Mother's Day Brunch, a Modern Phenomenon

Weekend Edition's food essayist Bonny Wolf takes a look at the significance of the word "brunch" and weighs your options on Mother's Day.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

It's Mother's Day. If you haven't bought a card yet, you better start cutting and pasting and drawing. And if you think that Mom's going to cook, you probably have a long hungry day ahead. For sons and daughters who need some remedial Mother's Day guidance, WEEKEND EDITION's food essayist Bonny Wolf considers the options.

BONNY WOLF:

You have two choices: breakfast in bed or brunch at a restaurant. While a small child precariously holding a tray of burnt toast is adorable, there are those crumbs in the bed to consider. So it's out for brunch, and that's it for the options. Dads get backyard barbecues; moms get brunch.

Americans have been brunching for nearly a century, but as long ago as 1895, the British publication Hunter's Weekly used the word `brunch,' describing it as a hospitable meal, cheerful, sociable and inciting. `Brunch,' it went on, `makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings.' Maybe they were recommending such a meal for after the hunt: coddled eggs and a brace of quail perhaps.

In the US, brunch wasn't always so socially acceptable. The 1951 edition of "Emily Post's Book of Etiquette" declared: `Do not give encouragement to that single-headed, double-bodied deformity of language brunch. The word is an ungracious one which furthermore has a hurried lunch wagon suggestiveness.' `Brunch,' Mrs. Post wrote, `suggests standees at the lunch counter but not the beauty of hospitable living.'

But relax. Brunch is socially acceptable. Emily lost the battle and later editions of the etiquette book extolled the virtues of brunch as tailor-made for leisurely weekend get-togethers. And so, not surprisingly, Mother's Day and brunch were married. Mother's Day is the most popular day of the year to eat out, according to the National Restaurant Association. People start calling for reservations as soon as the snow melts. There are jazz brunches, Gospel brunches and folk music brunches. Some brunches offer fashion shows. You can have brunch in the garden, on a boat, at the zoo, on a train, at a ski resort, on the golf course or at the gym. You can even have brunch at a restaurant.

Once you pick the place, you and Mom face more choices--carving stations, omelet stations, waffle stations and even the occasional chocolate fondue fountain. A scan of Mother's Day brunch menus across the country reveals that instead of hash made from the traditional corned beef, mother can have Dungeness crab, duck or Kobe beef hash. Why get plain-old eggs Benedict when you could have poached eggs with lobster ragout and blood-orange infused hollandaise sauce. And chestnut seared halibut cheeks with truffled risotto cake is not lochs and bagels. If it's too much for you, remember, there's always the burnt toast in bed option.

HANSEN: Fern Wolf's daughter Bonny is working on a book of food essays to be published by St. Martin's Press.

This is NPR's WEEKEND EDITION.

(Credits)

HANSEN: I'm Lois Hansen's daughter, Liane.

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