Brian Schaefer is my roommate and one of my closest friends. He writes the following retrospective on a tradition that is now more than a year old: Jared’s and my monthly brunches. When not tirelessly developing audiences for ArtPower!, UCSD’s multi-arts series, Brian is probably attending and reviewing dance performances, which he documents on his blog, http://www.mytwoleftfeet.net.
Believe it or not, it’s not the mimosas that keep people coming back. When the brunch’s first began, it was assumed that the champagne would be the first to disappear and that one of the primary draws would be the opportunity for endless cocktails. Turns out not to be the case at all. Shockingly, it seems to be the unexpected menus and stellar company that has made the Klonsky/Bell Brunch such an unqualified success.
I’m coming from a unique perspective here. I’m the roommate who is generously listed as a co-host despite contributing neither time nor money to the event. Depending on how my Saturday night went and what time I made it to bed, I might stumble in the kitchen to help set the table, move furniture, and make myself – I mean, make one of my busy roommates – a cappuccino.
Following the brunch, and again depending on the activities of the prior evening, I’ll assist in the repositioning of chairs, scrub a few dishes, finish picking through a salad, and then promptly pass out on my bed for an afternoon nap.
But my point is this – I’m around to see the prep work (including the Saturday shopping trips and the one-week countdown in which Seth suffers a nervous breakdown developing a menu) and the clean-up and I know firsthand how much time and energy Seth and Jared put into this monthly ritual.
It’s a hell of a lot, and they do it with a near religious conviction and faith in the power of food and the value of friendship. Like a congregation of enthusiastic followers, we come together to share in the meal and in the process, to share our lives.
As legend has it, the brunches were created as an opportunity for Seth and Jared to bring together friends on a regular basis, a pre-emptive strike against the tendency to lose touch with folks in the normal, chaotic schedules of our daily lives where most paths don’t automatically cross daily, weekly, or even monthly.
I have other theories, such as that Seth entered into a private challenge with himself to see how many different types of bread-puddings he could invent, or that Jared was too lazy to trek over to Urban Mo’s every Sunday so he devised a plan to bring the alcohol to him.
Either way, what they’ve built is an exclusive club that is both highly-coveted yet truly accessible. Brunch on the first Sunday of the month is a much-anticipated event both to visit with old friends, meet new ones and, in the span of just a few hours, introduce out-of-town guests to almost everybody important in my life in San Diego.
Lest one underestimate the power of the actual food, however, make no mistake that the spread of clever variations on brunch staples is the glue that holds this community together. Curated with an artist’s attention to balance, detail, and aesthetics, Seth constructs the selections with careful consideration to flavors, substance, and dietary restrictions (always making sure there is something for his poor Kosher roommate but never compromising his own love of all things pig).
And in the process, he teaches us that brunch is not about the bottomless and the all-you-can-eat – though of course, the reality is that this brunch is technically both. But the difference is that it’s not marketed that way, that’s not the point. It’s not about stuffing yourself or getting your money’s worth, it’s about trying new things, striking up a conversation over the yogurt parfait or citrus salad or breakfast chili with either someone you haven’t seen in a while or someone you just met.
It’s a new tradition (new for us at least) that references all the myriad social gatherings that have come before – part church picnic, part intellectual salon, part gossip circle. And in what Seth and Jared have set out to achieve – a regular reunion of friends and a space to share their passion for fresh, inspired, and delicious food – they have more than succeeded.
While my co-hosting duties may extend no further than pouring drinks and arranging the occasional cheese platter, its been a strangely fulfilling and satisfying experience to be involved in this experiment. Well, at this point, we’re beyond experimentation. Klonsky/Bell Brunches have ascended to a permanent place on the calendar – getting the Evite in your inbox is the equivalent of receiving your favorite monthly magazine.
Just don’t forget to RSVP. And if you do, you’d better show up. But if you don’t, the loss is yours alone.