Which genius came up with the concept of brunch? Let us salute them for inventing the most deliciously idle meal ever. It is the perfect accompaniment to a hungover morning. And it has no rules.
Brunch is all about laziness and it is all about freedom. First off, eating it means you have missed breakfast, a meal for early risers and go-getters. You have had a lie-in. And you probably have a hangover. Lunch is too far off, and too formal anyway. So you are permitted to linger in this in-between time.
Brunch defies convention. It liberates. Brunch makes it okay to drink in the morning. The correct libation is of course a bloody mary, that wonderfully invigorating cocktail with its appealingly Tudor name and its stick of celery. Brunch is good-natured. It is a meal for laughing over, as you recount tales of the night before and sympathise with each other about the pains in your head. Brunch is a poetic meal. It is philosophical.
Brunch is about living in the moment, going with the flow, relinquishing control and cancelling all obligations. And that indeed is how it was conceived. Some historians of brunch reckon that the first mention made of this brilliant portmanteau word was in 1895 in a magazine called Hunter’s Weekly, where British author Guy Beringer made a plea for skipping breakfast on Sundays:
‘Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a post-church ordeal of heavy meats and savoury pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee . . . By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday night carousers.’
Brunch is cheerful, sociable and exciting. It is talk-compelling. It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and the cobwebs of the week.
Conversation flows because the tongue has been loosed by your hangover. Or maybe you are still a bit drunk after the carousing of the night before. Brunch is the reward for the effort you made when you went out.
Brunch became a popular institution in the States in the 1930s. It is said that Hollywood stars travelling East to West stopped off in Chicago for a late morning meal. And others followed their example. American author Evan Jones wrote that brunch became more popular as Sunday became the day for lazing around, instead of for going to church: ‘We like to sleep in Sundays, read the newspapers and loll in bed. After the World War II generation went away from church altogether, Sunday became a day to enjoy doing nothing and brunch just grew like topsy.’
Brunch is now bigger, hotter, hipper and better than ever and London is the perfect place to celebrate it with dozens of imaginative interpretations on offer from restaurants and cafés. The impecunious can celebrate brunch at home or do a brunch picnic. Say it again: the only rule of brunch is that there are no rules. People should be allowed to go to sleep in the corner, be completely anti-social, grumpy and self-pitying. You can be late, early or stay in bed. With brunch, no one cares.’
By Tom Hodgkinson, editor of The Idler magazine.
Find the best brunches in London.