Make me a Sandwich!...Brunch Part I
In part 1 of this two part post, we provide a brief history of brunch.
Somewhere along the course of human history it was deemed inappropriate or uncouth to drink alcohol before noon. I don't know why that became the standard. It's not like the sun passing the midway point in the sky has some sort of mythical power that allows alcohol to be acceptable. However, there is one exception: brunch.
Allow me to provide a history brief history of brunch. Brunch, was a mysterical (a word meaning mystery and mystical) ritual that has close ties, just like the holy grail, to the Knights Templar. It is known that in 1119 A.D., French Knight Hugues de Payens was responsible for creating the Knights Templar to protect Christian pilgrims making treks to the Holy Land. His knighthood took him away from home to faraway lands. He would have to stay at his nightly office until all late into the evening and even had to go into the office on many weekend mornings to perform his knightly duties.
All of Hugues' time at the office left his wife, Catherine, alone at home. Her three surviving children (she had 18 in all but, you know, it was a long time ago) had long since left the castle. Her oldest child, Odo (age 19), had joined his father in the office of the Knights Templar. Her two daughters, Agnes (age 15) and Petronilla (age 13), were married and had kids of their own. Catherine was 31-years-old and stuck walking the halls of her castle and the paths of her garden every Sunday morning all by herself.
Catherine needed a drink but royal decree of 1115 A.D. had forbidden the consumption of alcohol during the breakfast meal. The French King, Louis VI (also known as Louis the Fat), had enacted the law in an attempt to cut carbs and calories in the morning to lose a few pounds. Louis refused to reverse his decree even though it had no effect on his waistline and only resulted in upsetting his wife, Adelaide, who loved having a large mug of mead each morning to start the day before the decree.
Catherine, despite her clearly inferior intellect (she was a woman and everyone in the 1100s knew that women were only good for cooking and childbirth), developed a plan to make her and her other lonely castle wife friends happy again. If her lousy, good for nothing, husband could create this secret order then so could she. That is when Catherine created the First Knights of Brunch. She knew she couldn’t consume alcohol at breakfast and should couldn’t wait until lunch so she brought the two words together to consume, you guessed it, brunch.
These early brunch gatherings were exclusively for women because and to spite the sexist husbands off fighting a war while the women had to stay at home. The meal consisted primarily of bread accompanying by meat and wine. We can see the first glimpses of common brunch dishes that still exist today, such as bread and cheese (who doesn’t have a nice baguette with some brie for brunch) and the aforementioned wine (as there is always wine at brunch). Catherine and her Knights of Brunch attempted to keep the meal a secret but the Cat (see what I did there?) was out of the bag when Hugues arrived home unexpectedly one Sunday morning to find Catherine and five of her castle wife friends swimming in the castle fountains. I don’t know why Hugues was so upset. It was hot that day.
Anyway, Hugues put an end to Catherine’s Knights of Brunch and the glorious time spent drinking before noon but not before Catherine wrote down all of her ideas regarding brunch. Catherine stored them in a trunk and had them buried on the grounds of her estate to be lost for four hundred years.
It was Anne Boleyn, serving as maid of honor in France to the French Queen Mary around 1515, that discovered the writing of Catherine and the joys of brunch. At this time drinking morning, noon, and night was a common occurrence so the need for such secrecy and the concept of brunch was unnecessary. However, Anne was very intelligent even for a 14-year-old girl and she kept her discovery knowing she may one day need this amazing concept.
As it turns out she was correct and it was another fat king that would rouse the need for the resurrection of the Knights of Brunch. In 1533, Anne Boleyn was married to Henry VIII replacing Catherine of Aragon as the Queen of England. We won’t bore you with the story here about how and why Catherine of Aragon’s marriage to Henry VIII was annulled (Catherine didn’t give Henry a male heir and Henry had a small penis) but needless to say Catherine was out and Anne was in.
It wasn’t long after the marriage that Henry started packing on the pounds. He needed to lose weight in order to mount his mighty steed (that’s his horse you gutter minded readers) so he, as Louis VI of France did before him, banned the consumption of alcohol at breakfast. This worried Anne, as part of her Queenly duties, was to copulate with the rotund King and the only way she had been able to stomach laying with the micropenised king was with what she called her “Morning Courage”. Morning Courage was a drink she created herself which was 1 shot of absinth, 1 shot of tequila, 1 shot of rum, a raw egg, and a melted Hersey’s Kiss. Without her Morning Courage she would never be able to fornicate with the King so it was finally time to revive the Knights of Brunch.
It was under the guidance of Anne Boleyn (to her detriment) that the Knights of Brunch allowed men into the secret society. Brunch was served daily with the center of the meal being Anne’s famous Morning Courage. Present at the daily brunch (held at 9am before Henry’s 10am required coitus) were Mark Smeaton, a Flemish musician working for Anne, and William Brereton, who worked as a wiper in the King’s Privy Chamber. The consumption of alcohol and the presence of men at the secretive meetings of the Knights of Brunch created much jealousy on the part of the King. The result was the King charging Anne with infidelity and having her head chopped off. The Knights of Brunch would disappear for another 400 years.
We can thank Eleanor Roosevelt for reviving the Knights of Brunch and bringing the modern brunch that we all know and love to the United States. It is still a mystery as to how Mrs. Roosevelt came to possess the book originally prepared by Catherine over 800 years prior but upon entering the White House Mrs. Roosevelt made good use of it. In the 1930s, Mrs. Roosevelt signed a contract with Woman’s Home Companion providing a monthly column in which she answered mail. In these articles Mrs. Roosevelt borrowed heavily from Catherine’s Knights of Brunch offering suggestions on the best time of day to consume alcohol and even adding her own suggestions.
Seeing as President Roosevelt spent most his time away from Mrs. Roosevelt (often with various mistresses), Mrs. Roosevelt had ample time to host her weekly brunch with her closest friends, acquaintances, and business partners. It was at these brunches that Mrs. Roosevelt met Marian Anderson and helped her perform in Washington D.C. when the black singer was denied use of Constitution Hall. Over Mrs. Roosevelt’s beverage of her own creation, the Tomato Dandy, she worked closely with Lorena Hickok to create the plans for Arthurdale, West Virginia. And even though Arthurdale turned out as a failed experiment, the Tomato Dandy continues to be served at everyone’s brunch table under its new name, the Bloody Mary.
Thanks to these brave women, people like you and me can enjoy a Bloody Mary, and Mimosa, or even a tall frothy mug of beer with breakfast. All we have to do is call it brunch.
Tune in next week for part 2 of this post where we, in fact, make brunch.
P.S. All history reported in this post is 100% accurate which means I made it all up.