Note: This post has some potentially unappetizing opinions. Sorry, not sorry.
It’s time I confess: I don’t think I know how to brunch.
There’s not much to it, I hear you say: Waiting in line for hours to triple-fist uppers, downers, and artery-blockers . There’s the stridently hot coffee, always black; the carafe of sassy mimosa, heavy on the bubbly; the face-sized waffle topped with an entire fried chicken; and for no reason in particular, chocolate doughnuts.
I kid, of course. Brunch is not always so indulgent. More than just occasionally, however, it does seem to throw culinary norms out the window. We’re not just breaking the rules — we’re tossing them clean out the window. Heck, I wouldn’t think put to put syrup on hash browns or smoke in my pancakes, but there you have it. At brunch, it’s not just normal — it’s expected.
Why the gustatory extremes? At first glance, our Western eating habits are more loyal to taste than propriety or health. And yet, if someone serves you a powdered sugar-blanketed kielbasa roll and a Kouign Amann bread pudding with a side of fruit for dinner, you’d balk. It’s just not right.
Not so with brunch — brunch crowds applaud the innovation, the shakeup, the head-scratching “spaghetti against the wall” cookery. They’d probably also enjoy wall spaghetti.
I think the reason is simple: We need an indulgent gustatory space that has no boundaries. We need to eat and drink and not think — never mind what flavors are mingling on our plates. The appeal isn’t so much the flavor combinations (though these often pique our tastebuds), but the complete lack of order. That’s the delicious intrigue.
So why do I struggle to get on the brunch wagon? I’m a rule-follower. In culinary school, we were handed some unquestionable maxims: protein must rule a third of the plate, breakfast begins and ends with eggs, and you would never serve sushi before noon.
To be honest, I don’t know what I would do with a meal out of bounds. For years, I clung to the “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” adage. That implied, well, eggs — and the acceptable entourage of pastries, griddle fare, and fruit. The subtext? “This is the fuel you need to conquer your day.”
Just maybe, however, the importance of brunch is not the ignition of our metabolism as we kickstart our mornings, but something totally different. It’s less utilitarian — a rule-less adventure, firing our creativity and imagination.
I see you, brunch. I see what you’re doing. And yet, with all of the open doors your anarchic indulgence brings, I still trip over the simple fact that rules are nowhere to be found.