The Trouble With Brunch

The Trouble With Brunch

Work, Class and the Pursuit of Leisure

Book - 2014
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Perseus Publishing
What do your Eggs Benedict say about your notions of class?

What do your Eggs Benedict say about your notions of class?

Every weekend, in cities around the world, bleary-eyed diners wait in line to be served overpriced, increasingly outré food by hungover waitstaff. For some, the ritual we call brunch is a beloved pastime; for others, a bedeviling waste of time. But what does its popularity say about shifting attitudes towards social status and leisure? In some ways, brunch and other forms of conspicuous consumption have blinded us to ever-more-precarious employment conditions. For award-winning writer and urbanist Shawn Micallef, brunch is a way to look more closely at the nature of work itself and a catalyst for solidarity among the so-called creative class.

Drawing on theories from Thorstein Veblen to Richard Florida, Micallef traces his own journey from the rust belt to a cosmopolitan city where the evolving middle class he joined was oblivious to its own instability and insularity.

The Trouble with Brunch is a provocative analysis of foodie obsession and status anxiety, but it's also a call to reset our class consciousness. The real trouble with brunch isn't so much bad service and outsized portions of bacon, it's that brunch could be so much more.

Publisher: Toronto :, Coach House Books,, 2014
Description: 107 pages ; 20 cm
ISBN: 9781552452851
Branch Call Number: 306.481 Mic


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ksoles Nov 30, 2014

In "The Trouble With Brunch," Shawn Micallef wonders whether consumerism truly satisfies the middle class. To explore this question, he asks another: do we actually enjoy going out for brunch? The author specifically analyzes the "creative class" through their adoration of brunch, a symbol of leisure time, money and the ability to waste the two of them on cholesterol-packed, over-priced and probably sub-par eggs Benedict.

Micallef uses economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen’s words to explain brunch as “a conspicuous consumption of goods, a leisure-class requirement.” But, with reverence to distressed furniture, chipped dishware and farm-origin menus, this consumption actually celebrates the working class. Ironically, patrons would never define themselves as such; everyone now identifies as middle class, rendering the term useless.

Micallef astutely and engagingly discusses the intricacies of brunch: how we use it to display freedom, how consuming it fits us nicely into a mould and how the brunch experience, no matter how extraordinary the establishment tries to make it, is always the same. At times though, the topic of brunch simply bookends a more relevant essay about the current state of class. Micallef describes the people in Windsor, Ont., where he grew up: mostly immigrants who worked in factories. These families all qualified as middle class but had a completely different mindset from those he now hobnobs with in Toronto, the creative class subset who perceive they have the freedom to eschew Wal-Mart and change careers over a cocktail.

Somewhat frustratingly, Micallef doesn’t provide any answers, instead urging readers to give serious thought to how we can use authenticity, class and leisure time to improve social interactions.

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