast today. With visions of my wife’s beaming smile, the slightest hint of a tear in her eye and her hair blowing ever so slightly from a mysterious and non-present wind, I selected a recipe for French toast from my well-worn cookbook and set about my preparations.
With my favorite cast iron skillet reaching the perfect temperature, I placed my first egg soaked slice. That’s when things took a turn for the worse. Well, actually, they turned when I decided to add cinnamon (okay) and sugar (NOT okay) to the beaten eggs into which I’d dipped the bread. The sugar quickly began to caramelize and stick to the bottom of the skillet, forcing me to chisel up the bread and turning things into a decreasingly appetizing French disaster. I thought that perhaps a reduced cooking time would do the trick and removed the first slice from the heat a bit too early.
“Well, it doesn’t look too bad.”
Slice two fared even worse as my skillet had become a hopes-destroying inferno and filled my kitchen with the smells of burning sugar and fear, with just a hint of shame.
Before heading to present my not-so movie magic breakfast to my wife, I took a taste of the second piece I made.
“Oh. This is. Um...”
A few minutes later I presented my wife with two over-medium eggs (the way she likes them) with some buttered toast.
The lesson I learned? Keep your grand gestures simple. Give them what they like and throw in just a little something special. Like some strawberries with breakfast or fresh squeezed orange juice. If I had just kept things simple I could have saved myself some time.
And I wouldn’t have spent the rest of the morning cleaning the skillet. And the plate. And the spatula.