I wake to the sound of air,
getting thin in flight;
And the intangible blur,
where shadow kisses light;
Hear, withering skies, do you?
The fallings of my vagabond
dream, and morning dew.
It’s an institution, therefore capitalised: Brunch. It’s sacred and holy, marking the boundaries between the nightmarish business week spent smiling at imbeciles, and the weekend peace of loved ones. Or existing blissfully alone with a thoughtfully prepared brunch and the company of a great journal. In Brooklyn, I frequented the notorious brunch spots after a well deserved night of post-work parties, drinks, and sleep. Work hard, play hard right? The reward is: scrambled eggs, caramelised bacon, biscuits (the soft fluffy buttery American variant), perhaps some greens, and mimosas. Definitely mimosas. In Paris, unquestionably the cafés for cliché croissants, espresso, and people-watching. Perhaps an omelette aux champignons if overtly famished.
However with the onset of autumn, a differing desire percolates through the week, eventually coalescing on Saturday morning while you slumber. The idea builds up warm and pleasant, drinking coffee in bed, and you rise with a determination to find the local farmers’ market. So before engines poison the still calm of the weekend’s dawning, I pull on a loose T-shirt, a light coat, boots, and wrap myself in an oversized woollen scarf to walk out into autumn Berlin with empty canvas sacks.
Usually music accompanies me – something like Always Gold by Radical Face – but not this morning. Today I listen to the autumn melodies of breeze rustling trees, scuffing soles of a girl skipping on the sidewalk, and the occasional hushed murmur of old men in discussion, their weathered faces impervious to the weather. It’s a journey through a city that slowly slumbers awake to the morning.
And with it, so does my imagination for the day’s brunch. As I approach Markthalle Neun located in my old stomping grounds, the anticipation surmounts. What textures, colours, atmospheres and moments to create? Stepping into the cavernous hall, it’s obvious I’m not with tourists and brunchers here. Au contraire! These are the guardians of the culinary arts – mostly all hobby or professional chefs and cooks – and certainly not here to chat friends up on the week’s gossip. That will be allowed later after morning creations have been plated and served.
For now, shoulder to shoulder, we go to war to find the jewels and gems amidst all the fresh produce. Eye contact is minimal; glasses are quickly shoved up noses, and hawk eyes scrutinise specimens. Hands shoot out to conquer and divide. Prices are shot out, plastic bags stuffed, compensations made, and produce transported into personal canvas bags, grocery totes, and straw baskets. There’s an urgency, not only due to competition, but a need to return to the kitchen where sharp blades will be applied to ingredients that have thankfully abstained from joining the Refrigerated Foods Club.
As for my own Brunch designs, I start with apples – together with ginger and oranges, a refreshing juice always get’s the morning going on a vibrant note. Grab the green and yellow tomatoes! If combined with oranges and fresh mint, the tart salad parallels the crispness of the season. But complimented with something cozy and warm – blue potatoes and courgettes baked with sprigs of fresh rosemary. Herbs are an absolute must. I move to the stand closest the door, knowing I will find them there. I sift through the various bundles, loving the evergreen texture brushing against my finger tips. But the dairy section is disappearing fast so I squirrel away the herbs and jump onto the remaining necessities.
Shallots, garlic, fresh baked baguettes, lavendered goat cheese, champagne, flowers – I’m ready for the satisfying sound of a knife blade thudding down on a wooden cutting board. With brimming bags slung over my shoulders I stop at the coffee shop to recharge the soul. Cappuccino coming right out! I make a quick appraisal of my ingredients and I can hear the sizzle of food in the pan, the herb-infused aromas pervading the kitchen, the chatter of close friends, their eyes sparkling with mirth and hunger. No they won’t arrive for another two hours. But the hours preceding is as much a part of the occasion as the Weekend Brunch itself. Taxes? Business? Papers to file and meetings to schedule? It can wait until Monday morning. Draw the line on a Saturday morning and cross over. Au revoir pour le week-end!
My coffee arrives and as I raise cup to lips, I catch the scent of rosemary lingering on my hands.