Despite the popular notion that I butcher and bastardise the English language, I am a devoted etymologist. I often spend my free time reading the dictionary – I admire all words both antiquarian and modern (even though I’m yet to discover what an emoji is!).
I am particularly fascinated by the different words we use for meals; I have always called them breakfast, lunch, and supper. The only significant exception to this rule was a period at prep school when I would be given tea – a main meal at roughly half past six, usually consisting of fish fingers or pasta…
Our stereotypical “friends up north” also eat breakfast (probably porridge to ward away the cold, but perversely – to me at least – have dinner at 1 o’clock (perhaps meat dripping on thick bread with a dollop of mushy peas), and finally have tea at nightfall (almost defiantly a Fray Bentos pie) before nipping over to their local for a pint of mild.
It is not just the chintzy chaps of Manchester who are confused about what meal is served at what time of day. There are the miserable few who refer to supper as dinner…this is a muddied water because we do invite people to a dinner party to eat supper where we dine on food in the dining room.
Unless it is extremely formal, it is supper or if you are a bouncy blonde Sloane girl in penny loafers it is apparently ‘Sups’ (as reprehensible as calling lunch dinner!)
And then there is brunch….
Brunch is not a meal that sits well with me. Yet it is all the rage. I don’t understand what meal it is; this late breakfast or early lunch is in reality just an excuse for slovenliness. It is almost exclusively an activity for bored couples taken in pubs. The only justifiable reason to take a weekend breakfast (or bloody brunch!) out is if you are flying or going horse racing – both events dictating a smarter dress code than brunch’s tracksuit bottoms and an ill fitting Jack Wills t-shirt.
For a merry bachelor capering around town brunch makes as much sense as reading Ulysses. For me brunch is full English buffet served from home on a rolling basis, usually the morning after the night before.
This said, Splendid Red is a gentleman who likes to try everything wholeheartedly before leaning back and passing callous judgement. So I attempted brunch in an all singing all dancing gastropub on the Fulham road. After starving myself until the bewitching hour of 11.30, I summoned the strength to leave the papers and attempt brunch.
Without breakfast I felt malnourished, a condition made even more acute by watching Saturday kitchen. The summer heat consumed me and I began to feel rather like Sir John Mills in Ice Cold in Alex – alas there would be no ice cold beer at the bar, only brunch and a lukewarm Bloody Mary. Fearing my end and with my stomach demanding food like hungry child I dreamed of eating vast plates of grub – tellingly, none of these meals were brunch.
My, now wafer thin body, was blown in through the door of this gastropub. The once great British institution, ‘The Pub’ was gone and replaced by furniture picked seemingly from an Emma Bridgewater catalogue. Couples were lazily strewn among the rinky-dink furniture, there endless streams of enthusiastic waitresses, everybody was wearing ‘weekend spectacles’ and there was not a drunk in sight.
I grabbed the menu which included seven items, all with ludicrous names linked only – I think – by popular music. I panicked and, with hunger gnawing away at me almost to the point of nausea, chose and eggs Benedict with avocado, which had been allocated a name loosely punning on the song ‘If your going to San Fransisco”. Despite being in a rather un-celebratory mood and protesting to the waitress that “I would rather have a Guinness” I ended up with a ‘bottomless prosecco’.
I love prosecco, but it is only my drink of choice if it is chilled and I’m sitting in on a rolling Tuscan hill or listening to the early evening sea lapping against the Calabrian shores. My enthusiasm for a warmish overly saccharine flute at mid-morning in central London is strictly limited.
However, I gritted my teeth and on with brunch. The eggs were excellent and I tried to get in the spirit by drinking my fizz quickly and ‘going bottomless’! Sadly like all restaurants one goes from prince to pauper rather rapidly – my prosseco taking the length of a test match to be topped up.
I began to be bored by brunch. I had read the papers at home, I wolfed my food down through sheer hunger, and I was starting to endure heartburn from my cheap prosseco. I gazed into the ether and with no sport on TV (this is a big no no at a brunch pub), I began to think of that wonderful meal lunch – what time would I eat now that I was stuffed to the gills?
On further reflection I have decided that this would be my final brunch and that I would rather have tea at lunch or is that dinner?!