Sex! A veritable comedic apple tree laden with fruit that Frasier does not fear to pluck. The man himself is constantly having his leg-overs undermined by overbearing morals; Niles remains perpetually unrequited at the cold hands of Maris and the warm unattainable heart of Daphne; Roz gets what she wants when she wants and is an inspiration to us all, and Martin – well, Martin believes “sex is something between you, and the person you’re doing it to.” (Despite this decidedly one-sided pursed-lipped attitude, I feel like Martin nevertheless exudes an air of knowing how to get on with it and do a good job as a matter of god damn principle.) It’s his love life that gets an airing in Guess Who’s Coming To Breakfast, a relatively forgettable yet pleasantly lighthearted episode.
So, Martin has a date with Elaine from Apartment 14-12, and Frasier and Niles condescendingly predict an evening of like, eating creamed corn and playing bridge before turning in at 6pm for an early death. Martin and Elaine in fact spend the night together, as Frasier learns over the surprise titular shared breakfast the next day, and naturally cannot help but discuss it in great detail over the radio, thinking only of how this affects him and not of the privacy of literally anyone involved. Martin gets mad, Elaine gets mad, Frasier potentially screws things up further by apologising on his show and seemingly everyone in his apartment building listens in because they’re all waiting outside his door to see if Elaine will take Martin back. She does, the people cheer, and naturally we never, ever hear squeak of her name again. The Girl of the Week trope is ruthless and efficient.
What elevates this episode is two glorious set-pieces. The first is some wonderfully subtle physical comedy from rubber-limbed David Hyde Pierce as Niles, as he tries and fails repeatedly to hoist himself up on the bench while Daphne is cooking. As she looks away he limply attempts to lift his own body weight, as she looks at him he pauses and adopts a casual pose, and this goes back and forth until he smacks his head on the cupboard and lands flat on the floor, like a dragonfly against a windscreen.
The titular breakfast is a masterpiece of awkwardness, with a bathrobed Frasier’s calmness entirely pierced by the sudden presence of Elaine from Apartment 14-12, who was Elaine From Last Night and is now Elaine From This Morning. Frasier bumbles and doubles down on double entendres, and the harder he tries to be casual the more it unravels and he’s practically shrieking about “warm buns, Elaine? No not yours!” The absolute tenterhook-y skittishness that permeates the episode is a reflection of the puritanical American nature at large. Sitcoms are constantly centring their plots on the having or having not of the act but can only ever really hint at sex – like characters waking up with a gasp in bed, all offending body parts neatly tucked under the bedsheets, an off-screen bed-squeak, a character walking into the room adjusting their shirt, you know the uh, drill. It’s an uneasy mix that puts sex up on a pedestal without actually teaching us anything useful about it. Not that it’s useful to blame everything on television. There’s movies, too.
The recipe to go with this episode is some cinnamon rolls in honour of the warm buns – Daphne’s Granny Moon’s Sticky Buns, in fact – that so caused Frasier to trip over his own uselessness. This recipe, as is anything involving yeasted dough, looks a bit long-winded but it’s all very straightforward and easy and makes delicious nut-studded scrolls full of the warm hug-like spice of cinnamon. The flavour of these buns gets even better the next day, but you might need to microwave them for a bit to bring them back to life as they won’t last nearly as long as their store-bought counterparts.
- 250ml/one cup almond milk (or soy or regular milk)
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- 6 tablespoons plain vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 3 teaspoons instant dried yeast
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 2 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 cup pitted dates
- 1/4 cup chopped nuts
- 1 – 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 3 tablespoons golden syrup
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
Stir the almond milk and cider vinegar together in a large bowl and set aside for ten minutes. It will look a little curdled but this is chill, so don’t worry. Stir in the oil, vanilla, and salt, and then tip in your flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder and baking soda and use a wooden spoon to stir it into a thick dough. It should quickly form a springy, uniform dough that can be easily handled – if it’s too sticky and wet, add some more flour (just a little at a time) and if it’s too crumbly carefully add some more almond milk.
At this point, set your oven to 200C/400F and line a baking tray or dish with baking paper.
Roll out the dough to an inch thick rectangle. Drizzle with the golden syrup and sprinkle the nuts, chopped dates, cinnamon and brown sugar evenly over the surface. Roll up the dough from one of the long sides of the rectangle, so you’ve got a long tube of dough with the cinnamon-sugar-date-nut mix all spiralled up inside. Slice rings of dough from this spiral-tube, of roughly an inch thick, and place them snugly next to each other on the lined baking dish.
Cover with a teatowel and sit for 15 minutes to let them rise a little. Brush with a little extra almond milk if you wish.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden and crisp on top. Allow to cool slightly before eating. If you like, drizzle with a simple frosting made from mixing roughly half a cup of icing sugar with a tablespoon of cold water.
I’d like to acknowledge that this recipe owes a fair bit to this one on crazyvegankitchen.
Regrettably, Maris doesn’t really get a mention in this one – any articulated excuse for her to be offscreen always lifts an episode from the mere good to the sublime.
Favoured quote: Frasier walks in on Daphne comforting Niles on the floor and rolls his eyes, and Niles is all “I have a very sore head and a crackerjack lawyer so don’t crowd me.” Not much on paper I suppose but David Hyde Pierce’s clipped line reading is exquisite.
The actors playing the voices of the callers in to the radio show are particularly juicy this episode – Elijah Wood, who must’ve been very young, Piper Laurie, who was Carrie’s mom in Carrie and Catherine Martell in Twin Peaks, and rather wonderfully, Harry Mancini, composer of the song Moon River – which is played while Frasier apologises to Elaine on the radio. He died five months after this episode aired.
The only other thing I want to point out is that this episode is the introduction of office nerd Noel Shempsky, who Roz gamely goes on a date with. She doesn’t know it yet but he’ll spend the rest of the series pining for her, for now it’s just played for laughs that he’s into Star Trek. I appreciate her breezy up-for-it-ness though – she felt like seeing what he was bringing to the table and so she went for it.