When I Think of Pride, I Think of Brunch

Here's why we wine and dine with our chosen family — and ten tips for throwing the perfect brunch at home.

June 24, 2022

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Photo by: Virginia Willis

Virginia Willis

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2020 roughly 72% of Americans agreed that homosexuality shoud be accepted by society. In many circles these days, especially in larger cities and younger demographics, it’s simply no big deal to be gay. This was not always the case. In fact, when they asked the population that same question in 2007, only 49% of Americans said yes. And thirty years ago, many of us in the LGBTQ+ community were shunned by our biological families or had not yet come out of the closet. My family was accepting of me, but it wasn’t the case for everyone. Times were very different, so when I think about those times, I remember the importance of finding your "chosen family" — the friends you know you could count on for support and community. And then, I think of gay brunch.

Back in late '80s and early '90s, brunch was the gay version of Sunday supper, except auntie had a whole new meaning, the accessories were better, and sweet tea was replaced by endless mimosas. For many, Sunday supper with your biological family didn’t feel supportive, welcoming or familial at all. It meant lying to the innocent-but-prying questions of a caring uncle about dating and relationships. It meant introducing your girlfriend as your "best friend." Sunday supper sometimes meant pretending to be someone you were not.

It was a confusing time. We were searching for representation, to provide validation, support and self-esteem — and it felt like we were on cusp of starting to find it. Believe it or not, we all wondered if k.d. lang was gay before she revealed it. After coming out in 1992, she appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair in butch-drag slung into a barber chair with a seductive Cindy Crawford wielding a blade in a revealing swimsuit. It was practically subversive. We all wondered about hottie George Michael, sports superstar Greg Louganous, father figure Richard Chamberlain, and yes, Rosie O’Donnell. It was revolutionary when Ellen Degeneres came out on her television show 25 years ago — but we also remember stations in Alabama refusing to air the episode, and k.d. lang being shunned by many radio stations. It felt like the beginning of progress, but also not nearly enough.

Sunday brunch on the other hand, was freedom. Sunday brunch meant being yourself. Some historians say the concept of brunch was invented in England in the late 1800s as a change from heavy post-church meals and to soothe the effects of Saturday night carousing. Gays may or may not have invented Sunday brunch, but think about it. Great food, morning booze, and an opportunity to both dress up and decorate? If Sunday brunch is not a glittering, rainbow-colored invitation to be fabulous, I don’t know what is.

As a baby dyke I learned a lot at Sunday brunch, navigating my entry into gay culture. I learned there were more people like me. I learned that sometimes, family can be chosen. It was not always easy, but I started to learn acceptance during that time. I started to learn the meaning of pride. Shame is wanting to hide. It’s feeling "less than" and makes you contract. Pride is being immensely satisfied with something and wanting to show it off. Pride is expansive. It grows outward in our actions, thoughts, and imaginations. Pride is not being ashamed. And as a professional chef, serving brunch to all my friends certainly makes me proud. Here are a few tips for throwing a successful brunch and menu of dishes perfect for spring (including my new peaches and cream breakfast cake).

Happy Pride, Y’all!

Virginia Willis

Breakfast Feast - Photographed on Hasselblad H3D2-39mb Camera

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Breakfast Feast - Photographed on Hasselblad H3D2-39mb Camera

Photo by: Lauri Patterson/Getty

Lauri Patterson/Getty

10 Tips for a Throwing a Fantastic Pride Brunch

Putting together brunch must be a balance of ease and entertaining. You don’t want to hurry yourself into a hot mess before guests arrive.

1. Curate a menu of recipes that can be assembled or made ahead. (Lesbians, who love a plan, this tip is for you.)

2. You don’t have to be the queen of DIY. Buy the fruit already cut and pick up some pastries from your favorite bakery.

3. Dietary preferences and restrictions are as diverse as the colors of the LGBTQ+ rainbow. Ask your guests ahead of time if you need to cover this alphabet, too: GF, DF, V+, V.

4. Representation matters — even with your menu. I like to have one or two egg-based dishes depending on the size of the guest list. If serving two, I make sure one is vegetarian. A simple way to please the meat eaters is to add crisp bacon or sausage on the side.

5. Make sure you serve a green salad or a vegetable such as asparagus, grilled zucchini or chilled green beans. On the sweet side, serve sliced fruit or fruit salad. (Do not serve crudite on the plastic grocery store platter, or you may wind up on Queer Eye.)

Orange juice and champagne mixed in a glass to make a mimosa with strawberries

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Orange juice and champagne mixed in a glass to make a mimosa with strawberries

Photo by: Kevin Trimmer/Getty

Kevin Trimmer/Getty

6. Don't forget the carbs, which are always a brunch treat (and you can find many gluten-free options these days too). With a nice spread, both femme and butch guests may want to rent a U-haul to take home a pile of sweet pastries, bread, or biscuits.

7. Drag out the china and all the pretty things. Auntie Mame announced, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!" Clearly, their tables are not set properly.

8. The saying goes "Labels are for clothes, not people." I say labels are for buffets. Tag your dishes with the name of the recipe and a short list of ingredients with the dietary symbol. Think of it as an opportunity to accessorize.

9. Offer a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including water. Mimosas and Bloody Mary bars are as classic at Sunday brunch as someone spilling the tea.

10. Brunch is meant to be fun for everyone, including the host! To make clean-up easier, start with an empty dishwasher and bins. And I always think of this crucial tip from cookbook author Rebecca Lang — make certain your powder room is spotlessly clean!

And what would I serve at brunch? Here's an easy menu so you can sashay your way to a lovely celebration of who we all are with friends and family, chosen or otherwise.

Homemade Lemonade

Try adding vodka, blueberries, lemon wedges and springs of mint!

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