Two white scrotal sacs stared up at me from my plate. Instinctively, my mouth began salivating. Plump, pearly white, looking on the verge of bursting with yellow goo. They rested precariously on a piece of toasted sourdough.
I was at brunch. Sitting at a corner table for two in some yuppie-adjacent suburb of Perth, Western Australia. My friend and I had near matching plates of poached eggs, toast, and sauteed mushrooms. 10.20am on a Sunday morning. Is there any time more appropriate for an overpriced plate of eggs?
Here’s the thing. We love brunch. And by “we” I refer to the plethora of 20-somethings romping around the metropolitan cities of the world (and the not-so-metropolitan cities and the towns, villages and minor settlements. There are few Westernized 20-somethings who do not enjoy brunch).
Ask my mother to get brunch and she will roll her eyes.
“$20 for eggs and toast? Are you fucking crazy?” Except she wouldn’t say are you fucking crazy. She would say something derogatory in Chinese then tell you about the Abbott’s Village Bakery bread on sale at Coles.
“Just make your own!”
Yet the two times I have taken her to brunch (and escorted her through the maze of chinos and Hawaiian shirts populating the venue) she has loved it. Lapped it up. Luxuriated in it. She doesn’t care that she’s the only person over 40 in the café. She’s too lost in the moment. Too intoxicated by the thick cut toast and expertly crumbled feta.
I’m not saying that eggs, corn fritters, pea/avocado/mint smash and caramelized bacon are the best foods in the world. Although I am loath to admit it, 40% of why I go to brunch is for the experience and not the food. It’s not just the atmosphere. It’s seeing a friend at a time of day when you would usually be at work or lolling around in bed on a weekend, half-dressed or bedraggled at best. Look, now you’re wearing pants, you brushed your hair, you put on your Chapstick. You’re a fucking winner.
Brunch allows us youth to feel momentarily accomplished. You’re sitting in a room full of people around your age feeling vaguely adultish. You’re drinking caffeinated beverages, discussing that New York Times article you read last night (but damnit, that was your last of the five free articles for the month. It’s back to ninemsn.com for you). But in eight hours you’re probably going to go back to your mum’s to say hi, eat her food and borrow her handheld vacuum cleaner because your car’s a fucking joke at the moment.
But for that hour of brunch, you get to eat relatively straightforward food but made by someone much better at cooking than you and fleetingly proficient at life.
A piece in defense of brunch would be incomplete without addressing the economics of brunch. For a long time, I was on a solid fruit toast kick. Every time I brunched I would get fruit toast and withstand the mocking of whoever I was with. Most were pretty upmarket fruit toast with not just the requisite sultanas but also cranberries, apricots, figs, hazelnuts or walnuts. The price range was usually $5-9. After one brunch of two slices of fruit toast for $9, my friend and I went to the gourmet grocery store next door. We saw the same loaf of fruit toast made by the same bakery at this grocery store. One loaf was $9.
“You could have had the whole loaf,” she said. I felt a pang of momentary shame and regret. And yet I keep going back. Isn’t that enough proof? It’s worth it to me. I don’t (openly) judge people who spend thousands of dollars on sneakers or luxury cars. Yet all these brunch naysayers think they can shit on me for my penchant for brunch. Just let me spend $9 on my fruit toast.
There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with brunch. However, somewhere along the way, it has turned into a symbol of youthful self-indulgence. People love to get up in arms about the fact that I spend $20 maybe once a fortnight on something that I thoroughly enjoy. I’m not spending $500 on cocaine here. I’m spending $20 on a meal.
If my mother is anything to go by, the joys of brunch are unrelated to age. I can therefore only assume that haters of brunch have not yet experienced it. But don’t worry. Brunch welcomes all ages, all cultures, all genders, all heights, all weights, all paleo-based eaters, all vegans and vegetarians, all nut-milk connoisseurs. It is waiting for you with open arms and an eclectic mix of perfectly curated mismatched crockery. Go to it.