Thursday, April 5, 2018

Floral Book Review: "Brunch is Hell" by Brendan Francis Newnam and Rico Gagliano

floral book review for "Brunch is Hell"

I saw someone (I can't actually remember who) that I follow on instagram was reading this book.  So naturally I looked it up, thought about how much I love dinner parties, and promptly ordered the book.

This book is funny. And ridiculous at times but I loved it.

So basically they are saying that brunch is taking away from the art of the dinner party. Why have a dinner party when you can just gather between the hours of 8 AM (Whoa early bird!) and noon on Sunday to eat a prepared meal that you don't have to A. cook B. clean and C. day drinking is totally acceptable? Well in theory no one but in reality it should be everyone! ....with the occasional brunch thrown in because breakfast food so delightful.

But dinner parties are something I am incredibly passionate about for two reasons:
1. I find them to be fun, fulfilling, and inspiring (my friends Jenna and Matt are dinner party professionals...role models if you will for the rest of us)
2. I truly believe with all my heart that the way to save the small family farm is not through more markets, or subsidies but by hosting dinner parties and more importantly bringing back the family dinner. Bring back home cooking and save the family farm. A dinner with in season produce sourced either directly from a farmer or a grocery store that sources locally and a vase brimming with seasonal local flowers to boost your mood and brighten your home and finally locally sourced meat and if possible (sorry interior countries) local seafood.

For the floral portion of this review I wanted to do a still life with bounty and abundance: fruit, flowers, butterflies, prepared food.  I am drawn to classically painted still lifes. When you think of it they are kind of the "staged instagram" photo of way way back in the day.

In the arrangement you'll notice cheese and olives (fat and salt) mentioned in the book, dessert, bread, and since you're never ready on time for guests to arrive (right, Rico and Brendan?) I put "guest number 1" to work making the salad and the roast chicken was still baking at time of photograph.

Rico and Brendan (I'm not using their last names...wayyyy to long to type) early in their book write, "Far from their frivolous reputation, we realized, dinner parties, properly thrown, can serve as the very CORNERSTONE OF A HEALTHY MODERN SOCIETY, because they create happy and empathetic humans.  And leftovers. Which, yum."

To the above I say "Yasss!!!"

And to set the scene here's how they feel about brunch, "Brunch. Adulthood's booby prize. After brunch, any chance to use the day fruitfully had been drowned in hollandaise. Slouching out of the bacon hall long after noon, we are tired, heavy, and limp, like an overdressed side salad. That screenplay you were thinking of penning? It has been preempted by a Bloody Mary - fueled food coma. That hike with the kids you thought you gonna take? Yawn - you'll do it next weekend. (That is, if you're not seduced by another freaking brunch.)"

The two then go on to write about what a dinner party actually is and in their mind what the requirements.  Rule number 1 is that at least some (most really) of the food must be homemade (remember what I said about cook at home and save the family farm....Thanks Brendan and Rico for promoting home cooking!).  They write, "A proportion of the food at a dinner party must be homemade. Not cooking for your own dinner party is like DJ-ing a dance party with the radio. As clearly stated in our MANIFESTO, the point of a dinner party is to revel in unique, gloriously imperfect humanity. Your humanity. Expressing your taste, your style, and your essence, with food you prepared with your own hands, is part of what makes this deal so important." 
Can I get an Amen!?!

They also mention, for any items you do buy to remove the packaging. This reminds of my grandmother who we affectionately called "Joan Stewart" because she wouldn't even allow a ketchup bottle on the table at Sunday dinner...ever! 

Their book boasts a series of recipes for food and drink as well as how to set the table.  I agree with pretty much everything in this book except the part about only keeping flowers on the table before dinner and then removing them to eat.  This is a great opportunity to use a low arrangement.  Yes, I agree you don't need 5 foot tall branches in the center of the table nor to you need a 3 foot tall cascading wedding arrangement either. 
Keep it low. Keep it creative. A succulent box perhaps? Airy bud vases? But flowers are a conversation piece and with a group that doesn't know each other it's a happy neutral thing to start conversation.  Especially when you include kumquats in the arrangement (see below). Saying the word kumquat loosens everyone up...that an 3 glasses of Tommy's Margaritas (recipe in book on page 111).  

After covering etiquette on how you should act as a host and in turn how you should behave as a guest you make it to Chapter 5 entitled "The Main Course."  Brendan and Rico open beautifully by saying, "The food is the least important part of the dinner party." 

I hear so many people say, "I don't cook." Well A. you should try to learn and B. trying is half the battle.  Cooking is fundamental and I realize that some folks just have no interest in certain things. I have no interest in skiing. It's true. If I live my entire life with out skiing I'll die a happy woman. I also have no interest in sky diving, swimming with sharks, and paragliding. But those things aren't life fundamentals.  Food should be interesting to everyone since it is necessary every single day of your life from your first day through your last.  And by sharing it with others you can boost your confidence and your conviction to cooking at home.

To close I'll leave you with this quote from the book (mostly because I love the word gruel. I actually call my morning oatmeal gruel), "Now, this is not to say you should serve your guests gruel. You are a good/sane enough person not to plan a menu which consists of a bowl of unpeeled onions. Your food must be palatable and nonpoisonous and demonstrate that you put in a modicum of effort. But anything beyond that is gravy." 

So go that dinner party! Or better yet host family dinner (unless you already are a family dinner cooker in which case both hugs and kudos to you!)...starting small with once a week. And see how it feels to create something delicious (yes, you can do that!) while relaxing in your home and supporting a family farm.


  1. Daughter liked it more than she thought she would. She loves giving parties so thought this might be a great book for her. Turns out I was right.

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