To many The Brunch is more than just a meal served between 10AM and 3PM. It is a sacrament. I don’t know how my own VERY serious approach to brunch began but that is the way I now roll. It is unlikely I will change on this. The Brunch not only provides me an opportunity to create a highly nuanced culinary preparation served at peculiar hours; it perhaps more importantly provides me with a stage to show off mad cooking skills and the colorful serving platters I have collected at local flea markets.
So when my spinster sister called a couple of weeks ago to ask if she could host the annual birthday brunch I throw for our dad I was not too happy about it.
“But why? What did he ever do to you?”
Sis’s inability to cook is now the stuff of legend thanks to this blog. Dinner invitations to her place are not to be accepted if you have not had your inoculations and at least a two week course of probiotics. Sis’s usual breakfast buffet features a row of multicolored cereal boxes and a jug of milk sitting out on the counter. Her cereal bowls don’t match (gasp!) and, well, would it kill her to buy a real platter from Williams Sonoma so that her store-bought cinnamon rolls won’t have to be served on a pressed aluminum tray?
Our dad has been quite supportive and extremely generous to both of us throughout the years so it seemed particularly cruel to subject him to one of her train-wreck meal events in return.
“Girl, we want to celebrate him not bury him.”
“I’m serious Trevor!”
So was I.
In the moment I opted not to express my usual contempt for her cooking and entertaining skills. I have learned that sometimes it is best to let her believe I am joking — even when I’m not. I knew I was serious. She knew I was serious. I knew she knew I was serious and she knew it. She may not know how to make a cup of tea she is otherwise she is very knowledgeable.
It is just like my sister to get the purpose of brunch entirely wrong. I conceived our annual celebration as a way to show off the antique serving ware and the vintage cake stand I hid in the garage all year long for that moment where I could nonchalantly take it to the table as if it were no big deal.
My sis just wanted to show off her recessed lighting and the new bathroom tile grout.
What was she thinking she would cook for us? If I didn’t know what an expert plumber she was I would have suspected she had lead pipes leaching brain damaging minerals or microbes into her water supply. She was clearly having delusions of culinary aptitude.
“At least let me bring something. What can I bring?”
“How about everything?”
Wow. She played me like a fiddle. Of course, her idea was perfect and a wonderful compromise. We negotiated a bit more. I would go to her house the night before and do all the cooking and bring all the serving pieces and she would install my new porch lights and fix the washer blades on my car in exchange.
Everyone is happy.
I dusted off my cake plate and the vintage Villaroy and Boch oven-to-table casserole dishes and went to work on what I consider one of the best make ahead brunch dishes I know how to make. Yes, this Tomato and Spinach Strata dirties a few pots and pans but they will be all cleaned the night before leaving you with nothing to do in the morning except popping it in the oven.
Even my sister can handle that.