Sunday, October 16, 2005

Brunch and World Peace

Perhaps I have just been trained to question the assumptions upon which socially constructed lines are drawn. Or maybe I was simply drawn in by the promise of unlimited refills of coffee. But in the past few years, I have come to embrace, and indeed to love, the wonderful ambiguity of brunch.

For some it is about pancakes, for others it is about roast chicken. But for all of us who participate in the weekly ritual of brunch, it is about reclaiming a meal, and making it uniquely our own.

Brunch stands proud in the face of breakfast and lunch, the slaves of gastronomic regimentation. The morning and afternoon meal were invented for reasons of efficiency, crudely balancing our biological needs on the one hand with our drive for maximum productivity on the other.

However, on Sundays, I refuse to have the social forces dictate when I can and cannot eat my eggs. I defy anyone to deny me a waffle at three in the afternoon. I am the master of my own meal.

But brunch is not only about the blurring of time/food-specific lines. For me, there are also social and psychological benefits to relaxing the grind of daily routine. Sure, I see friends during the week. Usually we cram each other in between a meeting and hip hop aerobics. Great, let’s sit, have a coffee and a meaningful catch-up session in 35 minutes. Shit - better make it 30. My best conversations with friends often occur over our third cup of coffee. By that time the superficial pleasantries are through, and we have that happy and focused on each other caffeine buzz.

Of course, some people require a period of acculturation before they "get" brunch. I went for brunch a few weeks ago with a friend who spent the whole sipping-coffee-waiting-for-food period of brunch (which is my favourite brunch period) on her blackberry. Then, once the food arrived, she frequently checked her blackberry. She sporadically felt phantom (i.e. false) vibrations in her purse. Never a good sign.

This morning, after reading the paper, I started to feel a bit guilty about focusing this blog entry on the topic of brunch. There are horrible and catastrophic events occurring all over the world. How shallow am I that I choose to take up time and webspace with a tribute to eggs?

I spent this past Thursday fasting on Yom Kippur - the Jewish day of atonement. We are supposed to repent for what we have done wrong and commit to mending our ways in the coming year. While I’m very far from religious, I always fast on Yom Kippur. For me, the fast has a number of humanistic spiritual benefits. One is that it sensitizes me to the plight of those who routinely go without food and reminds me of how privileged I am.

In fact, many of the Jewish rules and regulations focus on food. What we can eat, what we can’t eat, and how our food should be prepared. In trying to get a satisfactory explanation for why we’re not supposed to eat pigs (these days they’re clean, and tasty, right?) a number of sources tell me the same thing: the point perhaps is not that we can’t eat *pigs,* per se, but that we can’t eat *everything.* The kosher laws are supposed to be, if nothing else, a self-enforced pause. We are to become conscious about the food we eat and the act of eating itself.

Indeed, as I sit at my desk and mow down on granola bars, or shovel bran flakes into my mouth while standing up, listening to the radio, and brushing my hair in the mornings, the act of eating is mechanical, semi-conscious, and certainly unappreciated.

And then it hit me - for me brunch is a good and nearly spiritual endeavour. I slow down. I appreciate my food. I appreciate my friends. I take time to give thanks for what is important. I make plans to do good things in the coming week. In short, greasy spoons are my church. And I would say that $4.99 for eggs, toast, hash browns, and coffee is a small price to pay for a little piece of heaven.


Blogger Lisa said...

My dear sister,
Chez Cora closes at 3pm for a reason. Even Montreal, home to the best of brunch, from the brunch only restaurant, to the club-at-night-brunch-in-the-morning type restaurant acknowledges this egg-limit you speak of. Like all good things, brunch, packed between breakfast and lunch, must end at 3pm. For after 3 we much call it linner. And this does not typically entail egg consumption, unless you are our mother.

2:55 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...


You are a confirmed starbucks addict and now a brunch glutton... What's next? Cigars at 10:00am? Chewing tobacco all day? The road to Hell is paved with scrambled eggs and waffles, my dear.


8:43 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

“Kyrie eleison”
Well, I'm hoping that being friends with a choir boy will save me. Sort of virtue by proxy?

And as for you, Lisa, I feel sorry for you and your regimented brunch outlook. Free your mind, and the rest will follow...

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"For me, the fast has a number of humanistic spiritual benefits. One is that it sensitizes me to the plight of those who routinely go without food and reminds me of how privileged I am."
thanks nadine, i've been trying for years to figure out a coherent way to explain why i fast. and you did so just beautifully.

12:09 PM  
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11:53 PM  
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6:06 AM  
Blogger kjh1972 said...

The weekend days I meet my friends for brunch or dim sum usually turn into the best days. Nothing like a great meal after a few hours waking up on Saturday or Sunday morning. And weekend chores deserve a little procrastination too.

3:50 PM  
Blogger JP said...

I agree whole-heartedly. May not be the best place in the world, but The Pickle Barrel serves breakfast until they close. I've found myself there on many a week-end occasion, in the evening, even late at night...

4:58 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

Thanks JP, good tip! It has been a while since I was at the Pickle Barrel, though I spent a stupid amount of time there in high school. Somehow it was a cool place to hang out then. Love their waffles.

9:11 AM  

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