This school year marks the dawn of a new era with the potential to redefine the future of brunch. Every current college student who enrolled right after graduating high school was likely born after 1996, meaning members of Gen Z — not millennials — dominate college campuses. We now have an opportunity to evaluate millennial fads and redefine our own stereotypes. First on the list: bougie brunches.
I know this is controversial; lots of people like brunch! But part of that is because we are so used to looking up to the millennials among us and revering the culture they have created. Even though they are now long gone from campus, I worry our generation seems to have caught the brunch fever. When I voice my anti-brunch sentiments, my friends tell me I should retire from the hot takes industry, that I am hating on good things and that I am just no fun.
But I am by no means the first person to make this claim — many fun people have made it before. During the peak of anti-millennial hatred in the mid-2010’s, headlines like “Brunch is for Jerks,” “Why brunch is stupid” and “The Complete Guide to Hating Brunch” peppered the news. However, vehement anti-brunch sentiments have receded from the headlines. As the first wave of Gen Zers graduate college and join the traditional brunch-going demographic — young, urban professionals — we need to reignite the anti-brunch fervor.
The first reason to be wary of brunch is that it is a made-up genre of food. The food we consume at brunch is either breakfast food (eggs, potatoes, pancakes, etc.) or lunch food (sandwiches, salads, grain bowls, etc.). The brunch food category is fully fabricated, likely by the restaurant industry to allow us to justify spending money on food at any time of the day.
However, restaurants have more incentive than just getting people to eat more. They make a killing because they can serve breakfast food on lunch prices. The materials used to make breakfast food — eggs, potatoes and flour — are cheap, yet restaurants can get away with charging ludicrous prices for them. There is even an advice column recommending that struggling restaurants that need to increase profits start serving brunch. Unless your pancakes are infused with saffron or truffle mushrooms, there is no reason to be paying $17 for your mid-morning meal. And eating brunch instead of breakfast and lunch will not decrease the amount of food you eat over the course of the day, so it is not actually a cost saving mechanism, it just changes the schedule.
Part of my frustration is not with brunch but more with brunch culture. We should not wait in excessively long lines to pay exorbitant prices for foods that can easily be made inexpensively at home, and brunch is the most prolific manifestation of this phenomenon. We used to eat brunch in diners. But brunch has departed from its humble beginnings into an increasingly elitist enterprise. Across the country, diners have declined, especially in cities; in New York City, 60 percent of diners have closed over the last 25 years. Instead of diners, brunch has become fancy. It now often serves as an indicator of higher socioeconomic status, and the research backs this up. The geographic locations where the number of brunch restaurants are expanding positively correlate with that population’s disposable income and free time, demonstrating a humble concept has been co-opted by the wealthy.
Perhaps brunch’s only redeeming quality is that it liberates us from the restrictive confines of what we should eat and when. As a concept, brunch allows us to justify consuming breakfast food at any time of the day. Similarly, since brunch can be consumed any time between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., it allows us to chip away at meal time constructs that restrict when it is socially acceptable to have a big meal.
However, though attractive on the surface, brunch subtly reinforces those restrictions. Instead of creating more meal classifications, we should get rid of social constructs like mealtimes and fake designations about what food we should eat when. Why can’t I have quinoa for breakfast, cereal for dinner and a full meal at any time of the day? These social constructs are not scientifically based and are connected to legacies of colonial racism.
What we need is a revitalization of the home-cooked mid-morning food hangout. When we wake up lazily and want to debrief the night with friends, instead of waiting in line for mediocre, overpriced breakfast food where the lighting is always a little too bright, we should slumber over to a comforting living room and make our own eggs and waffles.
Except shameless plug for Frank’s: Everyone should get their “Famous French Toast.”
Solomon Medintz can be reached at email@example.com.