It is my belief that those who invented brunch, like me, did it as an excuse to eat more. Last year on a lazy Sunday, I went to brunch at Carlyle in Shirlington. So far, I haven’t found the right brunch spot in our area. It has been one mediocre brunch meal after another. Sunday, however, I finally found Carlyle. Neil and I shared the steak and eggs Benedict. (Why is it that I always feel guilty ordering steak and eggs for breakfast?) Luckily, this wasn’t one of those guilt inducing meals. It was, instead, a perfectly grilled medium 2 oz. steak under a poached egg with the best hollandaise sauce I’ve ever had. It was a light, yes I said light, creamy textured and layered with flavors that slowly released into each bite of the egg and steak.
Brunch didn’t become a big deal in my life until I moved to New York. In New York brunch is vital recovery time from the night before’s events. There’s something lovely about meeting in the morning with the same people you partied with the night before to debrief, feel like shit, laugh, and eat a large meal without thinking about its fat content. The other thing about this meal in New York is each restaurant that you go to brings with it its neighborhood and atmosphere. For example, brunch in the East Village is completely chill and lay back. However, if you choose to eat at Balthazar’s in Soho, you will find a completely different crowd–I ran into Anna Hathaway there once.
This summer in lieu of brunches with my beau, I opted for writing sessions with a writing buddy or two. What is it about similar people joining for a drink or meal that is so damn fulfilling? It is the reason I envy Anthony Bourdain; he seems to find common people in every location he visits. Upon watching yet another No Reservations episode, I began to research the story behind brunch. It turns out Brunch was most likely started in Britain and the word was first used by a chap named Guy Berringer who said that “[Brunch] is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.” [Via http://www.divinecaroline.com/38/77046-bacon-did-brunch-its-start#ixzz27A5SiUMV]
Damn straight Mr. Berringer, it sure does sweep away the worries and cobwebs of the week! At my last job, my co-workers used to joke about how eating was so important to me because I always refused to work through lunch and walked away when people started discussing work at lunch. It occurs to me that like sleeping, like taking a relaxing stroll in a nearby park at sunset or sunrise, like watching the waves on the coast, eating a meal with loved ones is a must-have routine in my life. As I adjust to my new schedule which doesn’t include having a planning period after lunch and allows me a brief 20- sometimes 25 minute lunch, I have been playing with my need to feel like I have a genuine break for lunch. I have been trying out various ways to feel the break. On days when I don’t get enough of a break, I daydream about my stress-free life as a guest teacher in India.
When I was 21 and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, I made an important decision to go to India for 3 months and teach in my Dad’s village to find my roots again. Meal times in India are respected spiritual practices. You don’t mess with them! You eat with your family around a table talking, laughing, and unwinding–“sweeping away” the day’s worries. This is true even if you are teacher or a student. The school where I taught had this large open yard with a couple of trees for shade and lots of space for students and teachers to spread out and eat a leisurely lunch. I remember leaving for lunch and walking to my Aunt’s home for a hot home-cooked meal. No reheated meal in a Pyrex container will ever compare.
While I do sometimes get really upset about the insanity of how short my lunch can be and the fact that I have to ration my 25 minutes between eating and running to the restroom, one truth remains: we (my colleagues and I) gather outside on the sidewalk some on the concrete, some in rolly chairs, one in a student desk dragged out. We gather with the same objective as Berringer– under the warm sun rays gently flooding our skin and our moods. It can be glorious and light.