Hold onto your eggs, we’re getting ready for Autostraddle’s International Brunch Weekend 8/23-24! Find a brunch meetup in your city or create your own by heading over to our events page. You can also load up on all things brunch by watching this space. From playlists to recommendations to personal essays, we’re writing all about the brunch experience. Get excited! BRUNCH.
BRUNCH BRUNCH BRUNCH, Noonish, At the Slapass Convent: this is the text I get from a BFF, Lauren, in Austin one summer. In lieu of gold rimmed invitations on soft, white paper, these calling card texts were our bat-signals to brunch; we flocked to them. Occasionally we would meet at this restaurant or another, but our brunches were usually too rowdy and too lengthy to really fit into a public space. Sometimes we would meet at my parent’s farmhouse, tucked up on a hill and away from other houses on five acres. There, people could drift in and out as they pleased. You could be an hour early or an hour late, depending on if you wanted to help cook.
Later, when four of my friends moved in with each other, they quickly christened their place the Slapass Convent and this house became our Brunch Haven. In those days, brunch was often held to help everyone recover from the previous night. The whole lot of us would be experiencing what my mother politely referred to as a delicate morning and we would rally to help each other recover. The main staple of our brunches was the famous mimosa. No one is certain of our exact record, but one especially epic brunch is remembered as vanquishing just shy of 30 bottles of champagne and/or prosecco. I remember some version of migas on the stove, sometimes pancakes. It was always a lengthy process with plenty of breaks for smoking and chatting on the front porch. Often the brunch would weave itself in the rest of the day and we would end up in another nighttime get together.
For a while, this was the only way to brunch. As some of these seemingly key elements evaporated from my life, I thought brunch itself might disappear as well. I could not imagine my lovely brunches without mimosas or prosecco. Luckily, I quickly learned that there were many avenues of drinky eccentricity sans bubbly. I realized that I am, at my core, a deeply decadent person. I like silk and lace; I love frivolous accoutrements; I write at a lectern; I got my MFA in poetry. And brunch? Brunch is all about decadence, about making a little monument of time and space to frivolity.
Somewhere along the way, as I was defending decadence to myself, I made an important discovery: if I have a patronus, it might be Cecil Vyse:
He is hopelessly decadent, frivolous, and has a wardrobe I aspire to. Room With a View is one of those movies that I have watched a thousand times, but if you come over to hang out with me, I will always ask if you wanna watch it. The first thousand times I watched, I wrote Cecil off as a ridiculous character, too wrapped up in his own decadence to treat other people as anything other than things. While he clearly had some growing up to do, I have come to really love and appreciate his devotion to pomp. The world is often really sad. There are crazy and catastrophic happenings every day and perhaps at times we need a stay from reality. I know I do. The beauty of brunch is that temporary leisure time and the ability to whittle away hours with friends. Pretending, for a morning and an afternoon, that it is always Sunday and always summer and always safe.
Let’s infuse some lightness where we can! I have been giving myself free reign to be indulgent. Though prosecco was my former go to, I am finding all sorts of other ways to make brunch overflow with muchness. My three favorite are:
There is nothing like a fresh bunch of flowers to make you feel alive and decadent. They are completely unnecessary and yet, once they are on a table, so essential. They are the relentless reminders that there is beauty in the world and sometimes it smells lovely.
Extra decadent points if you display your flora in an unconventional way. Cut the flowers down to size and break up a bouquet over several mason jars or tea cups. You can also do away with stems altogether and let the blooms float around freely in pretty bowls of water.
There is a special kind of beauty the exists in easily breakable glassware. Glass catches light and throws it back onto the table in pretty patterns. It shines and lets you see the jewel tones of whatever it is you are sipping on. Is it necessary to sip your mimosa out of an ornate flute? It it crucial that tea be ferried to your lips in a tiny glass tea cup? No? Then delight in it!
Bonus points of decadence for tea trays, picnic blankets, etc., give your brunchy foods a nice home to rest on!
Dessert After Brunch
We have it after a nice dinner and so too should we have it after a nice brunch! Sometimes brunch food is dessert food, but some extra sweetness never goes amiss. Madeleines are my thing, my go-to cache of decadence. They can look deceivingly fancy with their pretty shell shape and can often prompt people to ask you about Proust. Never fear! The only thing you need to make these faux-fancypants cookies are the special pans; after that, the recipe is super simple:
- 2 good eggs
- 2/3 cups sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
- 1 pinch salt (+ 1 pinch to pitch over your shoulder)
- 1 cup flour
- 10 tablespoons butter (a stick & a fourth) softened (not melted)
- *however much powdered sugar your heart desires to dust your confections with
Preheat the oven to 350. In a largish bowl, beat your two good eggs together with your sugar. Add the vanilla and lemon zest to this mixture. Toss in your pinch of salt. If you are superstitious (or me), throw a pinch of salt over your left shoulder. Slowly add in the floor, sifting it in to get an even mixture. Stir in the softened butter; the batter should have a nice matte shine to it and be difficult to stir. Place a spoonful of batter in each shell-shaped madeleine mold and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden brown.
Bonus timing help: get your French song on four times, check on the madeleines, then maybe watch once more.
After you take them out of the oven, allow to cool and then dust with powdered sugar or enjoy them naked (take that how you will). I don’t know where I first found this recipe but there are also many variations on the interwebs. Some use almond extract instead of lemon zest. I have also heard tale of using rosewater. Once, in my foolish, experimental youth, I tried raspberries but they threw off the consistency. I also tried to mix it up with lemon and lime zest with the result being classy looking cookies that tasted like Fruit Loops… Go crazy! Get decadent!
What are your favorite decadent brunch touches? What are your plans for the International Autostraddle Summer Brunch Weekend?