Field Notes On An Urban Brunch


Having recently moved from Missouri to Chicago, I had never experienced brunch in its urban habitat. Knowing that Roommate was out of town for the weekend and that I was most likely sitting alone in the apartment staring at the cat, Roommate’s cousin and his husband graciously invited me to brunch at their friend’s home. Brunch, I learned from my older, smarter and far superior friend in New York, is a big deal in the big city. Primarily a civilized excuse to drink in the middle of the day, it’s also an endless source of consternation, possibly constipation, and worry for the host/ hostess.

During a brunch, there are several things that can go wrong that no one but the perpetrator will notice. For instance, I narrowly avoided making an ass of myself and showing my suburban roots by not calling something that looked and tasted exactly like a casserole, a casserole. I still don’t know what it was, but new rule of thumb: if you find yourself in a gorgeous apartment full of eclectic art, what you’re eating, regardless of taste, consistency, appearance and logic, is not in fact a casserole. (I did eventually even things out during a conversation on natural disasters by offering, of my own free will, that during tornado season my family sits in the open garage with lawn chairs to watch the weather.)

For the host and hostess it was a matter of dishware and cutlery. The Bloody Marys wouldn’t really look good in these glasses, plus they’re too small and lord knows with this crowd that would create a lot of traffic at the wet bar, am I right? I was in full support of the large glasses, as they better accommodated the glorious Bloody Mary fixings—olives, peppers, asparagus spears, pepperoni sticks, CHEESE CUBES.

The gentleman whose honor the affair was presumably being held in was late because he was competing in a triathlon. There was a fierce battle roaring in my stomach between gas and guilt over the fact that I was sleepy because of the healthy American-sized portions of food and alcohol I had just consumed, and this man had just completed over two hours of intense physical activity.

I made a few friendly acquaintances even before the thoroughly enjoyable guest of honor arrived, curtsying through the doorway, veins popping and calves seemingly perpetually flexed. The first gentleman I struck up a conversation with talked to me at length about the spirited personalities and high energy of terriers. His partner had a gift for comic relief.

Me: I could never do a triathlon, I can’t really swim.

Gentleman: *Beat * Yes, and how would you keep your cigarette dry?

The host and hostess, she the successful owner of a yarn dyeing business, he an artist and graphic designer, have an art collection that can really only be described as bonkers. There was a lot of it, everywhere, juxtaposed, well, artfully—for example, a collection of Pez dispensers next to a beautiful portrait of their late Great Dane, Hank. Something I couldn’t figure out and remained fixated on long after my second helping was a bra hanging from one of the pretty wall sconces. A beautiful bra, I imagine the type found in a French boudoir, or a Boystown boudoir. I almost asked about it, curious if it was art? A bold decorative statement? In which case, did they go to a lingerie place shopping with that specific wall sconce in mind? By the time I thought myself into seven complete circles, I heard Roommate’s cousin say from very far away “Honey, are you ready?” We said goodbyes and made our exit (I think I curtsied—I had seen so many of the men doing it that the lower half of my body took on a life of its own).

A friend later asked me how my first brunch experience went. I told her it was basically like brunch in Kansas City except there wasn’t anyone there to take bigger helpings than me, and it wasn’t Easter.

“Also, at the end, a nice man in a tank top anointed my forehead with Bloody Mary mix and said ‘Go with quiche my child.'”

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image – Myriam Damaris R