Food & Drink

“Brunch, We Need to Talk...”

One Man’s Conflicted Relationship with America’s Favorite Meal

By Sam Eichner ·
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Maybe it’s the $16 eggs benedict.

Or the hordes of Instagram-ready morning people, giddily snapping filtered photos of their elegantly plated seasonal vegetable scramblers.

Or, more likely, the fact that it’s usually 11am, and I’m hungover and still waiting in the cramped threshold of an upscale café for the opportunity to sit at a table crafted from the recycled wood of a felled oak tree and sip artisanal drip coffee served in mismatched mugs sourced to approximate a sort of grandmotherly kitsch.

Whatever the exact cause may be, the honeymoon phase is over. The luster has worn off. And I now find myself particularly irked by the otherwise innocuous weekend hours between 10am and 2pm. The time we call “brunch.”

It wasn’t always this way. A year or so ago, I too would savor these lazy Sunday mornings spent clinking champagne flutes across the yolky graveyard of overpriced fried-egg sandwiches, sourdough toast and a startling panoply of butters and jams. I liked the hubbub, the listlessness, the way it sort of meandered on with a calculated nonchalance. In short: if breakfast was the workingman’s most important meal of the day, brunch felt like the opposite—a grand “fuck you” to anything resembling necessity.

But maybe that’s the problem with brunch: it’s not a meal, it’s an event, and events have the tendency to go in and out of style (see: the rise and fall and then subsequent rise and fall of DJ-led party brunches). Just as Hallmark invented Valentine’s Day, so too did enterprising restaurants invent brunch—a made-up portmanteau describing a made-up meal between two other, actual meals. At least that’s what I tell myself, as I forlornly munch on a stale bagel and tasteless coffee from the Great American Bagel, in staunch defiance of the probably delicious brunch happening next door.

Point is, the big to-do of it—the waiting, the high volume and aggressive brightness, the having to get dressed... it all grows pretty taxing. And like many once-beautiful relationships, its original splendor has been tarnished. In this case, by the whole spectacle of it all, and by the gaggle of participants whose primary objective for attending brunch seems to be obtaining visual proof of having gone to brunch.

All of which leaves me longing for the basics: scrambled eggs and fatty bacon; a few slices of not-whole-wheat toast; some store-bought OJ, sans cava; a prim, apron-clad waitress; a curmudgeonly, newspaper-toting proprietor—in general, outdated notions of breakfast food and the people you’ll find in 24-hour diners.

Now, it might be rash to claim I’m quitting brunch forever, or even that I’ll be capable of holding out past next month. I do love chorizo, after all, and I’ve yet to discover an aioli I didn’t want to overzealously spoon onto my hash browns. And then there’s the whole quiche thing—specifically, the fact that I really like putting it in my mouth.

But for the time being, it feels good to look this overhyped event in its farm-fresh, poached-egg eyes, channel these pent-up feelings of confusion, betrayal and hunger, and say, “Brunch, it’s been a good run, but it’s time for me to see other meals.”

Sam Eichner likes literature, reality television and his twin cats equally. He has consistently been told he needs a shave since he started growing facial hair.

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