It's become a bit of a family tradition that when our family is all here together Saint Mick treats us to a delicious brunch. Nice. The splendid Sheraton Grande on Sukhumvit in Bangkok is our preferred eatery, but I have to say, though, that of late the experience is starting to feel just a little surreal. Whilst we are inside the hotel, living the high life, enjoying the jazz and sampling the delights, the sky-train is literally a stones throw away outside and you don't need to look very far to see plenty of poverty.
I haven't read Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale for a long time, but I'm sure there is a scene in it of the 'haves' living their privileged, five star lifestyle - enjoying forbidden fruits in a hidden location, whilst everyone else, the 'have not's, go without. The brunch feels just a little bit like that. I felt the same the first time I went in a Business Class Lounge in an airport. Sectioned off, exclusive and completely undeserving - I guess the metaphor can extend infinitum.
Typical me that I can't even enjoy a brunch without a healthy dose of guilt and angst. Yet, full of contradictions as ever, I still tuck in. At the Sheraton the desserts are exquisite, the lattes and teas scrumptious and the elephant (someone dressed up in an elephant suit for the kids) as entertaining as ever, I wonder how many incarnations of the elephant we've encountered over the last dozen years or so? Brunches are definitely a treat which I really look forward to, yet despite this, I'm not sure if they are my favourite style of dining,
To brunch or not?
One good thing about brunches is that diners can choose their own favourite dishes. In our family, the vegetarians, Mick and Annie, favour the curry corner and have a penchant for the paneer and lentil curry. Betsy, on the other hand, can't get enough of the pork ribs and bypasses the salads completely; whereas I'm always drawn towards the lamb in all it's forms, chops, curry, salads. Yum. That's not to say the vast amount of meat on display doesn't make me feel terribly guilty about a) waste generally b) the future of our climate, and c) the poor little lambs' short lives. Yep, I know I still eat them! Unlike at some other restaurants, a good brunch means that there are always ample choices for vegetarians and vegans. In addition, dishes can also be cooked on request. This is a good thing, but countered by the fois gras served alongside the vegan choices. This is a very bad thing.
I've noticed that there are two types of diners at posh brunches. There are the genuine well-heeled foodies who savour the top quality dishes, and then the rest of us who cram in as much of the good stuff as we can! Brunches are relatively expensive and can feel a 'waste of money', especially if opting to consume a sensible and healthy amount (don't worry this never happens.) The counter argument is that they afford opportunities to tantalise the tastebuds with exciting foods outside of our family's regular dining experience. Lobster, salmon smoked in coconut, roast dinner with three choices of meat and twenty plus dessert choices do not typify our Wednesday evening meal.
As brunches are 'eat as much as you like' it is possible to get good 'quantity' value. This can be a bit too self-revealing for comfort as the fact that I see the 'array of choice' as a reason to try absolutely everything, rather shows my lack of sophistication.
Lasting between about 11.30 am to 3.00 pm, plus travel time, brunches can take up the whole day. This can be a positive and provide much needed family time in which stimulating and heart-warming family chat can occur, or... it can be problematic when study, swimming and blog writing are still on the day's agenda.
Back in the days when I drank alcohol the concept of having 'free-flow' booze symbolized perfectly the contradictions of brunching. The continual top ups were much desired, made group dining flow with a flourish, and muted the 'are brunches value for money?' question. However, the rest of the day was often wasted as extended afternoon naps (sleeping it off) were the norm. It's not without an element of shame that I have noticed that during the last 18 months of teetotalism we have enjoyed our feasting in the main 'living room', rather than getting gently sozzled in the posher, more private, but 'away from prying eyes' Rossini quarter.
I think the truth is that I have a 'good angel' and a 'bad angel' perched on my shoulder. Currently, my 'good angel' is contemplating (not doing, but contemplating) joining the ranks of the veggies, and doing other, undecidedly, good worthy and charitable things (!), whilst my bad angel is reflecting how the meat was to die for. I'm wishing I squeezed another lamp chop in and a bit more beef! I don't think my good angel is ready to graduate any time soon!