COURTESY OF VICKY CHEN
One of the many meals that Chen has attached fond memories to.
I’m talking about brunch. I think it’s annoying and very 2010s of me, but I’m doing it.
My first Baltimore brunch was at Ida B’s Table. We had just split a Dangerously Delicious pie and an Ekiben sandwich from the Baltimore Farmers’ Market (just across the street, under the freeway) and decided that we still needed an entire meal of carbs and protein. Cotton plants sat in the windowsill, civil rights activists and their quotes were painted onto the walls. I ordered the chicken and waffles and he told me that shopping and eating with me reminded him of following his mom around on Saturday mornings when he was a kid. It was a little bizarre but I took it as affection (he can be the judge of that).
One time, I walked into the Fresh Food Cafe (FFC), and my two best friends and I were wearing the same outfit: navy crew neck, black pants.
We made eye contact and all crinkled our eyebrows and burst out laughing. I was wearing glasses and my hair was still wet and I felt very unattractive but very happy. We laughed at the silliness of jelly bean french toast and stayed at that table until we felt like returning to the dorms to keep watching Scrubs and drinking lemonade.
I woke up one morning this summer missing my mom. I missed her thin, oddly spotted and greasy pancakes that I woke up to every Sunday morning before church. I called her and asked for the recipe; she said she just adds a combination of flour, sugar, eggs and milk until it feels right.
Mine turned out too thick and a little undercooked and oily and not sweet enough. I made scrambled eggs too because I figured I would make a whole big deal out of this morning, and they were unbearably oversalted. I set them out for my friends and they laughed about the eggs with me but tried to be unemotional about the pancakes because I had so dramatically talked about my mom and Sunday mornings and the sound of the hand mixer as I woke up.
We had both ended our jobs for the summer and had a few O-week days of wide-open space. The answer was brunch on a Monday — ridiculous. Spoons in Federal Hill was one of the restaurants I hadn’t checked off my list (shoutout to CIIP for the best Baltimore restaurant guide) that summer. It serves brunch seven days a week, and we are grateful for that bit of absurdity.
It’s decorated with some amusing art. Friends was playing on TV. We laughed so much. We probably could have made equally satisfying food ourselves but we didn’t care. We walked around the nearby Cross Street Market and he got some Gen Z canned cold brew from Ceremony Coffee (and it was good! He is currently sitting next to me describing it as “gentrifyingly good.”)
We made the 30-minute trek to Fells Point because it was an empty day, and I like Fells Point. We sat by the water and saw a little dog in a bike basket and we both almost cried.
College has taught me to love noon-ish mornings: the way the sun wakes you up in the middle of dreams about your best friends and the way your world is so much quieter than every other corner of the Earth.
It was in the crispness of morning March air and musty AMR I rooms that I finally felt like myself again. It was under a bridge and in a vibrant restaurant that I met a sliver of a city that I have come to love. It was over fried chicken that I was reminded of how precious our friends are and how far they carry us. It was in the grogginess of morning that the distance between The Marylander Apartments and my mom’s peach house in that Seattle suburb seemed a little too far.
And it was over everything ordinary and wonderful about a very simple meal that I found myself happier than I had been in a long time.