Monday, October 17, 2011

Fancypants Hash

Before I could post about this, I needed to conduct a little research so that I could back up a seemingly offensive claim with actual data. The claim: corned beef hash traditionally/historically is eaten by middle-to-lower class people. Before you get all in my face about being classist, let me say that I was making this assumption based on the fact that you can get it at most corner stores for less than $3. And let's be real, the greasy canned variety just doesn't look like rich people food:

Sorry, but Warren Buffet is not eating that for breakfast. Don't get me wrong -- it tastes freakin' delicious, almost good enough to justify the intestinal distress that usually follows its consumption.

My hunch was correct -- according to Wikipedia, corned beef hash became popular during WWII when food was rationed and fresh, high quality meat was hard to come by. Corned beef hash was survival food, a good way to get some protein that would also fill you up. It's literally meat and potatoes, working folks' food.

Not anymore.

Now on brunch menus, there will almost always be some kind of fancy hash. Like the above pictured duck confit hash. At the restaurant where I work, we had braised lamb hash on the menu this past Sunday. Hash has gotten mighty big for its britches, if you ask me. It's come a long way from its unassuming beginnings:

This beef short rib hash is almost too pretty to eat:

Here's my main question: Why do we feel the need to dress up our hash? Are we ashamed to admit that something that looks (arguably) gross

tastes amazing?

I for one would like to return hash to its true roots. No more highfalutin hash! Hash for the 99%! #occupybrunch!

Friday, October 7, 2011

What brunch and Burger King have in common

More than any other restaurant meal, brunchers love to modify and customize their order. Instead of looking at a brunch menu and thinking, "Hmmm, what sounds good to me?" they look with an eye toward "what could I change about this dish to make it EXACTLY what I woke up in the mood for today?"

I work in the restaurant industry and I know this to be a fact. The modifications ("mods") on brunch tickets are OUT OF CONTROL. It's one thing to sub your home fries for french fries, or even a salad (though you know my thoughts on that travesty) -- it's another thing to ask if instead of mushrooms and goat cheese in your omelet, you can have tomatoes, zucchini, and smoked salmon. WTF, people. Do you see a "build-your-own" option under the description of our delicious omelet? I don't think so. There's an IHOP in Cambridge that will be happy to put up with your shit. Though I doubt they have smoked salmon. Or zucchini, for that matter.

I wish we could just play Sinatra's "My Way" on a loop, since that is definitely the theme song of brunch. A brunch anthem, if you will. But instead, we'll probably just roll with some Feist, a band I used to like until a friend insightfully categorized them as "brunch rock."

And now, just for fun.....the "My Way" lyrics, reimagined for my brunch purposes. Enjoy.

And now that brunch is near
My hangover is really hurtin'
My friend, I'll say it clear
I'll state my order of which I'm certain

I've brunched a life that's full
I changed each dish, gotten sauce on the side, babe
And more, much more than this
I ate it my way

Some chefs- there've been a few
Who hesitated to follow my vision
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I modified each charted course
Each careful bite along the byway
And more, much more than this
I ate it my way

Yes there were times I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out. I faced it all
And I stood tall and ate brunch my way.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thou Shalt Brunch

Sometimes in life, you have to wait for good things. This is true of this blog and brunch -- brunch only happens once a week (see explanation below), and it took me 6 months after writing the inaugural post to launch this site for real. But now I'm ready and brunch-focused.

Let's talk basic brunch commandments, shall we? I haven't come up with ten yet, so we'll start with five. Five rules that are absolutely essential to understanding brunch and its cultural significance.

1. Brunch only happens on Sunday. No exceptions.

Look, I know what you're going to say -- some restaurants serve a meal they call brunch on Saturdays, too. There's a place in Allston, where I live, that allegedly offers "brunch" every day from 11-4. But real brunch, the brunch I'm concerned with? It's only on Sundays. Period. Just because you're eating a meal during the brunch time-frame does not make it brunch. It's a late breakfast or it's lunch. I can make myself eggs at 1:30 in the afternoon on a Tuesday and that's not brunch. Brunch is a Sunday ritual, end of story. With no evidence whatsoever to back up the claim I'm about to make, I'd like to suggest that brunch began as a reward for sitting through church. At least, that's how it was in my family. Get through Sunday School without throwing crayons at any of the staff and there's a slab of syrup-drenched french toast with your name on it, kiddo.

