De-commercialized brunch, for non-jerks

Updated Oct 12 2015
Guest post by Amy Watkins
Heart brunch? Heart quiche!
Heart brunch? Heart quiche!

I grew up in a family of six with a single income from construction work, so dinners out were incredibly rare. We did sometimes go out for breakfast, but it was an intimate affair, always one parent and one child. On Sundays, usually my dad's only day off, he would rise early and slip out of the house with just one of us for hot chocolate and greasy hash browns at the truck stop diner.

I remember those pre-dawn breakfasts as a luxury — not just the hash browns and white toast we never had at home, but the time with my dad was a treat. Lingering over one more cup of coffee, he told me stories he didn't usually have time for, and I felt special, important, grown up, and loved.

Breakfast is still my favorite meal "out." I love it and its late-sleeping, lazy, big city cousin, brunch, so I read David Shaftel's headline in The New York Times, "Brunch Is for Jerks" and reacted with the expected outrage.

You killjoy! Who hates brunch?

As with so many things in life the problem isn't with brunch itself but with the jerks who participate in it. Clickbait headline aside, Shaftel has a point…

Falling for "conspicuous consumption disguised as urbanity" is a problem. He implies that it's a millennial problem, but we're all susceptible to it. Consumerist culture says that if we buy the right things, eat at the right restaurants, pose in the right light, hang out with the right crowd, we can become the sophisticated adults we aspire to be, at least on Instagram. Taken to an extreme, consumerism turns even one's circle of friends into a set of Pokémon cards to be collected and shown off. Ooh! I don't have a communist poet yet. Better invite her to brunch!

So, what's a girl who loves French toast and home fries and, gods help me, mimosas to do?

If brunch is the family meal of many young professionals, as Shaftel says, then the luxury of brunch is time, not money spent. Time to relax with your "framily" (my eleven-year-old's word for our close friends). Time to linger over mimosas or one more cup of coffee. Time for real blueberries, not those weird purplish pellets that come in cheap pancake mix. Those luxuries don't cost much, and they're not things you can really show off. You might say they're a little more breakfast than brunch: less fancy, more intimate.

If you're looking for an excuse to make non-consumerist brunch a framily tradition, you might start with Waffle Day. According to a Wikipedia article I read years ago, it's a Swedish holiday. I don't know what they do to celebrate it in Sweden, but our version is an all-day potluck. I make scads of waffle batter, and everyone else brings toppings and sides and hammocks, and we linger. We indulge in the luxury of time. I won't claim it's terribly sophisticated, but I know it makes us all feel special, important, and loved.

And it reminds me to call my dad.

  1. I have a group of lady friends from college that gets together once every couple of months for brunch. We go to a place in the suburbs of Philadelphia and we linger. Brunch can often take us three or four hours. We continue to patronize the same restaurant because they serve a locally sourced organic menu, have unlimited mimosas and sangria, and never rush us. We normally do a four course brunch with appetizers, main course, dessert, and sometimes cheese or soup thrown in for good measure.

    It's expensive, and it's definitely a splurge in my budget, but it's worth it to all of us to get out of our homes and away from our significant others for a few hours of serious friend time.

  2. When I was in my 20s, brunch with friends was only practical. You were drunk the night before, you're starving, and you don't want to cook or don't have food in the house. That's what brunch was for, and still is.

  3. I realize that you framed the brunching isn't just for assholes around your Dad taking you to breakfast, but your last line gave me a gut-punch of feels.

    And it reminds me to call my dad.

    That line, right there, perfect.

  4. Framily! Your child is a genius.

    I appreciate your support of brunch as a celebration of friends, family, and relaxation time. I love brunch. I don't understand how a whole meal can get a bad name because of what it symbolizes. I sometimes find brunch easier than dinner to schedule, and it's an extra treat because breakfast is an under-loved meal in our house.

  5. Here, brunch is so not A Thing. Possibly related to the fact that most counties here don't allow liquor sales on Sunday at all/before noon…

    But lazy Sunday breakfast at home is one of my favorite framily traditions. For me, it's certainly a luxury of pure enjoyment; my breakfast is usually prepackaged and eaten on the way out the door, so something warm before noon is a delight.

  6. One of the most memorable meals of my entire life was brunch.

    I had fallen in with a pack of gutter punk crusty kids. They spent all day Friday panhandling their hearts out. Saturday morning, as the only person with a valid ID, I was dispatched to the local liquor store to pick up champagne. Other teams went out to collect the english muffins and eggs, etc. Then 3 people formed a work detail in the kitchen and churned out enough eggs benedict, complete with little leafy herb sprinkles, and mimosas for 30 people. I ate my brunch in a tree house with a St Bernard wearing a blue bandanna and his human, a charming boy with facial tattoos and a dreadlocked mohowak.

    Brunch is awesome.

