Isn’t it going too far to say that brunch negatively affects quality of life?
There are many worse ways quality of life suffers. But when our leisure time is so limited and precious, to use it on something that is actually stressful? You’re jockeying for space and eyeing people: “Hurry up. Finish your stuff so I can sit down.” These are negative feelings generated during a leisure activity, maybe the only one of the week. It seems a waste.
What have Instagram and Twitter added to the dynamic?
Despite the mocking that it’s gotten over the last year or two there’s still this compulsion to say, “Look at this thing I’m gonna eat,” and, “I’m here, right now.” There’s still a need to broadcast that you are doing the thing that makes you a middle-class person. It’s attached to identity. If a brunch goes untweeted, did it have any worth? You have to tell people that you’re brunching. That’s the reason we brunch.
Remind people in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver what ‘brunch’ looks like in the rest of Canada.
The kind of brunch I grew up with in Windsor was a very decidedly special occasion – it wasn’t an every Sunday thing. We would make our way to the Hilton down on the river looking out at Detroit or to one of the fancy golf clubs or Italian banquet halls for communion or Mother’s Day. The brunch was very efficient, buffet-style. That happens in Toronto too at the Old Mill. I went a couple months ago and they had a huge Sunday brunch with hundreds of people, huge turnover and dozens of different dishes. It’s a much older crowd who maybe don’t have as much patience for the time-wasting. The food is what it is, there’s not too much fanfare made about it. The food is for eating.
What’s the fix to brunch? “Un-brunching?”
I found some people in Portland, Ore. of all places – the brunch heart of darkness with Portlandia – who do brunch right. They kind of saved brunch.
They call themselves the Joy Brunch Club. They meet every weekend but they have some rules: They’ll never wait in line, it’s only two hours maximum so it doesn’t ruin the rest of their day and they actually enjoy time with their friends in an unstressed way.
Putting some rules around it seems to work really well. I don’t want people to stop eating. Maybe if we fix it the way the Portland brunch club has, maybe our common desire to go for brunch might be a conduit through which we can build more social cohesion.
What about people who don’t see their weekend ritual as problematic at all?
There are many rituals people find comforting, like religion, that are subjects of necessary criticism in order to make them better. The book isn’t a call to stop brunching. But as it’s such a marker of class status and since we need to talk about class issues more but rarely do, perhaps a critical gaze can be cast in between all the foodster fun.
Is this push to “fix” brunch not also a first world problem the same way brunch is?
It’s certainly a first world problem. But we seem to like the living conditions in the first world and if that quality of life is being undermined, it should be fixed. If this was just about fixing the meal itself I’d likely not be interested in writing a whole book about it, but I see brunch as a way into talking about and fixing other troubling things about the middle class.
What’s the longest you’ve stood in line for brunch?
I haven’t gone in ages to a trendy brunch. In the early 2000s, I was lined up somewhere on College Street in Toronto. Just standing there, I noticed the Hobbesian nature of the brunch patrons where nobody cares about anyone else when they’re sitting down and others are standing outside the glass looking in. I wondered, “Why am I here?” The slightly humiliating feeling of being out there had an effect, knowing that down the street there is a diner that had no lineup. I’d rather go to the beach on a Sunday. That’s my brunch.
This interview has been condensed and edited.
For the love of eggs: Your thoughts on brunch
“Love brunch. It’s such a relaxing endeavour. You can take your time, enjoy refills on your coffee and take in the weekend. It all comes down to putting yourself in a weekend mindset, a mindset so different from the rushed and hectic pace of the week.” – Zach Fleisher, Winnipeg
“I despise it. Why would I get out of bed to wait in line? Everyone is hungover, cranky, smelly and obnoxious. Nothing is worth that to me. Give me a bowl of Greek yogurt and some granola in my own kitchen and let’s call it breakfast. I’m lucky I married a man who feels the same way. Mentioning 'brunch' makes him angry – like waving a red flag in front of a bull.” – Abby Langer, Toronto