There are things in these times that deserve your concern and condemnation. A relaxed meal that is not quite lunch and not quite breakfast is not one of them. But people who wring their hands about brunch aren’t actually specifically complaining about places where you can eat both pancakes and hamburgers at 2 p.m. on a Saturday. Nope, op-eds like David Shaftel’s in the New York Times, in which he proclaims that he’s “through with brunch” are a complaint about youth culture. What else is new?
This isn’t something deeply hidden in Shaftel’s article. No, he comes out and says that now that he has a daughter, he looks down his nose on those masses lingering over a meal into the afternoon, waking up late, and hanging out with friends as symbolic of gentrification and arrested development.
For me, having a child — and perhaps the introspection that comes with turning 40 — made me realize what most vexes me about brunch: Once the domain of Easter Sunday, it has become a twice-weekly symbol of our culture’s increasing desire to reject adulthood. It’s about throwing out not only the established schedule but also the social conventions of our parents’ generation. It’s about reveling in the naughtiness of waking up late, having cocktails at breakfast and eggs all day. It’s the mealtime equivalent of a Jeff Koons sculpture.
To which I say: Reminder that these people are adults and therefore able to define adulthood however they damn well please. It’s a very convenient to condemn the brunching masses as wannabe teenagers and promote your own abilities to poach an egg at home. “Worse than adolescent, it is an adolescent’s idea of how adults spend their time,” Shaftel writes. I don’t really think so. When I was a teenager, I assumed adults spent their time glued to briefcases, shuffling about importantly, and then collapsing on the couch into a deep nap at 8 p.m.
Sure, those bottomless booze brunches spell disaster for diners who want to maybe actually eat a meal and not just get wasted from 10 a.m. until midnight. And you’re well within your rights not to participate. But there’s something deeply dishonest about listing your brunching adventures and then turning around and condemning people for enjoying the same. “Brunch” is now just a code word, like “hipster,” an umbrella term to express everything you hate about people younger than you. No one condemns long dinners that linger into the late night or breakfasts that turn into tea that turn into drinks that turn into sandwiches. For Shaftel, brunch seems to represent a measure of free time that he no longer has, which is because he elected to use that time to raise his daughter. That decision is one he’s allowed to make, but it doesn’t make him morally superior to people who want to eat french toast at 11 a.m. Brunch is just not the culprit here, it’s something caught in the crosshairs of a longstanding culture battle. Leave it alone. It’s just brunch.