Happiness usually comes in small doses, except when it’s dressed as a brunch. An extravagant western tradition that has slowly spread to (almost) all habitable masses of land, Sunday brunches were born to make the week ahead feel slightly more bearable. The post-Saturday night meal is known for its unparalleled variety and decadent dishes that set the mood for a lazy Sunday. Where and how did it start? Time to find out.
Back in 19th century Britain, wealthy English men indulged in the weekly Sunday hunt, where they chased down deers and scoured the woods for game birds. The hunt would start early and could stretch for hours, leaving the gentry hungry. Ever seen a famished Englishman? It ain’t pretty. To satiate themselves, the upper-class hunters would end the morning with a lavish feast. Brunches were also a bonus for all fasting Sunday church attendees, who would first pray, and then prey.
20th century travellers on ships from UK to USA carried the tradition with them and soon enough, the city of New York was obsessed with ‘drunches’ (brunches + drinks). Hosted either in personal residences or rarefied clubs, brunch in the 1920's gave rise to two of the meal’s most important modern-day components: the Mimosa and the Bloody Mary.
What started out as an activity for the upper class, eventually percolated down to the upper-middle and middle class. Easter, Christmas and weddings, all had huge spreads, which became the mark of a true celebration. 1950's America saw the first brunch cookbooks like Poppy Cannon’s Can Opener Cookbook, with its semi-homemade dishes featuring processed and prepared foods and potluck became a favourite among all American households.
In the last 50-60 years, the brunch has become a diluted version of its predecessor, with a focus on eating a big meal, rather than ‘what’ is being eaten. While Paranthas and Rajma Chawal or Puri and Sabji would do just fine in Delhi, Bangalore still prefers its Utthapams and Dosas. And for those who have some extra time and moolah to spare, international cuisine brunches have become an absolute essential.
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Artwork: Reva Sarma