On the Importance of Brunch

It's not just a Millennial thing

Article and photos by Justine de Jesus

There is nothing that excites me quite like a trip to the grocery store. There’s just something about queuing up at the winding lines at Trader Joe’s cradling (yet another) tub of hummus, or a special Whole Foods trip when I feel like treatin’ myself. There’s even a sense of adventure as I come stumbling into FroGro after a long Saturday night, inevitably leaving with an unhealthy snack. My long weekends are flagged by too many brunch plans, despite my slim wallet. That kid that’s always talking about food? That’s me. That kid that walks into lecture with a full meal in hand? Also me. And even when I’m not eating in class, that intense look in my eyes is not actually a sign of focus – all I can really think about is the Beefsteak that awaits after lecture. Point being, food is the center of my little universe. It is the thing that keeps me – both figuratively and quite literally – alive.

While I am guilty of often keeping this indulgent relationship between food and myself private, I do believe that food is best when it’s shared. There is an inseparable tie between food and people – *duh Justine, of course*. While our generation has gathered the reputation of being the brunch-obsessed, photo-snapping, avocado toast fanatics, there is a reason so much of our plans revolve around food. Enjoying food and the company of our friends shouldn’t be a ‘Millennial Thing’ – it should be an everyone thing.

Caught in the relentless cycle of 9 am recitations and 9 pm meetings, its easy for us to choose that voice in our head over the rumble in our stomachs. That inseparable relationship between me and food has come undone under the stresses of trying to balance that thing we call College Life. Apart it from being unhealthy, locking myself inside my dorm and attempting to pass off a cold bowl of cereal as ‘lunch’ denies food of its true nature – that food is innately social.

Breakfast sandwich from Walnut Street Cafe!

This past week has reminded me of the simple joys of sharing a meal – and I’m not talking about fancy brunches at restaurants listed under the three dollar sign category on Yelp. I’m talking about sharing a meal anywhere, from sitting outside when the weather is bright carrying $4 food truck steals, or even just swiping at Commons (yes, even Commons).

My friends and I celebrated Galentine’s Day with a trip to Thai Singha – on a cold February night, there was nothing more comforting than some spicy lemongrass soup and Pad See Ew. Like me, most found the experience healing, restorative – it was the first time all of us finally had the chance to sit down and catch up. At our little dinner celebration, food was the vehicle that carried our conversations through the night. Ordering family-style, embarrassing stories and slow giggles were accompanied by the gentle clatter of plates being passed around and drinks being shared.

Last Friday, some members of Penn Appetit’s very own board spent a morning at Walnut Street Cafe. On a day when the weather could only be described with the word ‘grey’, brunch was surprisingly the opposite, topics of conversation ranging from Australian style sensibilities to babkas and Bon Appetit’s wild finsta (yes, it’s a thing). It’s certainly true that this kind of sit-down meal doesn’t afford the efficiency granted by a Grab and Go or takeout – but even in a non-stop world seemingly dictated by late night cram sessions and all-nighters, we can’t keep blaming ‘the system’ – sometimes, we just have to make time.

While my constantly overthinking brain would have normally been nagging me about all my unfinished work, I loved every moment of these meals. Indistinguishable voices getting lost in conversation, to the quiet that creeps across the table when the food first arrives. Mutual smiles, all secretly agreeing to uphold the sacred silence in praise of the first bite too good to put into words. Bonding over your shared struggle to accept the amount of calories you somehow managed to consume, resolve to hit the gym soon — and probably fail. It in these moments that you realize this is food for the soul.