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We need to talk about brunch
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We need to talk about brunch

The first thing I’ll say here is: I love you, mom, and I’m very much looking forward to having brunch with you this weekend. (I mean, I have to assume my mom is subscribed to Dish, right?)

With that out of the way, let’s get into this perplexing concept called brunch, a midday meal so often associated with Mother’s Day.

There’s no question: brunch is popular in these parts. Take this recent poll on brunch — OK, a very unscientific poll done by me on Twitter earlier this week — which saw 54.3 per cent of respondents (all 81 of them) say they love it, a mere 6.2 per cent say they don’t like it, and 39.5 per cent say they’re indifferent.

I’ve never been a big brunch fan, although I don’t hate it — more than anything I probably fall into the indifferent category. I’ve often found the notion of eating a big meal sort of in between breakfast and lunch times to be a bit annoying. I get hungry in the morning, but brunch means you have to wait to eat. Then I eat said brunch, feel sluggish for hours and then am hungry again by late afternoon.

Eggs benedict, a cornerstone of many a brunch. (Debra Brash / Victoria Time Colonist)

Don’t get me wrong — there are things I like about brunch. I like most foods associated with brunch — the eggs benedict, omelettes, pastries, fresh fruit and the like — and I do like the occasional indulgence of a mimosa, caesar or other slightly boozy late-morning/early afternoon beverage on a weekend.

Who doesn’t love a nice late-morning/early afternoon mimosa on the weekend? (Ted Jacob / Calgary Herald)

Now, the cons of brunch: I don’t love what time of day it tends to land at (see above). I don’t like sitting at a restaurant table on uncomfortable chairs for extended periods of time. I have some hearing issues, so invariably I can’t hear people at the other end of the table over the din of a busy eatery. And so on.

Ontario writer Shawn Micallef’s brief but fascinating book The Trouble With Brunch doesn’t demonize brunch so much as use the meal as a window into examining notions of class and leisure. Regardless, I love his observation of a typical brunch, found early in the book: “Empathy, I observed, does not exist at brunch. Diners linger over cooling almost empty cups of Lapsang souchong even as people waiting for a table stand in conspicuous view. There is no inclination to clear out and let others enjoy their time here. Brunchers treat servers uncharitably and servers, in turn, view them with contempt. Chefs bury the dregs of the week’s dinners under rich sauces, arranging them in curious combinations.”

So why do we associate brunch with Mother’s Day? I did some digging online to try to find out but came up mainly empty-handed.

Interestingly, however, I found two articles with opposite takes on Mother’s Day and brunch. The first came from NPR, called “Taking Mom Out For Brunch? It’s a Feminist Tradition”, essentially tying the tradition to the right for women to eat in restaurants during the day, unaccompanied by a man, in the early 20th century.

On the other side of the coin is an article from Delish called “Mother’s Day Brunch is Inherently Sexist,”  which argues that moms get a mediocre, overpriced midday meal without dishes or cleanup while dads, on Father’s Day, typically get grills or time for a round of golf or other “manly” things. So… who knows.

No brunch buffet is complete without the dreaded chocolate fountain.

Anyway, we’ve long taken my mom out for Mother’s Day brunch, a tradition I’m fine with continuing as long as she likes. Not all brunches have been five-star culinary events, mind you — there were the dark years we’d frequent brunch buffets at nearby nondescript hotels, herded into a banquet room with the masses for the requisite carvery and omelette stations, mountains of desserts, questionable chocolate fountains and creatures made out of fancily cut melons. (Honestly, the weirdness of brunch is summed up by the fact you can get roast beef, an omelette and a piece of cake in one sitting, then wash it all down with coffee and a mimosa. Pass the Tums.)

In more recent years we stepped it up, opting instead for actual eateries serving individual, standalone dishes rather than bountiful buffets (and whose coffee actually tasted like, well, coffee). Little Goat was a favourite for a time, although it’s not an option anymore, having recently shuttered for good. They did a mean eggs bennie.

