All Brunched Out

Hairless Khala Dog Outside Westville, East VillageShawn HokeA Hairless Khala dog stands outside the Westville East — one of the locations where Sarah Shanfield has violently tripped while indulging her brunch habit.

It came on quickly.

I didn’t know I was addicted; I thought I just had a lot of friends. There was that birthday “Kegs & Eggs” celebration for my roommate’s coworker. There was that friend from home that only had a few hours until her return plane ride and desperately wanted to go dine at 11 a.m. at the Boathouse Cafe, “like Carrie Bradshaw!”

And then there was that day I woke up and there happened to be five people sleeping on the floor of my apartment, and the only way to get rid of them was to promise them really good pancakes at the cute little place around the corner.

It’s a sad story, but soon after I moved here, I became addicted to brunch.

I ate so many brunches that I began to choke when I had a piece of fruit that wasn’t drizzled in lemongrass-infused balsamic honey. Friends would joke that my blood was actually just Bloody Mary mix, but after violently tripping on the outdoor tables at Westville East I realized it wasn’t Bloody Mary mix, it was just straight celery juice running through my veins.

Sunburnt CowThe Sunburnt Cow.

Once, I had the day off work and went out drinking the night before. In the light of the following, innocent, Tuesday morning, I was hungover, and by association, I desperately wanted brunch. I began to dry heave when I had eggs at 7A that actually tasted like normal eggs and not salted butter nuggets.

My low point was at a birthday brunch for a friend at the Sunburnt Cow on Avenue C. Sunburnt Cow is an Australian Bar that serves unremarkable food but offers a two hour all-you-can-drink special for a mere $18. Perhaps two hours is measured differently in Australia, because I was there for a good eight, ordered my eggs over-easy, and woke up at 10 p.m. on the stairs of Luke’s Lobster Rolls realizing that even though there wasn’t direct evidence of me wetting my pants, I probably had and it had dried in the Saturday sun.

My problems weren’t just getting drunk. I could not stop eating. At brunch and after brunch. I wanted all of the table muffins, the glazed donut holes that are complimentary with my mimosa, and multiple hot sauces for my homefries. After brunching I would quickly realize that I had been eating variations of butter, bread, and ham, and in my salty fit I would scour the city for dessert and coffee — because the pain au chocolat was just an appetizer and didn’t count as part of my meal.

To cure myself, I created a 12-step program. First, I admitted I was powerless over brunch. I had to understand that if I went to brunch, whether it was for some sad, unpopular co-worker’s birthday party or a conscious choice to see friends I felt were too boring to spend any precious night hours with, it would simply ruin my day. I would not be able to get anything done after eight slices of table banana bread and a five-egg brie and pulled pork omelet. I had to accept this.

I learned to stay away from certain words and phrases: “Prosecco,” “Benedict,” “mini-muffin,” “stuffed” (when not referring to Thanksgiving products), “prosciutto-hash,” “poached,” “croque monsieur,” “croque señor,” “salmon scramble” and of course, the buzzword that releases my most inner demons, “arugula.”

Matilda's for brunch 4C. Ceres Merry

Step eight would be admitting to others the nature of my wrongs. I knew I would lose many friends by doing this, but I was willing to sacrifice all the gossip-mongers I frequented Max Brenner with. I went through my calendar and contacted all of my brunch companions from 2009-2010 and told them how sorry I was for telling them to get a burger instead of salad so I could dip their fries in the same mayonnaise-ketchup combination I was eating with my eggs.

Some were forgiving, some were not, but at least now I know who my true friends are.

Step 10 called for me to take personal inventory; which clearly meant to remove all brunch items from my home. Breakfast vodka? Gone. Pears that begged to be poached and sprinkled with cinnamon were disposed as were any traces of yogurt or granola. The first canister of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls I ate raw to punish myself, but the second I kept for later; perhaps I would take up a tea time habit next.

One thing I realized in my journey to self discovery was that I was not born with a brunch addiction. New York made me this way. Before I moved here, I got up on the weekends and had a bagel like a respectable human being. I spent my day completing tasks and fulfilling goals rather than walking off a “breakfast pizza” around the perimeter of Tompkins Square Park (because walking as far as the East River Park is way too far after so much pancetta).

I never ate such novelty items as goat cheese and steak tips in the morning. I hated egg whites. I listened while Anthony Bourdain claimed that all brunches are served with the restaurant kitchen’s expired food items. I also did not wear heels before 8 p.m. or sunglasses that obscured almost all of my face. New York did this to me. New York was my bad influence and my enabler.

eatenC. Ceres Merry

Sometimes, I walk by the fashionable crowd at Prune and observe them laughing, flipping their hair, fixing their gladiator sandals, jangling their vintage-looking jewelry, and chatting with their parents about the carbonara lasagna. I hover over them as they look at menus while they pass the time of their two-hour wait. I sip on my Nalgene, which holds tomato juice without vodka, and I cringe only for a moment. I cannot control others, I can only control myself.

And when I want a piece of their table banana bread, I remind myself how utterly stupid brunch is, and I get a bagel like a normal, productive human being.