This is Paris…but is this Brunch?

‘Brunch’ gets Lost in Translation …

Here in France, we have a thing called the grasse mat­inée ; a lazy morn­ing, sleep­ing in, laz­ing about, and doing noth­ing. Except eat­ing, of course. (We’re French — not alien…) It’s about keep­ing it sim­ple — graz­ing on crois­sants and jam, and an espres­so or three. Oui, wher­ev­er you are, you have it too. It’s just that ours is ~more chic~ some­how, and involves crois­sants, comme d’habi­tude

Beware of False Friends

Epic, mul­ti-course morn­ing meals are sim­ply un-French (sim­ply look at the pho­to, above. On the left: Brunch, French-style. Where’s the salty??? On the right: Brunch, the way Ang­los know and love it). But that hasn’t stopped Le Brunch and its bacon‑y ten­drils from spread­ing like kudzu in Paris (like the matcha lat­te (oui…) or McDonald’s (non, mer­ci…). It could be argued that France opened the door to it when L’Académie française decid­ed to include the world ‘self­ie’ in their dictionary. 

So we must con­tend that, mere­ly a few steps away from two of the Old Gates to the city, a for­eign invad­er has slipped past the bar­ri­cades: 1000-calo­rie morn­ing (-ish) meals. 

But non ! All zis ‘pancakes’ is not French. Not so much anyway. 

In Paris, some think that brunch is obscene. Week­end morn­ings — not for the Parisians (ouf — look at our flat stom­achs non non non) but for tourists and Anglo expats — usu­al­ly goes as fol­lows: splash your face with water, cov­er your eyes with a pair of sun­glass­es and head out with les copines for pan­cakes, cof­fee, some kind of lux­u­ri­ous­ly fat­ty pork accom­pa­ni­ment, (and maybe a refill of the afore­men­tioned) to shake off the rev­el­ry of the night before. 

The French jumped into the game, with a Ver­sion Française de brunch — tables piled high of pound cake (a too-trendy thing here, in my opin­ion), all-you-can-eat-crois­sants, fresh­ly squeezed orange juice…I sup­pose to jus­ti­fy charg­ing you over 20€ for.…unlimited slices of cake…? 

Nah.

We don’t go down like that. I believe this is a mas­sive cul­tur­al mis­un­der­stand­ing. Ok, we French­es took the whole ‘lol wut how much are you eat­ing to shake off that hang­over?’ and applied it to our own, native, pas­try-cen­tric, break­fast habits. 

But how many crois­sants and slices of cake can one pos­si­bly ingest? Sor­ry, mes chéries, but some things just don’t translate…

So, FOREIGNERS must proceed with CAUTION…

If you are like me, (and no of course you aren’t because how many heavy-drink­ing, deeply indebt­ed, Eng­lish-lan­guage, mag­a­zine-writ­ers in Paris can there be?) you don’t think of ‘unlim­it­ed iced lemon and/or choco­late mar­ble pound cake and lots of cap­puc­ci­nos’ when you wan­na scratch that brunch itch.

Like me, you want pan­cakes. And bacon. And maple syrup.

Or some god­damn WAFFLES. 

We suf­fer in com­mon that we can nev­er be healed of this. So let’s embrace it. Take hold of those fat stacks of pan­cakes with­out shame, and also with­out being led astray to Le French Brunch, which, while insta­gram­ma­ble as hell, is ~still a table full of pound cakes and orange juice for like, 20 euros ~

Bye, Philippe!

So choose care­ful­ly, in fact con­sult our bru­tal­ly curat­ed list of worth-it brunch­es, where hon­est-to-good­ness, shame­less, Anglo day­time overeat­ing is nei­ther in fash­ion, nor out, but over­whelms the French attempts to play the game and/or resist/overcharge for such bac­cha­na­lia. Sort of like that sub­ma­rine fias­co a few months back.

So bear in mind, in France, there are 3 kinds of Brunch:

–Le Brunch Ver­sion Français (tables of all you can eat cakes and pas­tries with cof­fee and orange juice in abundance. 

–Le Brunch Anglo (what you, dear read­er, most like­ly hope for — pan­cakes, eggs, and all the bacon. The trendy, inter­na­tion­al ver­sion that does­n’t dif­fer much from Brook­lyn to Bris­bane to the 10th Arrondisse­ment.

–Le Hotel Brunch — an ani­mal not nor­mal­ly found roam­ing out­side the rar­efied envi­rons of posh hotels. This is the over-100€ ver­sion found in cer­tain arrondisse­ments — think fab­ric nap­kins, heav­ing roasts with hot guys carv­ing away to your delight, seafood tables, and gen­er­al, deli­cious excess. 