This year, mom’s coming over to our place for brunch, and the prosecco’s already chilling for mimosas. So, brunch: yay or nay? If yay, what are some of your favourite spots for brunching?

Ben Sigurdson, literary editor and drinks writer

Tasty tidbits

Super Fun Beverage Co. have rolled out their first wave of drinks for the fun-loving masses. The project is a collaboration between the folks at Barn Hammer Brewing Co. and Low Life Barrel House, the latter of which opened its doors on Daly Street N. earlier this week (more on that below). They’ve launched a line of hard seltzers, the first two of which — grape and vanilla and pear and elderflower — are already available at Barn Hammer, Liquor Marts and select beer vendors. Two more seltzers are listed on the Liquor Marts website as coming soon — a watermelon and basil seltzer as well as a yuzu and grapefruit version.

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The founders of Bronuts Coffee & Donuts have passed the torch to another pair of local pastry entrepreneurs. Echo Shen and Mumu Ma, owners of Not a Donut and Not a Waffle, have taken over the Exchange District donut shop from brothers Dylan and Brett Zahari, who launched the business in 2015. The couple — whose West End shop was lost to a fire earlier this year — has added their signature mochi donuts to the menu alongside Bronuts favourites.

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Bricks and beers will be available at Torque Brewing next month during a pop-up Lego party aimed at adult toy lovers. A Brick Bar will be assembled in the King Edward Street taproom from June 17 to 18, with interactive sculptures, a DJ, building competitions and a Lego ping pong table. Tickets are $22 per person and available here.

Recommended fare

Ben: I’ve just started reading an advance copy of former U of W English professor (and occasional Free Press book reviewer) Neil Besner’s slim book Fishing With Tardelli: A Memoir of Family in Time Lost, published by ECW Press and out everywhere May 24. So far it’s a lovely, poetic and thoughtful remembrance of Besner’s time as a teen and young man growing up in Brazil, and his subsequent years moving between Montreal, Winnipeg and Rio de Janiero. Besner’s book launch isn’t until June 10 (at McNally Robinson’s Grant Park location) but mark it in your calendars now as it will feature local literary all stars Catherine Hunter, Dennis Cooley and Warren Cariou.

My partner and I recently took in the WSO’s excellent Manitoba Remembers: A COVID Elegy concert (which you can watch here until May 28), then popped over to Patent 5 Distillery at 108 Alexander Ave. They currently have a creative cocktail menu with drinks based on your typical diner fare. I opted for the excellent “Tom Kha Soup” which features 1.5 ounces of Patent 5’s high-test navy strength gin, lime, cream of coconut, a vegan foamer, soda and a syrup which includes kaffir lime leaf, lemongrass and ginger.

Eva: I recently started watching This Is Pop, a Netflix docuseries about popular music trends and phenomena. Topics include boy bands, country music and festivals. The episode on auto-tune featuring T-Pain (who became the accidental king of modulated vocals) is particularly endearing.

I was in Toronto visiting family last weekend and my brother-in-law toured us around to some of his favourite local haunts. We enjoyed a smorgasbord of barbecue from Barque and some satisfying ramen from Sansotei. We also went to a Blue Jays game and had the requisite ballpark smokies, which hit the spot but were nothing compared to a perogy-topped Winnipeg Jets dog.

What’s simmering

After a year of delays, supply chain issues, COVID, burglary, cost overruns, frayed friendships and more, Low Life Barrel House finally opened its doors at their bricks-and-mortar location at 398 Daly St. N. this past week. (They’d been brewing out of Barn Hammer’s Wall St. facility since launching in 2019.) Ben checked in with them repeatedly over the last year, and his epic story about the brewery/urban winery/cidery is in this weekend’s 49.8. 

Homemade

The recipe deadline for the Free Press community cookbook is fast approaching! To take part, fill out this submission form by Friday, May 20. Every submission will be entered into a draw to win a copy of the cookbook and other prizes. You can also join our Facebook group.

This week, we’re featuring Dayna Weiten’s quick and easy recipe for baked chicken and broccoli with lemon, feta cheese and dill. Head over to our Instagram page.

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