When I read Victorian and pre-WW II fiction, or watch Upstairs, Downstairs, or Merchant/ Ivory sorts of movies, I am struck by the way the comfortably off characters move un-self-consciously through their lives, attended by servants, apparently entirely untroubled that other people are witnessing their most intense and personal moments.
I would be so embarrassed; I could not bear to have a bunch of disinterested semi-strangers hanging around in my house all the time, regardless of the convenience. Even with out the inevitable guilt which would come with being waited on, I could never feel truly relaxed. Clearly not to-the-manor-born, me. And yet now, living alone, with no one to trade at-home indulgences with me, I can imagine two pleasures which would almost be worth the attendant awfulness of having live-in help, with or without a frilly cap- tea in bed and a nice boiled egg.
From the moment my mother was able to clutch a mug in her baby fingers, until my father was hospitalized during his final illness, she had a cup of tea brought to her in bed virtually every morning of her life. When she was growing up, her brothers made morning tea for her, and for her sister and my grandmother. They fixed it before they went to work, woke their womenfolk gently, and set it on the tables by their beds.
My father took over from there, and I, too, was the lucky beneficiary of this tradition, growing up. When I went off to college, it was cold turkey on the tea...and Bill, a seriously heavy sleeper, never took to the practice. (Though he did wash the dishes every day of his too short life, something my father only took up on retirement.) But it is wonderful thing, waking up to a cup of tea in the morning, and I commend it to you, if you can arrange it for yourself.
Another treat which is so much better when someone else fixes it for you, is the boiled egg, mostly because timing is such a major factor. I should perhaps explain that I have a bit of a thing about eggs. I think they are gorgeous, and am particularly inamoured of the multi-hued eggs of auracana fowl, seen here in a photo swiped from google, taken by someone called "Thornius the bird man", who posts on a gardening forum. Also, I love duck eggs, quail eggs, and am willing to try any unendangered species bird egg on offer. Indeed, my fantasies of a perfect existence involve my own chickens (and possibly a dairy goat). These fantasies are destined to be unfulfilled, since I am a confirmed urban dweller, and live in an apartment. (Actually, I haven't entirely given up on the chickens...I've been reading about some urban chickens of late. But I'd definitely need to have a place with a yard, and very tolerant neighbors.)
If I could be sitting at at table, sipping some very hot coffee and reading my newspaper when my perfect 4 minute egg arrived, I would be so very grateful. It would be neatly topped, and accompanied by a stack of buttered toast "soldiers"* for dipping, and a small pile of mixed salt and pepper to stick to the runny yolk once my toast, or small egg spoon, has been dipped. Perfect moment, that. Sure, I can and do fix one for myself, from time to time, but it is far less luxurious, and something usually is not as hot as one would wish.
Soft boiled egg service generally only happens to a person who has a mother, or other doting relative on hand. When we were small, my little brother was encouraged to eat his egg all up, because when he did, the egg would be turned around in its cup, and the penciled "sad" face would be replaced by the "happy" egg she drew on the other side. Unlike me, he had an iffy appetite.
Prior to the appearance of this little interloper, I was taken, a toddler, to visit my mother's English family. They still had two chickens in a shed in the garden then, from the days of rationing and food coupons for chicken feed. I was allowed to go fetch my own breakfast egg every morning, and quickly became attached to this ritual. One day I came back with my egg, looking dismayed and weepy. Questioned, I was sure that the chickens must be sick; the eggs were cold! It turned out that when my Auntie Louie had gone out to check earlier, no egg had been laid. As she didn't want me to be disappointed, she'd planted a couple from the fridge.
Neither of these most excellent treats is in any way costly, but the personal element can be tricky to arrange. More precious than rubies, eh? I suppose having live-in servants makes affluent adults feel a bit like doted-upon children?
* It seems that toast "soldiers" is an English term, I've heard "toast fingers" here. Buttered strips of toast are the perfect accessory for "dippy eggs". Some guy in the UK has designed a stamp thing, specifically for the creation of perfect toast soldiers. A hoot, no? I think you stamp the bread prior to toasting, and then break or cut along the dotted line. Not surprisingly perhaps, these are unavailable in the US. I was sufficiently intrigued to try ordering one from Amazon.co.uk. Although they are quite happy to send me books I can't find here, somewhat mysteriously they find themselves "unable" to ship me a small plastic device.