2. There must be home fries.

Brunch cannot exist without breakfast potatoes, usually called home fries, or as we call them in the industry, "homies." If home fries are not on the menu, it's not brunch. Truth be told, I'm more of a hash browns girl. I like my potatoes crispy, even at brunch. But I will make the exception, since home fries are currently in vogue. Substituting a salad for your home fries is really poor brunch form. Think about it: would Jesus have swapped his homies for some mesclun greens? This is brunch! Shut up and slap some bourbon whipped cream on that waffle!

3. Multiple beverages are recommended.

Brunch is the only meal when it is common for you to order more than one beverage for yourself. Most people order at least two -- juice and coffee. But up to four beverages is considered completely normal. For instance, if you were to order orange juice, a latte, a Diet Coke, and a Bloody Mary, your server probably would not bat an eye. And refill your water glass, too. Brunch is all about beverages. This is in part because most of the clientele (and waitstaff) is hungover. So the more beverages you order, the more spectacular your Saturday night probably was. If you only order juice, you must not be that dehydrated, i.e. you probably stayed at home with your cat and don't have any good gossip to share while eating your egg-white leek and lobster omelet. SNOOZEFEST.

4. Price-gouging.

Brunch represents the most absurd and obvious price-gouging in the restaurant biz. Egg dishes are going to run you anywhere from $9-15. A dozen eggs retails for about $1.50 in most U.S. supermarkets. Side dishes of toast and potatoes are not exactly pricey either, but that's part of the brunch thrill -- paying through the nose to have someone make something for you
that you absolutely could have made for yourself at home. Brunch is about entitlement, about decadence -- you worked hard all week, right? You DESERVE to pay $3 to have someone toast that English muffin for you. Damn straight. Sure, you could have spent $5 at the farmer's market and put together your own fruit plate, but it wouldn't have looked this nice, now would it?

5. If you're ordering extra Hollandaise, you need to reexamine your life.

Hollandaise sauce is one of the worst things you can put into your body. It consists of egg yolks, butter, and a bit of lemon juice. THAT'S IT. I love me some eggs "Benny" as much as the next girl, but a little Hollandaise goes a long way. 1 cup of Hollandaise has 1,097 calories and 116 grams of fat.

Read that again.

Granted, in most dining establishments, you'll be getting mush less than a cup, but still...before you ask for more, consult your physician. If you want to be "naughty," order another mimosa, for God's sake.

More commandments to come, once I think of them. Till next Sunday.....

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Welcome & Introductory FAQs

"It used to be about Jesus, but now it's all about brunch" -- lyric from the Christian rock song "What About Sunday?"

Dear Readers,

My intention in writing this blog is to examine the phenomenon of brunch and how it correlates to The Way We Live Now. Balancing searing social insights with mouth-watering pictures, I hope to unravel the mystery of brunch's astonishing popularity among affluent white middle class urbanites. For a brief history of the brunch tradition, click here.

Now, you may be asking yourself, what exactly is this blog going to cover and why should I read it? In anticipation of these and other questions, I offer some FAQs.

Q: What exactly is this blog going to cover and why should I read it?

A: Each Sunday, I will give a thorough treatment of a brunch staple, such as Eggs Benedict or Steel Cut Oatmeal, and explain how it epitomizes some deep, provocative cultural truth about America. You should read it because it will be epiphany-inducing and funny.

Q: I'm pretty sure they eat brunch in other countries. What's so fascinating about American brunch?

A: Brunch in many ways reflects the values this country was founded on: liberty, freedom of choice, the pursuit of happiness. Our forefathers felt entitled to representation in exchange for taxation; we feel entitled to home fries and toast when we order omelets. The pilgrims wanted the right to choose their own religion; we want the right to choose between lunch foods like burgers and breakfast foods like pancakes.

Q: How can I tell if I'm eating brunch?

A: Ask yourself the following questions:

Am I about to spend more on eggs than I do on a movie ticket?
Does my beverage contain pomegranate juice and/or champagne?
Is Corinne Bailey Rae softly playing in the background?
Are my fellow diners mostly women and gay men?

If you answered yes to more than one of the above questions, chances are that you are in fact eating brunch.

Q: Why do you hate brunch so much?

A: I don't hate brunch at all! There's a difference between thinking brunch is a metaphor for everything that's wrong in this country today and hating it.

Q: What is that difference?

A: If I reveal that now, you would have no reason to read this blog.