Saturday 18 October 2014

Canadian Brunch

I have a rotten cold, and every time I attempt to do the housework or grocery shopping, I feel worse. So now I am shut up in the former linen closet (now our library) in a dressing gown in a battered armchair in front of the sunny window. A laundry line of T-shirts, upside-down like bats, interrupts my view of the windowed door.

A linen closet features in Nancy Mitford's wonderful The Pursuit of Love, and when I first read it, I was confused because my mother's and grandmother's linen closets were, well, just like broom closets, only with shelves. But now that I live in a house rather like the one Mitford was writing about, I understand. A proper Historical House linen closet is the size of a Canadian child's bedroom with shelves running around the walls. Mitford's little girls clamber onto the shelves and lounge on them. And as our shelves manage to hold up the weight of our books, I can see that.

Our linen closet has space for short IKEA bookcases, stashed under one of the bottom shelves, a pull-out sofa, a side table, a desk, the desk chair our CD/tape player sits on, and of course this armchair. I fasten the laundry cables around shelf brackets and take them down when the laundry is dry.  The library is small, so it is easy to keep it warm. It's a very cozy room; a good place to nurse a violent cold.

But I keep thinking about brunch, and how much I would love a good brunch. It is Saturday, which in Toronto is most definitely brunch day, although I suppose some Torontonians think Sunday is brunch day. However, I think of Sunday primarily as church day, even if one eats brunch food afterwards.

Brunch is not part of my life in Scotland. It's not that Scots don't know how to make a good fry-up--of course they do!--it's just that there's nobody to brunch with. It's just not a brunch culture. When I catch up with people, it's generally in late afternoon over coffee (4 PM) or a cocktail (5 PM).

How I long for a good Toronto brunch. In my mind's eye, I am imagining my dear friends Trish, Lily, Lala and Half Pint all together in, say, Kilgour's Bar Meets Grill, the brunch hangout of my youth.  I hope it is still there. And I wonder if Ron, my favourite waiter (and an actor) is still there. It is (or was) in Toronto's Annex, which is to say Bloor West Avenue on the west side of the University of Toronto's  St. George campus. "Seekers' Books"--a spirituality/occult shop--is (or was) beneath. To enter Kilgour's, you must climb a wide flight of stairs.

Kilgour's has (or had) a SPLENDID brunch menu. If you are poor, you can have toast, eggs and potatoes and endless coffee for surprisingly little. But if you are feeling flush, you can choose from a wide variety of Eggs Benedict or omelettes.

Let me see. What do I want today?

Oh, how glorious to be at a big table with Trish, Lily and Lala, waiting for Half-Pint. Naturally we all ask for coffee at once. And water. Ron is the waiter. He looks exactly the same. At the bar, the barman and the big guy on the bar stool are watching a hockey game on the TV. Who is playing hockey at eleven in the morning, eh?

I think I will have fried eggs over easy with bacon, very crispy, brown toast, no butter, with jam on the side, not leaving off the fried potatoes. And yes I want ketchup with that. I toy with having a Bloody Mary, at it is eleven AM and one may legally order one, but I don't want to run the risk of becoming drunk. Brunch is for sharp-witted chat. Drinks can wait for evening and forays into the clubs we almost never go into these days. In the afternoon Liz, Half-Pint and I will shop. Lala has to go somewhere with her husband at one, and Trish has a rehearsal.

Trish has poached eggs and toast. How disciplined. I used to be that disciplined. I used to eat egg-white omelettes! Lala has ordered a mushroom omelette, and Lily has chosen the most luxurious Eggs Benedict, the one with caviar on top. I feel a qualm. Maybe I should have ordered that? But no. I want my bacon, and ordering bacon as a side strikes me as horrible, Babylonian excess.

Or do I want sausages?

Ron, I will have the sausages instead.

Oh, alas. I have looked up and seen the laundry line. Ron and Les Girls have disappeared. Perhaps I will put my sneakers on and risk the cold kitchen. There is bacon in the fridge. I could certainly make a cheese omelette. Sadly, we are out of bread and coffee.


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