May 13, 2018

Motherless Daughters Love Brunch, Too

"Hello... we were wondering on how many people in your party for Sunday?"

I'd bought a ticket for Chef LQ's Mother's Day brunch, which was part of the "Ma Maison" pop-up series at his house in Highland Park that I'd enjoyed last year but for dinner. And when I got the email asking about the size of my party just four days prior to the brunch, I should've known this experience would be different than the last.

But instead of questioning it, I just replied as honestly as I could by writing, "Just one. I don't have a mom and I was looking for something to do and I wanted to try Chef's brunch because breakfast is my favorite meal."

I didn't bother explaining that I do have a mom whom I haven't spoken to in over a decade or that Mother's Day is always a stinging reminder of what other people have that I don't, never did, and never will.

And worse yet, they didn't explain that they were asking because I wouldn't be seated at one long, communal table as I was for dinner last year. Instead, each party would be broken up into individual tables.

But I didn't know that until I got there, uncharacteristically the first to arrive and even three minutes before the gate would be unlocked, and was seated at a "Table for One," front and center, facing LQ's backyard from under the patio overhang, parties of six both to my left and my right.

I'd made a grave error in judgment for my Mother's Day plan of distraction—but by then, it was too late to do anything about it. After all, I'd already paid my fixed price for the meal when I purchased my ticket.

So, I sat down and dove in.

Judging by all the advertisements and promotional announcements leading up to Mother's Day, it's pretty clear that moms must love brunch. It's the thing to do with your mom on Mother's Day (though I don't think my mother has brunched a day in her life).

But brunch can't be just for mothers and daughters to enjoy together, right?

If I can't brunch alone, then I may never brunch. And while I rarely have the luxury of time to actually enjoy a fancy meal that early on a weekend day, I don't want to live in a world where solo brunching isn't allowed.

Thankfully, the LQ folks sold me the one ticket and gave me the one table. And that meant that I got to enjoy the entire pastry basket—filled with croissants and pain au chocolat, baked earlier this morningall by myself (and sneak leftovers home wrapped in a napkin).

Unfortunately, although the food was fab and the service was doting, there isn't a sandwich in the world that could have eased my discomfort and shame at sitting there alone, motherless. At a communal meal, I most certainly would've struck up a conversation with those next to or across from me, as I had when Chef Laurent served us dinner last year. But this morning, I only listened to the birds chirping and the rain falling and tried not to eavesdrop on other families' conversations.

I also tried to busy myself on the internet, but that ended up exacerbating my plight. And I should've known better—because every year, I am absolutely shocked at how much other people love their mothers and how much other people's mothers love them. It's a concept that's completely foreign to me. While many of my friends and contacts express their maternal gratitude and affection throughout the year, it's absolutely deafening on Mother's Day.

So, I put down my phone and bit into my Pan Bagna (sometimes called pain bagnat, and usually made with tuna instead of Main lobster), chewing though my eyes were welling, trying to appreciate the gifts from Mother Earth that I was tasting, like bell peppers from the garden and Picholine black olives.

Chef Laurent gets all his ingredients either from his own garden or from Apricot Lane Farms, which means the poached eggs I had with my bœuf bourguignon (a.k.a. Beef Burgundy) were from the very same chickens I'd met on my farm tour a few weeks ago and were the same type of eggs as in the carton I'd bought and cooked up for myself.

I wanted to tell Chef about my tour there, and joke with him about their snails getting fed to the ducks instead of becoming escargot for us, but he didn't come out to greet us this morning as he had at the last dinner. I could hear him in the kitchen, directing traffic and keeping everything running smoothly, so I could tell how busy he was.

After all, a prix fixe meal like the Mother's Day brunch—where you can choose among multiple options for the three courses—is much more difficult than the chef's tasting menu that's offered at dinner, when you just eat whatever food is placed in front of you.

With the lack of socializing and the swift service, I got through all three courses pretty quickly, despite trying to eat slowly enough to enjoy everything and commit the flavors to memory. The special dessert dish, for example, had so much going on with it—from poached rhubarb to strawberry crémeux and tonka bean ice cream—that it would have been a shame to just gobble the whole thing up without swishing it around a bit to try to distinguish the various textures and taste sensations.

But still, I didn't want to stay any longer than absolutely necessary. I had no desire to linger with another cup of coffee or indulge in a glass of wine. I wanted to be alone in my car. I wanted to get home to my cat.

Before I left, though, I needed to settle up my tab with my server, since the ticket I'd bought only covered the three courses of food and the coffee but not the beverage or the gratuity. The Ma Maison policy is to charge its guests a standard 20% gratuity, which would've only been $10 and that just didn't seem like enough for all the effort that everyone had put into giving us a nice Mother's Day. So, I asked, "Can I give more? I don't know if you have moms who you're not spending time with so that we can have brunch..."

The extra $5 I threw in doesn't make up for the time lost with mom, I'm sure. But there's really no other way for me to express my gratitude for the sacrifices that some people make—whether on Mother's Day or Thanksgiving—just to be sure that other people have something nice to do.

And for an orphan like me, that's priceless.

Related Posts:
On Motherhood
A Mother-Not-to-Be

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