Image description: A plate with baked beans and eggs on toast, and a coffee.
It’s 11am on a Saturday. Hall has just opened. A row of bedraggled students begin to shuffle up towards the servery. Some have only just woken up, some have not seen their beds since yesterday morning, yet they are all joined together in pursuit of one common goal: brunch.
Weekend brunch is my favourite meal in college. I always love eating in hall, be it in a formal or informal setting: it simply warms the heart to see groups of friends coming together at the end of long days in the library or lectures to enjoy what is a fairly small and mediocre meal. Yet this warmth becomes much more elevated by the sense of community you get from splitting a par-baked bread roll with your college compatriots.
Brunch is never a mediocre affair. You have to try very hard to cook substandard breakfast food and, at my college at least, brunch is one of the best meals they serve. I could enumerate all the fantastic foods on offer: baked beans; scrambled eggs; pastries; hot coffee; fruit yoghurt; hash browns; mushrooms (yes, mushrooms are one of the best breakfast foods and I will not hear otherwise)…
But enough people have rhapsodised about the delightful variety of brunch as a meal: “It’s like British tapas,” I told a friend recently (the Spanish are screaming), but I have not come here to repeat their well-worn, if entirely correct, statements.
I am here to commemorate the college brunch experience. As I said earlier, hall has a cosy community feel that cannot be found in a restaurant or kitchen. Looking down at the tables of faces, some familiar, some not, you really get the sense that you are part of a much larger collective, all sharing in the strange world that is Oxford University.
Brunch on a weekend is on another level, however. Nothing warms the soul like splitting a pain au chocolat with a friend and discussing the escapades you got up to at the bop the night before. Brunch serves as an excellent hangover cure for all that wine you drink at formal on Friday, and as the buttered toast and sausage enters your system you can slowly feel the fog clearing, and begin to contemplate writing your Max Weber essay with moderate dread rather than nauseous horror.
At brunch, you pay very little and get a lot. This, to frugal student ears, is highly satisfying.
College brunch is in my opinion far superior to any number of fancy bottomless brunches, and costs about a fraction of that price. In my college, it is hard to spend more than £3 at brunch, even if you try really hard to push the budget and get as many extra items as possible (weird chocolate flapjack? Sure. Orange juice carton? Why not?). Paying £10 for a full English in a café, not including drinks, pancakes, or weird flapjacks has become ridiculous to me now. At brunch, you pay very little and get a lot. This, to frugal student ears, is highly satisfying.
The Oxford week can often seem overstuffed with work and socials, ever pressed by the urgent need to sleep. Yet at brunch, the outside world melts away for a little while: it’s all right to stay and sit for the next hour, chatting with your closest friends about nothing in particular; whatever seems important can wait, because what’s really important is eating excellent food with entertaining people whilst guessing who on the next table is the most hungover.
To complete my ode, I present to you this short and substandard poem: