Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Mother's Day "Dinner"

The other day, my husband and I extended a Mother’s Day dinner invitation to our mothers.

“Sure!” my mother immediately answered. “If there’s food, you know I’ll be there!”

True. My mother, who’s never worn anything larger than a size 10, spends every day eating as if she were preparing for a famine.

My mother-in-law, however, hesitated before accepting our invitation. “Are you going to be trying another new restaurant this year?” she seemed almost afraid to ask.

I knew exactly what she was trying to say. In the past, my husband and I, instead of taking our mothers to their favorite restaurants on Mother’s Day, had opted to be adventurous and try new places. The results, for the most part, were pretty disastrous.

There was one restaurant north of Concord, for example, we’d seen highly praised in a dining guide, so we thought it would be the perfect place for a Mother’s Day drive and dinner.

The food turned out to be so terrible, I’m surprised my dogs didn’t report me to the SPCA when I brought home the leftovers in a doggy bag for them.

I’d ordered barbecued lamb that, without exaggeration, looked exactly like a pile of black raisins on my plate. My mother-in-law’s barbecued chicken-tenders were soggy pieces of chicken drenched in cold barbecue sauce poured straight from the bottle. And my mother’s turkey dinner was a mouth-watering piece of stale bread with some sliced cold-cuts stacked on top of it, all buried beneath a layer of bright yellow canned gravy.

The next Mother’s Day, we tried a different restaurant, one that several of our friends had recommended.

“I think I’ll have a nice sirloin steak,” my husband said as we pulled into the parking lot. No big surprise from a man who eats so much beef, if someone wearing a red cape happened to walk by him, he’d lower his head and charge at him.

At the restaurant, we were seated in a spacious booth and handed a single sheet of paper with five meals listed on it: Chicken Cordon Bleu, seafood pie, filet mignon, prime rib, and baked stuffed haddock. The prices were high enough to make even the Rockefellers develop palpitations.

“What is this?” I asked the waiter as I flipped over the paper, hoping to see more selections on the other side.

“It’s our special Mother’s Day menu,” he said, smiling brightly.

“Where’s the turkey? The baked ham? The sirloin steak?” I asked, tempted to add, “Where’s the cheap stuff?”

“Oh, those aren’t Mother’s Day items,” he said.

Even though the price was what I’d expect to pay for a whole cow, I settled for the filet mignon. My husband also ordered it.

We placed our orders at 2:15. At 3:45 we had yet to see anything edible other than a basket of breadsticks. By then, we were ready to gnaw on the basket.

“I’m getting weak from hunger,” my mother-in-law said. “If I had known this, I would have eaten lunch.”

“My stomach’s holding a full conversation with me,” my mother, who normally would have been on her fourth meal of the day by then, added.

“Well, at least we’re spending quality time together,” I said, smiling weakly.

Finally, after we had been staring so long at the food on the tables around us, the other diners were getting ready to toss their table scraps at us, our meals arrived.

Even Barbie and Ken would have starved on the portions on our plates.

My husband stabbed his piece of filet mignon, which was about the size of a meatball, held it up and said, “Is this all of it?” Before I could answer, he added, “Gross! Look at all the white fat around it!”

“Don’t be silly,” I said. “Filet mignon doesn’t have white fat on it!” I happened to look down at my piece and noticed that it also had some kind of jelly-like white stuff around it. When I touched it with my fork, it fell off onto my plate.

“It’s a thick slab of bacon!” my husband said, as if he’d made some exciting discovery. “Raw bacon!”

I was hungry, but not nearly hungry enough to eat raw bacon.

The meals that had taken nearly two hours to receive, took us all of ten minutes to eat. I still was so hungry, I was tempted to lick everyone’s plates.

“I wonder what they have for dessert?” my husband said. “I’m ready for a big slab of chocolate cake!”

“Odds are that it’s not part of their Mother’s Day menu,” I said. “But I’ll bet you can get a nice tablespoonful of rice pudding for about $25.”

So this year, we’re going to an old familiar restaurant that both of our mothers have enjoyed many times in the past. And if we’re lucky, we may even get to meet Ronald McDonald while we’re there.