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Oh crumbs! What to eat when working from bed – from scotch eggs to onigiri

Dale Berning Sawa
·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images

The musician St Vincent once tweeted – long before Covid – that she enjoyed eating meals in bed so much that she was considering buying an additional one “expressly for that purpose”. She was ahead of the pack: until recently, most of us would have seen breakfast in bed as a treat, but having lunch there as an aberration.

Hot stuff ... stock up on condiments like tabasco.
Hot stuff ... stock up on condiments like tabasco. Photograph: Thomas J Peterson/Alamy Stock Photo

However, if you are fully committed to working à l’horizontale, you will need to figure out food.

First things first: get kitted out. Use a cushioned tray covered with a clean tea towel or large napkin, plus sturdy, stable dishes that won’t immediately tip over. Take a tip from Nigella Lawson and stock your bedside cabinet with condiments; hers holds mustard, Tabasco and other chilli sauces, soy sauce and salt.

When it comes to what to eat, opt for things best enjoyed at room temperature. Crumbs, obviously, are to be avoided. I would add to that anything that drips, flakes, spills or smells, or at least produces any smell that would later stop you sleeping. (If it weren’t scientifically impossible, I would happily bake cinnamon buns in my bed, but that’s just me.)

Essentially, what you are after is good packed lunch or bento box filler. A solidly made sandwich, for example, on some kind of dense-crumbed bread – no ludicrously aerated sourdough slices that leave all the filling on your plate – with a filling that isn’t too wet or too lumpy. A tight cream cheese bagel would work, with a pickle or two and some smoked salmon if you are feeling flush. Wrap well, then slice through the paper like a pro – sorted.

Other reliable options include scotch eggs, mini pork pies and cold quiche in a shortcrust case (definitely not flaky pastry).

Rice and simple ... onigiri.
Rice and simple ... onigiri. Photograph: Canacol/Getty

If those feel a little unadventurous, what about savoury muffins or slices of salty loaf cakes (the French kind – a basic butter, eggs, yoghurt and flour affair, flavoured with cheese, olives, ham, herbs, you name it)?

If rice, rather than wheat, is your staple, Japanese rice balls – or onigiri – will sort you out. You need short-grained rice, cooked sticky (ie with a 1:1 water-to-rice ratio). Wet your hands slightly and sprinkle with salt, then take a small handful of hot cooked rice and shape into a triangle or a ball. Make a dent in the middle with your thumb, and stuff with a little of whatever filling takes your fancy (tuna or egg mayo, seasoned seaweed, bonito fish flakes with a drop of soy). Shape again until tight and compact, then wrap in a strip of nori (seaweed).

Arancini would be a delicious alternative, although the deep-fried nature would put me off, what with needing to move bedclothes to wash hands. Then again, no one says you have to eat with your hands. Personally, I can’t wrap my head around the laptop and cutlery on duvet combo.

For snacks, go for kids’ finger food – celery, cucumber, bell pepper, carrot sticks, sliced apple and pear. No cooking required and minimal mess to eat, needing neither dressing nor seasoning to taste decent. Plus, they are as faultlessly nutritious as the sweet snacks that WFH has otherwise landed on us is not.

Something sweet ... homemade cookies.
Something sweet ... homemade cookies. Photograph: Glasshouse Images/Alamy

Speaking of which, there will be times when working al bedsko would be unbearable without a stash of homemade chocolate chip cookies – the thicker, the chocolatier, the chunkier, the doughier the better. Make a large batch of dough (Felicity Cloake has a great recipe), spoon out on to a baking tray with an ice-cream scoop, then freeze to bake as needed.