Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Bite-sized book examines the politics of brunch

  • Print

It's Sunday. You get up later than normal, nursing a bit of a hangover and need sustenance (as well as maybe some hair-of-the-dog action) to get you through the day.

The first thought that comes to mind: brunch.

For Toronto-via-Windsor author Shawn Micallef, this between-breakfast-and-lunch ritual has become a painfully drawn-out affair, a quasi-status symbol used by the so-called "creative class."

The Trouble With Brunch is part of Coach House's Exploded Views series -- novella-length pieces of writing. At 100-plus small but crammed pages, you can essentially blast through a chapter while waiting in line to eat brunch at a hip eatery.

Micallef, a Toronto Star columnist and co-owner/senior editor of Spacing magazine, is also the author of Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto, as well as Full Frontal TO, and teaches at the University of Toronto and OCAD University.

None of which outright qualifies one to write about brunch, of course. But his perspective of brunching in Toronto -- especially versus his hometown of Windsor, from which he moved 14 years ago -- helps Micallef use brunch as a way to explore notions of class that are pretty compelling.

Rather than step on a soapbox with a bullhorn, Micallef's thoughtful ruminations on class, leisure and brunch are opportunities to examine the choices we make in our own lives.

To Micallef, Windsor (to whom the book is dedicated) is an industrial town where blue-collar workers are the norm -- people work towards a house, the cars in the garage and other tangible (but costly) items at one job, with the "glass floor" providing a glimpse as to how it could all unravel at any time. A Windsor brunch is typically more utilitarian: it's a speedy affair usually associated with holidays, is served in cultural centres or hotel restaurants, there's rarely a lineup and turnover is quick.

Brunch in Toronto, however, is more of a social affair -- there are long waits to sit at hip, rustic "working-class" restaurants, where people spend uncomfortably long periods of time eating food that's typically unhealthy and only sometimes satisfying. (In Winnipeg, it could be argued both types of brunch exist.)

Most of us plot ourselves as being part of the middle class, says Micallef, whether we are or not. The creative class, meanwhile -- self-employed/freelance types such as writers, graphic designers, developers and scientists -- is a subset of this middle class, but is fractured and disparate; says Micallef, "this new class hasn't a class consciousness in the same way traditional working-class populations did."

The creative class has moved toward "conspicuous consumption" -- more identity/lifestyle-based status symbols: "The creative class has eschewed the old expressions of affluence, the mansions and expensive cars, for lifestyle experiences like food... to create their identity."

Micallef looks at brunch in the context of leisure, and how in an age where the creative class has less time for themselves -- the 9-to-5 schedule and (relative) security aren't there as they are for the working class -- they're spending/wasting it (and their money) sitting around eating brunch.

There's really only one chapter where Micallef details a particular brunch experience of his own, a charming tale of dining in Buenos Aires that notes the similarities to his Toronto brunch experiences and concludes with a rallying cry: "If the near-identical customs of brunch could spread to Argentina, there's little to stop a sense of class identity and consciousness from forming between brunchers here and elsewhere..."

The book ends with ways in which some have reclaimed brunch, providing hope that brunchers can rally around something other than overpriced, boring old hollandaise sauce.

 

Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson is the Free Press literary editor.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2014 G8

History

Updated on Saturday, July 26, 2014 at 8:41 AM CDT: Formatting.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: Preparing for Boxing Day

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Geese fight as a male defends his nesting site at the duck pond at St Vital Park Thursday morning- See Bryksa’s Goose a Day Photo- Day 08- May 10, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • A water lily in full bloom is reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What's your take on the Jets so far this season?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google