Sunday mornings (coming down): Brunch in the UK

Well I woke up Sunday mornin’, with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.

And the beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad, so I had one more, for dessert.

Then I fumbled through my closet, for my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt.

And I shaved my face and combed my hair and, stumbled down the stairs to meet the day.

 

I’d smoked my brain the night before on cigarettes and songs that I’d been pickin’,

But I lit my first and watched a small kid cussin’ at a can, that he was kickin’.

Then I crossed the empty street and caught the Sunday smell of someone fryin’ chicken

And it took me back to somethin’, that I’d lost somehow somewhere along the way.

The Kris Kristofferson version of Sunday morning (coming down) is a roadtrip classic for R and me. But there are so many aspects of it that are totally unrelatable from a British background. Most notably, the idea that Sunday morning might smell of fried chicken. If anything’s being fried on a Sunday morning it’s probably breakfast – the patriotic Full English – any chickens will be being roasted, ready for the traditional Sunday lunch.

More recognisable is the later line “somewhere far away a lonely bell was ringin’”. Because, as the nonsense around where Prince Harry is allowed to marry his American divorcée can’t help but remind us, the UK is still, technically, a Christian country.

This Christianity, and the Sunday lunch tradition that presumably developed alongside churchgoing habits, is the reason that it’s difficult to do a proper American brunch in the UK on a Sunday.

Although it’s possible to get brunch options in some places (for a price/a long wait), a lot of pubs insist on replacing this option with a roast on a Sunday. Which is sad, because the roasts you get at pubs are rarely ever as good as those produced by home cooking. It’s all in the timing – keep the meat hanging around and it will go dry, lukewarm potatoes can’t be revived to their golden, crisp, steaming, fluffy perfection by drenching them in watery gravy, and mass-catered vegetables are nearly always too mushy or too hard.

Meanwhile, supermarkets in London are often closed until 12pm thanks to Sunday trading laws. (Shops over a certain size can only open for 6 hours on a Sunday, and in London they reckon most of their trade will happen after 12pm…) So, unless you’re organised, it can be difficult to get the ingredients for brunch on a Sunday.

R and I have developed a few responses to this problem. Firstly, we’re contextual people, so sometimes we embrace being back in the land of black pudding and fried slices and go to the best local greasy spoon for breakfast. It’s not a substitute for brunch – it’s something completely different, as signalled by the absolute necessity of pairing it with a good cup of English breakfast tea rather than coffee (that’s my position and I’m sticking to it). Otherwise it’s a case of being organised and creating our own piece of America in our flat.

R has always been skilled at making American blueberry pancakes, and we still have some maple syrup in our fridge that we bought in DC (it’s cheap and comes in 32 fluid ounce plastic bottles – we obviously brought a bottle back in our suitcase!), so that’s often a good option. And I’ve managed to crack(!) the American omelette, which is so reliably ubiquitous in the States, but you just can’t get over here. When explaining it to someone the other day we concluded it was more like a frittata (except folded) or a pizza (because of the sheer number of ‘toppings’/fillings) than our rather anaemic UK offerings. Our current favourite to cook is basically a Western omelette but with chorizo instead of ham.

We’ve also explored the wonderful world of breakfast casseroles for when we have company. Again, this required some explanation for a British audience used to casseroles being mainly meat stew-type things rather than anything cooked in a casserole dish! Possibly my favourite foray into American brunch cookery though were the cat-head biscuits and (sausage) gravy.

My efforts weren’t quite the size of a cat’s head, but otherwise they definitely satisfied our cravings.

 

So we’re doing ok for brunch options. But there are some Sundays when our heads hurt and we’re fumbling and stumbling through hangovers and the last thing we want to do is cook. It’s those Sundays we really miss DC’s 18th Street Diner, and that life ‘lost somewhere along the way’.

On the Sunday morning sidewalks, wishin’ Lord, that I was stoned

‘Cause there’s something in a Sunday, makes a body feel alone

And there’s nothin’ short of dyin’, half as lonesome as the sound

On the sleepin’ city side walks, Sunday mornin’ comin’ down

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2 thoughts on “Sunday mornings (coming down): Brunch in the UK

  1. You’re right, brunch still isn’t really a thing here, though I think its moment may come. It’ll never work for me, as I’m an early riser, and my breakfast always needs to come too early ever to be elided with lunch. And I’m certainly not doing any kind of meal that requires me to drink tea….

    Liked by 1 person

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