What's on your brunch menu?

But what I still cannot seem fathom -- theoretically, that is -- is why call it a brunch, and not lunch?

By Sushmita Bose

Published: Fri 12 Jun 2015, 10:00 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:50 PM

If it’s Friday, it’s probably brunch day. Till I arrived in Dubai, brunches meant nothing to me. I mean, I’d heard about them obviously — they are tantalisingly spread out across buffet counters in every world city (and then you also have brunches encapsulated in a set menu format) — but the references were always by the way. “So-and-so restaurant has a tremendous brunch menu,” I used to be told when I lived in Delhi. Loosely translated, it meant, “The food is great so check it out, even though it’s a slightly odd concept”. But I’d never attended a single brunch in the seven years I lived in Delhi. There were two reasons.

One, I could never entertain notions of breakfast and lunch being clubbed into one big eating disorder. If you had breakfast at home (I always need to, because I have to eat something after I wake up and before I take my morning shower), then you’d be too full to do justice to the mammoth feast being laid out in front of you. So why not just have lunch instead?

Two, I had a six-day workweek; Sunday was my single-day weekend. Would I want to spend four hours of my only off day stuffing my face in the afternoon when I could (a) watch a movie, (b) read a book, (c) go shopping or (d) sleep? Erm, not really. And if I had to make a meal out of it, I’d rather have had dinner with family or friends.

All that changed in Dubai. Brunches are not restaurant meals you sample because you are on the lookout for interesting edible variations. It’s a lifestyle; and like most other things here, it’s one you cannot escape from. You want to meet friends and stop being anti-social? Let’s brunch. You want to be ‘living it up’? Do the brunch. You want to appear “knowledgeable” at important gatherings? Know the brunch. Wikipedia even has a special section called ‘Dubai brunches’… no such luck for New York or London, sorry mates; the brunch is “something of an institution in Dubai,” it says. “Many large hotels and restaurants offer an all-inclusive drinks and food buffet… and large groups of expatriates and tourists make this the highlight of their weekend, with parties going on well into the night.” Ah well.

Brunch timings here are also conducive: they usually start around 1pm (the few brunches I’d heard of in Delhi always started at 11am — they seemed to take the breakfast+lunch coinage awfully seriously); so if you want, you can have a boiled egg-and-rye bread breakfast washed down by some weak tea in the morning, and feel sufficiently gluttonous by afternoon.

But what I still cannot seem fathom — theoretically, that is — is why call it a brunch, and not lunch? I tried doing some research on ‘brunch’ to get to the bottom of it, and realised the word was invented by an Englishman, one Guy Beringer as way back as the late 19th century. “Brunch is cheerful, sociable and inciting,” Beringer wrote in Hunter’s Weekly, circa 1895. “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 cobwebs of the week.” And in a post in The New York Times, in 1998, William Grimes has this marvellous summation of what the brunch originally meant — in a time period that precedes Downton Abbey: “Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a post-church ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare? By eliminating the need to get up early on Sunday, brunch would make life brighter for Saturday-night carousers. It would promote human happiness in other ways as well.”

It all sounded so satiating and fulfilling that I’ve decided to stop questioning the raison d’être, and just get my fill. I went for brunch last Friday. And I’m going for one today. Stop me if you can.


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