When two locally-sourced sunny-side-up eggs beam at you from havarti polenta cake thrones their doe eyes shine promises. Feel the sharp flatware guide your shaky hands like dowsing rods. Taste the cold water tumble down your throat from a bottomless glass. Take your time. Bacon. What happened with that cute stranger last night? Tell me over another salt-rimmed beverage. Oh, and if you're ordering the Brioche Breakfast Basket, get it with a side of Lies, because Brunch is the saddest trick ever played on this lonely town.
Every soul comprising the disheveled, frowning, puffy-vested snake spilling out of that glass-encased East Village restaurant knows that Brunch is a letdown. Anyone who has rolled their heavy eyes from their empty glass on Infinity Bellini Day to catch the panicked gaze of the hungover waitstaff knows it too.
Congratulate yourself on a brisk, successful Brunch and you can't shake the feeling that it's Christmas morning and you've opened all your presents before 7 a.m. and now what?
Instead of encountering a day full of possibilities you're facing a belly full of rail liquor and a sandwich with avocado on it; the hollow awakening that Your Brunch Plans—carefully scripted to please all-comers and maximize double-taps—just leads to more Plans. Evening Plans. Afternoon Plans. Sunday Plans. You're already dressed! What will you do with your $44 of stored energy? Well?
All the chipotle hollandaise in the world can't fill this chasm of uncertainty. The snake eats home fries but devours itself in the process.
Hey now, I don't want to die alone, you say. I can do Brunch right. I got a secret place that no one knows about. No lines, baby. I can game the system! This is because you're not eating Brunch. You're just eating a meal in a restaurant between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
But the gnawing dread that one Saturday you'll stroll up to your secret spot and find a crowd of cranky people? The compulsion to keep a place where you eat eggs a secret? That's Brunch.
So why do we eat Brunch?
This is like asking why we write cover letters or use coffee stirrers. It's a ritual disguised as a necessity and enforced by the Brunch People. Our collective memory of Brunch is sanitized by gauzy photos of satisfaction. We might not pour over Black Death woodcuts, but we surely remember the cheery nursery rhyme.
A man in prison stripes stands between two guards, their faces shielded with sunglasses. A third guard mutely presents a large tray of food to the prisoner, which includes a large T-bone steak, some green vegetables, a glass of wine, two ears of corn, a plate of fried chicken, a slice of pie (a la mode) and three candy bars. The prisoner looks angry. He is shouting something and a cartoon fleck of spittle is perilously close to the guard's face. A chaplain watches from the corner of the prison cell, looking horrified.
A caption describes the scene: "Tell the governor I wanted BRUNCH!"
No one has to live inside a New Yorker cartoon. It doesn't have to be this way. These restaurants seem lovely. I bet they're even better at dinnertime. This weekend, Break the Brunch Cycle and Be Free.