  7. Brunch for my husband and I is now a key part of our weekend relaxation. We sit, we eat, we drink many coffees, and we have so much more conversation sitting at a table in one of our regular cafes than we do any night of the week eating dinner and watching TV. Occasionally I will exit for a girls' brunch elsewhere, but mostly? Brunch is an acknowledgement between my partner and I that we want to spend the one part of the week where we're both not exhausted and distracted with each other.
    Also, I can't poach eggs for buggery

    • We're the same way. My husband is a cook at restaurant that is only open for dinner (which, of course, means he works 3-11pm and always on the weekends) and I work a traditional Monday through Friday, 9-5 job. We almost NEVER have an entire day off together, but we do manage to go out to brunch almost every single Sunday. Could we/he stay home and make everything that's served at brunch? I'm sure. But cooking is his job. Being able to go out and have someone else cook for him and being able to spend time together is so awesome and relaxing.

  8. I didn't read the referenced click bait article, but i saw the headline and had the same gut reaction for a much less nostalgic reason. On the weekend, I won't get out of bed till 11. But I still want a good breakfasty meal after I've showered and gotten real clothes on. If we go out, tho, my partner is usually ready for the lunch menu. We frequent places that serve brunch so I can get my scrambled eggs and he's not stuck with a sandwich from IHOP. So obviously less nostalgic, but I don't think being a night owl makes me a jerk. 🙂 I just love early morning sleepy snuggles over getting up and ready to be presentable at a more traditional breakfast time.

  9. I did the thing where Wise Amelia said to Dumbass Amelia, "Do not click on the click-baity article. It will make you sad and angry over something silly," and then Dumbass Amelia grabbed the keyboard was like, " I DO WHAT I WANT! YOU AREN'T THE BOSS OF MEEEEEE!!!! I'M DOING THE THING!!!"
    Dumbass Amelia is so dumb.
    Anyway, I think brunch is awesome. I loved brunch as a kid, I love it now. Something that the Husbandit and I used to do is have a regular gaming + brunch event at our house called Dungeons and Danishes. It was a potluck brunch and we played a fun, low-key RPG while eating pancakes and drinking coffee. It was awesome and a great way to do gaming in such a way that left the rest of the day open for other stuff (late night gaming sessions are not for everyone). Now that many of my friends have kidlets, we've started a floating brunch + gaming party, we take turns hosting at each other's houses. So far, it's been great.

  10. I clicked the click-bait. I did. Why? I don't know. It's like reading the comments anywhere but here; sometimes I just can't help myself.

    Anyway : brunch! I love it. It's the only compromise for my breakfast-food-loving self and my no-breakfast-ever husband. It's definitely a thing in Montreal and some places have an hour-long line-up just to sit down. Brunch and gaming sounds like a swell mix. I'll suggest it to the hubby. Thanks for the idea!

  11. All get from the article are the complaints of a woman who's jealous of people who don't have children, or people who are fortunate enough to have more spare time than average. Frankly, I'd rather see hoards of people out at brunch with their friends and family two days a week than have them loose themselves in TV, Facebook and Pinterest. At least these people are spending their time connecting rather than disconnecting with real human beings. Don't like the kinds of people you see during brunch? Don't go out. Problem solved.

  12. I feel like hating on brunch as a "consumerist" "poser" "pseudointellectual" thing is another symptom of boomers getting grouchy about millennials, darn kids with their Twitters and Tumblrs and Instagram selfies. It's a bit Old Man Yells At Cloud.

    If you like brunch, but think everyone ELSE at brunch is a smug jerk just doing it to look cool, I feel like that says more about you than it does about our culture.

  13. Do it in a diner that serves breakfast all day – there is NOTHING pretentious when half the guys are in flannel and cowshit after finishing the morning chores on the local ranches.

    (My true story from working at a diner in Montana.)

    • THANK YOU. I moved to the South from Massachusetts about 12 years ago to go to college, and was introduced to Waffle House.

      My life is so much better. 🙂

  14. The original article, while a bit silly, I think is only referencing the sort of gentrified urban fancy brunch that doesn't include places like Waffle House and truck stop diners, or hosting get-togethers at your own home. So that's at least a point in its favor. It doesn't mention, however, the real problem with that sort of brunch out: the stupidly inflated expense of it. I can make stone-ground white cheddar grits, fresh-grated sweet corn polenta, braised garlic kale, and poached eggs topped with fresh hollandaise for about eight people for what it costs to buy one entree at most of the Boston brunch spots I've been to (granted, Boston is expensive). A $10 mimosa would buy me a whole bottle of the kind of cheap bubbly they're actually using to mix with my OJ. That's why restaurants do it; because while dinner and lunch foods actually cost a pretty substantial segment of what you pay for them, fancy brunch has a ridiculously high profit margin. But the food IS delicious and the company and relationship built IS heavenly, and the feeling of luxury and leisure IS a major plus. So I tend to make brunch at home and invite people over, which helps my wallet and fends off the probably fair accusations of being a 'conspicuous consumer'. If you have the money to burn, it's your business, I suppose, but honestly paying $14 for 2 poached eggs on a muffin is ridiculous.

  15. For me, brunch is the practical time for kid-havers and non-kid havers, day job-havers and non-dayjob-havers to get together. Weekend late mornings are the only time everyone's available. And since brunch is invariably a crowdpleaser (even for me, a breakfast food hater with the culinary palate of a 6 year old), its the tie that binds us.

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