Lizzie Post believes in a good brunch date. (A breakfast date, she notes, is too early and doesn't leave enough time for a person to get ready—though she does appreciate the built-in end time.) But even the fact that Emily Post's great-great-granddaughter, who also serves as spokesperson for the Emily Post Institute, has an opinion on brunch dates shows how far the mid-morning meal has come over the years, even when it comes to brunch etiquette. According to Post, back in mid-century America, brunch was casual. There were no two-hour waits for milkshakes or exclusive brunch items. "You could mention it at the end of a late night party," Post explains, and expect your guests to return the next morning for coffee and pastries.
That desire to make brunch informal again is actually part of the reason Post collaborated with Bob Evans—which just launched an all-day, everyday brunch service at its 523 restaurants across the United States—to come up with etiquette guidelines for the way we eat brunch today. Ultimately, Post's advice on brunch etiquette is designed not to scold us into being better versions of ourselves, but to help all of us get back to the point of brunch in the first place: connecting with friends and family over a good meal. And what's nicer than that?
One of the trickiest things to get right is “how to share food appropriately,” says Post. But the first step is pretty straightforward. It's making sure everyone at the table actually wants to share dishes, and you should do that before everyone places orders. “From the etiquette perspective, you want that to happen in the beginning,” explains Post. Otherwise, she adds, “You risk someone not being able to enjoy their meal.” So get that conversation out of the way, and be accommodating to guests who might not want to go in on shared plates.
If you do all decide to share food, however, Post recommends asking the server for side plates, “because it does make it easier to share.” She also suggests getting extra utensils that can be used to serve the food from the communal plates. That way, you can minimize the spread of germs, and keep everything relatively neat. To that end, Post notes, “The serving utensils should always remain in the [communal] dishes,” and individuals’ forks and knives shouldn’t be used to grab food from the shared plates.
Posting to Social Media
“Nobody really wants cell phones at the table, but everybody loves sharing,” says Post. Being a good host is, in part, about, “using timing to be accommodating,” explains Post, not just banning phones and social media outright. When it comes to Instagram, that means getting the whole photo thing out of the way before the meal starts in earnest. “Encourage everyone to take a picture at the beginning, and then put phones away.”
Talking About Politics
Avoiding political conversation at brunch is still, in some ways, preferable in Post’s perspective. “This is your chance to take a break from it,” she says, and focus on connecting with your friends and family. But in much the same way that no one can avoid their cell phones at the brunch table, it seems that no one can avoid talking about politics these days—even though that’s a long-standing Emily Post no-no. In fact, when Post collaborated with Bob Evans over the holiday season on an etiquette hotline, most of the questions that came in were focused on how to mitigate tough political conversations at the table.
If you do have to break up a political conversation that's starting to get heated and derailing the meal, Post suggests finding a break in the conversation and redirecting it. Ask instead about what's going on in their life, even if it's as simple as how their garden's growing. And hey, if nothing else, at least you have some good food to eat while the debate rages on.