Program Title: The History and Ritual of Brunch – with Farha Ternikar
Date: Thursday, February 26, 2015
Location: The New School
When Americans think of brunch, they typically think of Sunday mornings swelling into early afternoons; mimosas and Bloody Marys; eggs Benedict and coffee cake; bacon and bagels; family and friends. And the weekend ritual has come to mean vying for a table at the latest hotspot and waiting in endless lines to eat and drink at an hour uncommon during the work week. It’s generally a festive, social meal, and yet at the same time, as Farha Ternikar described in her presentation, it is a meal fraught with abject sociological connotation. Ternikar, an associate professor of sociology at Le Moyne College and author of the book Brunch, A History, talked about the origins and modern cultural implications of this combination meal. The spread of brunch has been shaped by social class, gender, and religious norms. She cited an 1895 Hunter’s Weekly article by British author Guy Beringer as the first written references to the meal. He called it an alternative to the heavy, post-church Sunday meals, likely taking a cue from England’s post-hunt repasts. It was also seen as a means to lighten a woman’s chores on Sundays, serving only two meals instead of the usual three. Dining out for brunch expanded the social and celebratory context of the meal. By the late 1940’s, according to Ternikar, brunch had spread from New Orleans and New York to rest of the country, and the ritual quickly spread to Saturdays, too, as another opportunity to socialize with friends and celebrate the weekend. The practice of eating brunch eventually found its way to other cultures and, as Ternikar stated, usually signified comfort or decadence. She discussed the recent backlash to brunch citing the association with the perceived decadence and class-based conflicts.
There is a richness of dishes associated with brunch which were presented in great array at the reception preceding the talk, including the Ham and Cheese Casserole.