The trouble with brunch


Graphic: Fabiola Carletti/CBC


Shawn Micallef has a serious problem with eggs benedict. And fancy waffles. And artisanal bacon. Yes, he has problem with brunch. But it's not just the rich food, the slow service, the time it takes, and how drunk you get on mimosas that he objects to. The Toronto-based writer is also troubled by what this weekend ritual says about contemporary culture and class politics. He's written a book about it, aptly titled The Trouble with Brunch, and stopped by CBC Radio's Q to talk about it. You can listen to his conversation with Q guest host Stephen Quinn below:

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Micallef's big problem is that what brunch is supposed to be and what it actually is aren't the same thing. "Brunch is this performance of leisure. It's supposed to be fun, it's supposed to be an enjoyable time with your friends." But, often, especially in big cities where brunch is trendy, the opposite is true. Popular places attract lots of people, leading to long lines, slow service, a rush to get you out the door, and a big bill at the end. "It's this really stressful, trendy thing," he said. "The actual sharing with your friends and enjoying yourself and being relaxed in a minor part of it."

While brunch is not the most expensive or frivolous "performance of leisure," Micallef focuses on it as a means to explore our current society because of its ever-growing popularity. Micallef sees brunch as a form of "conscious consumption," something we do, not because we enjoy it, but because it says something about who we are. "Some people show off their wealth or status by buying a flashy car or wearing a Rolex or a $2,000 suit," he said. People use brunch the same way. "It's sort of a demonstration that you are so set that you can spend all this time, you can waste all this time, because it's okay."

What bothers Micallef is that all this actually contradicts how we live our lives. We're busier and more distracted than ever. "We're running out of time and we're always working." And those who brunch - young, urban people in the beginning of their careers - often don't have the time or money to have leisurely mid-day meals. "It's an illusion because a lot of people who are performing that conscious leisure aren't actually as settled as we think we are."