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Father's Day: Think Outside the Tie Box

Quick: I say Father's Day gift, you say what? Chocolates in the shape of golf balls. Barbecue tongs. A tie.

Over three generations of Father's Days, I've given all of the above. But what I've never given is breakfast in bed. Neither have most of my friends. Why?

"Breakfast in bed is a mom thing," says my husband. "Do dads even eat breakfast?" he asks. My 10-year-old son also has opinions. "Dads get up about a half-hour earlier than moms," he chimes in, "so it would be hard to surprise them."

Even though that's how things go in our house, it's time to make my husband breakfast in bed, whether or not he wants it. Cooking gives the kids so much satisfaction, and Father's Day really is all about them.

There is, however, one small problem. While I love to cook, and I love my kids, I don't always love cooking with my kids. So the trick is to find a recipe that's delicious, yet also simple enough that it won't result in a pre-dawn, all-family fight. It would be wrong to wake Dad up on Father's Day with a lot of yelling.

As I mulled it over, I realized I knew just what to do. A few years ago, the cover of Gourmet magazine featured perfect-looking eggs, sunny and bright, perched in beautiful cups made of ham. The recipe was pretty straightforward, but once we got our hands on it and really dumbed it down, it was absurdly easy. My kids and I can fairly claim we're able to cook an amazing breakfast that looks like the cover of Gourmet.

True, it doesn't look exactly the same. And the recipe's quite different. Gourmet, actually, wouldn't recognize it. But it looks good enough, and it tastes great. You just have to maintain realistically low standards.

Our revamped recipe will put off some people, either because they want a dish that looks perfect or because they don't do much cooking. That's why I decided to put this recipe to the ultimate test: I asked my friend Ruth to make it.

Ruth is a genius in many ways, but she's no Julia Child. She is, however, a good friend, and gamely agreed although even buying ham raised difficult questions for her. What kind of ham? How thick should it be?

I advised her to get it thin enough to drape but not so thin that it tears. Ruth bought a half-pound of ham that had been cut into only four slices -- a bit too thick to work with easily.

She rallied, however. She even thought of having her kids crack the eggs into a measuring cup before putting them in the ham cups to ensure a shell-free breakfast. Once the eggs were cooked, her family of five sat down to eat together and had a great time. She forgot about the "in bed" part, but it was just a dry run.

Her husband, a loving father who might be getting just the tiniest bit tired of hand-painted mugs after a decade of Father's Days, loved his breakfast. It might be enough to keep him in bed Sunday morning.

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Betsy Block