…but first coffee.
Spring sports are now in full swing here and I returned to the soccer & lacrosse fields to photograph no fewer than 6 games this week. After nearly a month’s break, followed by the curse of Daylight Savings, it’s been utterly exhausting. As a little reward for staying awake I treated myself to some beautiful ikura, or salmon roe. And I did not share. Not. One. Single. Egg. I had been tempted to experiment with some intricately stacked sushi I found on Insta, but frankly, I got hungry and felt particularly impatient yesterday. There really was no need for fanfare – I just plopped a fat tablespoon of roe on some warm Japanese rice and savored every salty little pop. A friend recently called ikura “a little taste of the ocean” and she nailed it. My moment of briny bliss happened around 11:30am, so I suppose I really am talking about brunch. Regardless it was a glorious little escape for a landlocked coastal expat.
I know nutritionists tout the benefits of a quality breakfast, and I’m quite sure they are right, but this girl is not breakfast-ready until she’s been awake for at least a couple of hours. Not only can I happily exist on coffee alone for the entire morning, I’ve learned that if I prime the pump too early I’ll be voraciously hungry all damn day. Just what I need is to be foraging around for second breakfast at 9:45. This would be the all-or-nothing monster in me and she’s not always wrong. If I am ever caught having a morning meal, it’s typically later, usually savory rather than sweet, and almost always a little unconventional. So yes, it’s brunch.
I wasn’t always this way. Growing up, my breakfast experiences were delicious but selectively Southern…typical Savannah. Our family mythology recalls that as a very little girl I would wander into my parent’s bedroom and loudly demand, “who’s going to make my lelly, dole and butter?” Once that was served, they were allowed to go back to sleep while I dined with Captain Kangaroo. Throughout my elementary years Mother would poach, fry and scramble eggs upon request while Daddy ensured that grits flowed freely – proper grits, mind you, stone ground with butter and cheese. I remember bacon was more important than sausage, we had toast rather than biscuits, and of course bagels were unheard of. Sorry y’all.
By age 10, life got busier and every so often breakfast doubled as my morning wake-up call in the form of a PopTart tossed up to the top bunk. If I wanted the milk, I had to come down and get it. My relationship with breakfast only deteriorated from then on: teens apparently don’t eat breakfast, coffee took center stage during my 20s and then suddenly there I was scrambling eggs and flipping pancakes for everybody but myself from age 30 on. It was during those mommy years that some serious breakfast resentment kicked in, but now it has faded into smoldering disinterest.
I did a little digging and learned that the portmanteau brunch originated in a British publication 1895. The author’s plea was for a lighter alternative to the heavy Sunday dinners (lunch) served after church or after a hunt. While church-going, hunting and their subsequent ceremonial meals weren’t new in the States, and remain a thing throughout much of the South today, the term “brunch” didn’t catch on here until after WWII. This is about the time that the idea of dining out was becoming more fashionable, especially in northern cities.
Throughout Industrial Revolution, Sunday afternoon dinner had often been the only time a family could gather and eat together after a long week. Weekends as we know them today did not exist nationwide until 1940 when a maximum 40-hour workweek was mandated and took effect. As further social shifts followed, including more married women entering the workforce, society began to reflect new modern dining attitudes. Hotels and restaurants jumped on the bandwagon, poured the mimosas and ta-da, the American brunch was branded.
Unless it’s a holiday worthy of a Bloody Mary, I generally pass on alcohol until after 6pm, making brunch a mere quirk of my daily routine rather than a do. Also I am supposed to avoid sweets…something about blood sugar. That doesn’t mean my daily brunch can’t be festive – hello ikura! As for those special occasion brunches, I admit I tend to go full-on cruise line with omelets, quiche, smoked salmon and savory tarts. I have been known to introduce some sweets and booze as well, or better yet combine them (see below) and then spend the afternoon napping in a food coma. But again, only on the weekends. Thank you, 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.
Boozy Eggnog Challah French Toast: the best of both worlds
- 1 small loaf leftover homemade Challah, thawed from Hanukah depending on timing
- 1-2 cups Homemade Egg Nog, cured since Thanksgiving but no more than a year old. Trust me, it’s FINE!
- 4ish eggs per cup of nog
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Powdered sugar
- Maple syrup
- Roasted pecans
- Decorative fruit
Slice challah into 1” pieces.
Combine egg nog, eggs and vanilla in a wide shallow dish.
Heat skillet to a lazy medium high and add 1 Tbs butter.
Dip slices of challah into the ‘nog mixture, flip and be sure to saturate completely. Once the butter has melted, add the prepared slices to the skillet in pairs and cook until golden brown, turning once. Be sure not to crowd the pan.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar & pecans and serve with maple syrup and a side of bacon. Fruit optional and totally unnecessary.
One thought on “brunch, the true breakfast of champions…”