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The Liberation of Morningfood

Troy Johnson ponders the ever-changing nature of dining out during the morning hours
Duck Hash-1.jpg

The duck hash from Craft & Commerce.

It’s a simple, revolutionary product improvement. Identify the hole in the market, fill it with hollandaise and bubbles. At some point in American history, breakfast became an alternative form of Novocaine; eating it made us feel nothing. We don’t take any pride in cooking it. We often eat it mid-text.

We’ve been told in the old days you could blissfully read the paper, casually chew eggs, idly chat about current events and offshore tax shelters with your kids. The storm of tasks politely waited to assault you until you walked through the office door.

But the modern world is far too rushed for casual egg chewing. Our phones ping the to-do list to our brains about an hour before we wake. Plus, according to the medical community, breakfast must be jam-packed with micronutrients and proteins if we want to have the right kind of mental clarity and energy required to succeed and invest in the right crypto.

And so breakfast became the most humorless, dry, healthy, utilitarian meal of the day. It’s eating as a job.

That’s why, when local restaurants seriously started investing in morningfood, it felt like such a revelation. Adding a quality cocktail (or even dimestore near-Champagne)? What a release! What a rebrand! It was like that famed Apple Macintosh commercial in 1984—where an auditorium full of bored, ashen post-apocalyptic blokes are watching a bony dictator talk on screen in black-and-white, then are bolted back to life by a woman in colorful dolphin shorts throwing her sledgehammer at the whole shebang. Brunch (and the improvement of morningfood, in general) is that fun hammer.

Another reason brunch has boomed in recent years is because it executed another classic move of the rebrand—took something that was rarefied as a “massive spend, a special occasion thing” and democratized it. Not a ton. It’s still going to set you back. But brunch used to only exclusively be served at big-date restaurants and resorts. You didn’t even order à la carte—just paid for a ticket like the carving station was a T-Swift show.

Then the neighborhood joints and moms and pops got into the morningfood action. Turns out you could do brunch without charging a billion dollars. Especially if cooks lean heavily on baked goods, since flour and sugar don’t break the bank like fancy proteins do (although the current Fabergé price of eggs is raining on this a bit). Brunch is like so many things in the world that started off prohibitively expensive and then boomed when the price came down for us commoners (air travel, cars, TVs, even vacuum cleaners and tea).

And finally, the joie de day drinking can’t be overstated. It’s not about obliteration. Just mellow buzzes at unconventional times. The day has now been chalked up to nonproductivity. Anti-productivity. And honestly, that feels great. So a wet brunch is a liberation of an entire day.

The buzz is different when the sun is out. It inverts your circadian rhythms. Your body mistakenly thinks it is Saturday night. Oh no, body, it’s laundry time. Plus, daytime is when to-do’s are done. Our bodies and brains are primed for executing laborious yet necessary life tasks. And for this one glorious day, the only to we’re tasked with doing is not talking about or doing to’s. In fact, don’t even talk to us about work or exercise. The psychic baggage of your desire to be a productive member of society is bumming out the flavor of this hash.

This issue is dedicated to the people of the morningfood. The people who freed us of our dead-hearted breakfast routine. The people who liberate days.

By Troy Johnson

Troy Johnson is the magazine’s award-winning food writer and humorist, and a long-standing expert on Food Network. His work has been featured on NatGeo, Travel Channel, NPR, and in Food Matters, a textbook of the best American food writing.

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