The giggles in the hallway, the urgent instructions for mum to stay in bed and the wonky homemade card are just a few of the elements many mothers will recognise from their Mother's Day breakfast in bed.
Chef and goodfood.com.au food editor Karen Martini knows the ritual well. The mother of two girls, Amber, 5, and Stella, 7, she was treated last year to scrambled eggs with parsley, wholewheat toast, her favourite jams and a pot of tea. Prepared by the girls with a little help from their father, Martini says the experience was like “a family picnic in the bedroom”.
With a chef for a mum, Amber and Stella might have a slight advantage over other children – they've been watching and helping their mother cook for years – but with a little help and supervision, there's a lot that children can achieve in the kitchen. In fact, Martini says cooking is the "best hobby” for kids and ideally something they can do with their parents, watching and learning as they help.
Stephanie Alexander has fond memories of Mother's Day breakfasts prepared by her two daughters, and even though she now says she isn't really fond of breakfast in bed – “all those crumbs” – she also has warm memories of scrambled eggs made by her daughters. In fact, an egg would still top her Mother's Day wish-list.
An advocate of the idea that every child should learn to cook, Alexander recommends getting children to help in the kitchen as soon as they are able to safely stand on a stool. “There's plenty to be done with rolling pins and a spreading knife without the children being in any danger," she says. "Give them some dough to play with and let them stir the scone mix.” In her Kitchen Garden Foundation program children from years 3 to 6 are soon cooking, even with no experience. A little encouragement is all it takes for confidence to grow.
Food stylist, cook and author Sheridan Rogers knows what kids can do in the kitchen. She runs a cooking school for children in Sydney and says young children, from two to three years of age and onwards, love to cook, smudging flour around on the kitchen bench and punching the pizza dough. “My three-year-old granddaughter is quite keen on helping to peel carrots," Rogers says, "and she loves to help with rolling bliss balls in coconut."
Her own memories of Mother's Day include her children “bringing me a tray in bed decked out with a small vase of flowers, napkin, cutlery, a buttery croissant, sourdough toast topped with avocado, tomato and cracked black pepper and a cup of tea (albeit a little too milky!).”
Preparing a Mother's Day breakfast can encourage children to cook even when it's a joint effort with their parents.
Martini recommends that children first ask their mum what she would like. The best breakfast might be a cup of tea and toast, but if pancakes or eggs are on the menu, children will need to compile a shopping list and get an adult on board. “Scrambled eggs aren't that hard, or maybe fresh fruit and yoghurt,” she says.
Presentation is a great way for children to contribute – from gathering some sprigs of herbs from the garden, to finding a lovely napkin and a pretty cup and plate, or making a handmade card. “Not everything has to come from a shop – they are so proud when they do it themselves," she says.
For preschoolers Alexander suggests something as simple as cinnamon toast. Working with an adult, a small child can mix and sprinkle the sugar and cinnamon, and spread the butter.
For older children, pancakes often top the list. Alexander's quince pancakes are simple to make and the quince can be substituted for another cooked fruit, such as apples or pears, or berries, if preferred. Cheesy bread-and-butter pudding or a simple Turkish bread pizza make a great breakfast or brunch too, Alexander says.
Rogers says there are lots of easy but impressive things for children to do on Mother's Day: a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, Bircher muesli (prepared the night before) topped with toasted nuts and fresh seasonal fruit, or fruit toast with creamed ricotta and sliced figs. Scrambled eggs topped with snipped chives over smoked salmon on sourdough toast is another option for kids confident with a frying pan or who have an adult on hand to help.
It's always worth remembering that Mother's Day breakfasts aren't always culinary triumphs. Menu malfunctions, an overenthusiastic approach to ingredients and lack of experience mean what ends up on the tray doesn't always live up to or even resemble its original description. But even if the tea is too milky, the toast is cold and the bed ends up full of crumbs, cherish the experience, because children grow up too fast and before you know it, these precious moments of family time will just be memories.
Happy Mother's Day.