The History of Brunch: From Jesus Christ to Cafés Richard to Avocado Toast

I realise that some con­text regard­ing the expo­nen­tial growth of ‘Le brunch’ is nec­es­sary, so I’ve mined the archives and his­tor­i­cal data­bas­es for pre­cise dates on the evo­lu­tion of break­fast like a prop­er pan­cake sher­pa. I believe that he who does not under­stand our avo­ca­do toast-less past con­demns him­self to an avo­ca­do toast-less future. I’m pret­ty sure that quote comes from the Holy Bible. 

259 B.C.: Before Capuccino

Sin­gle-celled organ­isms, believed by anthro­pol­o­gists and chefs alike to have been Adam and Eve, drag them­selves out of the muck in search of a decent café au lait. They found some, giv­ing them the get-up-and-go need­ed to sprout limbs, even­tu­al­ly evolv­ing into Jesus Christ him­self. But alas, until 59 B.C. — when the Romans arrived on Gal­lic lands with espres­so from Caffe Sant Eustac­chio in Rome — Paris was mere­ly a sandy fish­ing vil­lage with nei­ther good expres­so nor crois­sants.

59 B.C. — 1247 A.D. 

Like the major­i­ty of French his­to­ry, not much hap­pens of any inter­est and there is lit­tle that remains any­ways, so… 

1248

King Louis IX, future Saint Louis (of Mis­souri fame) set out to do some total­ly not woke stuff dur­ing the Cru­sades (#NotAll­FrenchK­ings), return­ing with the Crown of Thorns alleged­ly worn by Jesus Christ and oth­er holy mulch, and starts build­ing Sainte-Chapelle, which has the tallest stained-glass win­dows in the world. 

This isn’t relat­ed to brunch but I’m men­tion­ing it because, oth­er­wise, it’ll seem as if there real­ly is no French his­to­ry to speak of. I’m apply­ing for cit­i­zen­ship next year so I’ll tell them I write about French his­to­ry. Pourquoi pas?

1892 — 2013

Cafés Richard buys the dis­tri­b­u­tion rights of all cof­fee in France, which does­n’t expire until 2014 (also known as the Paris café renais­sance when then-Pres­i­dent François Hol­lande broke up the cof­fee monop­oly by run­ning Richard over on a scoot­er with actress Julia Gayet rid­ing behind down the Champs-Élysées). 

Ital­ian, Aus­tralian and Turk­ish expats in Paris rejoice after a cen­tu­ry of try­ing to under­stand how the pas­tries could be the best in the world, but it’s hard to tell the dif­fer­ence between Mr. Pro­pre and expres­so from a French tabac. 

2013

The French gov­ern­ment launch­es a spe­cial visa pro­gram allow­ing Aus­tralians under the age of 25 to come work in France. Flee­ing a chlamy­dia out­break that, “babe, I—like—totally caught at the zoo, eh. It must’ve been those damn koalas I was pet­tin’ hon­ey,” (have you seen the news?) Aussie immi­grants arrived by plane­load with just the flat whites on their backs. 

2019

As the crowds swell to epic pro­por­tions, and the wait for pan­cakes exceeds the one-hour mark on week­ends and week­days alike, dar­ing rein­force­ments to save the lit­tle stretch of Rue Lucien Sam­paix and Rue du Château d’Eau, Parisians (and for­eign­ers will­ing to trek out­side the Rick Steves’ guide­book routes) in need of com­fort food before noon can just plug metro Jacques Bon­ser­gent into Google maps et voilà!

How does one reconcile that it’s so not chic to let out three notches from my belt?

The heart wants what the heart wants, like a ‘dessert’ of maple syrup-topped pan­cakes after the savoury bacon-fes­tooned round. Humans are social crea­tures, so the brunch détente makes per­fect anthro­po­log­i­cal sense. You get the savoury pan­cakes, I’ll get the sweet and we’ll share. Every­body wins, nobody dies.

Sor­ry, French cake-slingers, but it’s noon and I’m still wear­ing last-night’s mas­cara. See you on Mon­day at the boulan­gerie for some­thing wis­er and less…foreign.

Enough talk — Here are our picks for Le Brunch in Paris…

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Indeco­rous Cul­turevore and Poly­chrome Chow Vir­tu­osa Kat Walk­er likes nice things.

When she’s not writ­ing about crois­sants, love, cul­ture, and lov­able, sexy crois­sants, she is a gonzo per­for­mance artist whip­ping up a (usu­al­ly) polit­i­cal ruckus.

In a bid for your atten­tion and approval she writes things here and man­ages this unruly tribe of Parisians endeav­or­ing to bring you what Paris­ing is real­ly about.

Sub­scribe HERE to PARIS RIGHT NOW dis­patch — for a week­ly dose of her, and the rest of the ram­bunc­tious and per­fect­ly depraved gals’ tren­chant and thought-pro­vok­ing cura­tion. Or tune in to their antics on Twitch or youtube LIVE. .

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