The Mixed Bag on Brunch

Opinions_SarahSwindell_brunch_Summer Park_5.28.08_Flickr (1).jpg

Sarah Swindell
    Opinions Editor 

With me sleeping in, often after working late hours into the night, my first meal of the day is rarely at the appropriate time, so I inevitably combine my breakfast and lunch. The older I get, the later I wake up as my night owl behaviors escalade to possibly unsafe levels. But I am not here to talk about my poor sleeping habits.

Instead, I’m here to talk about the trendiest meal scene: BRUNCH. The transitional meal time has quickly evolved into an exaggerated affair with carafe of cocktails and fanciful quiches in tow. Personally, I’m a sucker for mimosas and quality breakfast food, but when I actually do go out with friends to brunch I have this underlying sense of hesitation.

Like it or not, brunch is an emerging subsection of the overall gentrification of American culture. As restaurants tack on brunch hours to pack their spaces with groups of loved ones wanting bloody marys and omelettes, it has become part of a larger process to transform areas into richer (and probably whiter) communities.

Sipping an overpriced cocktail in a trendy setting makes me feel too close to the elitist WASP women I’d prefer to make jokes about. (No offense to those who have horses, play tennis, wear designer wardrobes, “summer” somewhere, and identify with this ritzy faction of society, but many of your problems are typically superficial and I think you’re funny.)

Even though I’m a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, I certainly don’t have the prototypical financial luxuries I’m actually referring to. I don’t have the time to wait an hour to be seated on a Saturday at 10:30 AM in some loud and tightly packed room of customers. I can’t regularly afford to spend approximately seven or eight dollars on one drink.

Man Repeller, well-known fashion-focused blog based in New York, NY, had a “round table” on the subject of brunch with some of their staff and founder Leandra Medine.

Medine, in reference to the intensity of brunching that I concur with, noted, “I guess the other thing is that, as Americans, we do not understand moderation so everything that becomes a vague interest or disinterest is taken to the 110th power.”

Other aspects thrown around in the conversation regarding brunch were the event being “hedonism”, “kind of a mess”, and “more of a scene.” All these descriptions go back to the comment Medine made before – what once might have been a moment of communal lackadaisical eating has turned into a self-indulging chaos slowly consuming the neighborhood the brunch spot inhabits.

It was one thing when I woke up in high school at 11:00 a.m., and then “brunched” in my living room watching television with whatever family member was present. It’s another entirely when I have to spend my late-morning into early-afternoon waiting around to be a part of this large affair, and then drop a solid twenty dollars for something I could have made at home for five.

It just gives me so many conflicting feelings.

At the same time, these trendy restaurants that host brunch are typically in “up-and-coming” areas. Neighborhoods that were once regarded as lesser become happening places where fanciful restaurants serve up a more “cool” menu and atmosphere. The group of individuals able to brunch are the same people who are a part of gentrification in urban spaces.

David Shaftel wrote about his distaste for brunch in the New York Times in 2014. In his aptly named “Brunch Is for Jerks”, Shaftel creates a commentary that reflects all the reasons I’m hesitant to fully embrace this beloved meal.

He writes, “This leaves an increasing number of well-off young professionals who are unencumbered by children — exactly the kind of people who can fritter away Saturday, Sunday or both over a boozy brunch. Our once diverse neighborhood now brims with the homogeneity of an elite university.”

These people he describes are actually even seen in the Man Repeller piece. One of the staff members contributing to the conversation is against the attack on the brunch fad. Amelia Diamond makes a comment that shows she is exactly the person Shaftel complains about; the person I am fearful to resemble.   

In her argument, Diamond states, “I would like to point out that I think I earn my brunches because I wake up at 8 am and go to Connecticut and do a physical activity before half of the fellow brunch-goers have woken up.”

Another contributor, Kate Barnett, responds, “I’m sorry… You earn your brunches because you go to Connecticut to ride horses?”

This paints Diamond as a woman who works at a well-known media outlet based in New York, NY, leaves her home to go horseback riding on weekends, and then indulges in any and every brunch item her heart desires as she notes herself earlier in the article. Keep in mind, however, all these women involved are technically working in high-fashion, sporting expensive lifestyles to match.

(At this moment, as I am typing, I have to pause because this is something I cannot entirely fathom. I’m a bit baffled and half-laughing about the absurdity of the argument.)

It’s this aspect of brunch that makes it so problematic. Brunch comes with a certain level of privilege that many among us will never fully attain. The entire spectacle is an indulgence that is really just too impractical for the majority of us who have to save our money for gas, groceries, and the like.

So, it is one thing if you brunch on special occasions or host it at home. It is another to regularly waste away your weekend afternoons drinking and consuming breakfast food. If you do that, more power to you, but just realize the privilege you posses with this level of luxury.

As for me, I’ll make my own mimosas at home sans pants, and will maybe publically brunch again the next time a friend has a birthday.


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