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Mrs. Sundberg's Recipe Collection - 12 tried-and-true--one for each month of the year--featuring an introduction and tips from Mrs. Sundberg herself

Every plate was a work of art

May 14, 2007

Listened to the show Saturday and it was not bad. Lots of songs about mothers, the kind you can sing along to, and who doesn't like that? Sunday was Mother's Day and a happy one it was. The kids got up early to go to church with me while Mr. Sundberg stayed home to get caught up with work. I took the kids down to the park after church and dug their kites out of the trunk and we flew them for awhile. I'd used to say that if life weren't so complicated I'd be a plant, but I'm thinking now I'd be a kite.

We stopped by the grocery store on the way home to pick up some milk and butter and wouldn't you know they were giving away lottery tickets to mothers. I'm not one for gambling, but since it was free, and Mother's Day, so I played along and scratched off those numbers and lo and behold I won a hundred and fifty dollars. Which got me thinking on the way home. While the kids scrambled out of their church clothes, I tiptoed in to where Mr. Sundberg had tipped over and fallen asleep on the couch in his study. "We're going out for dinner tonight" I wrote on a PostIt note and slapped it on his chest.

No, I'm not a gambler, and I'm not one for fancy restaurants, but when you're blessed with a break you'd best take advantage and not sit there on your duff wondering what happened. We've never been to G.G. Willikers' down on the lake and that's where I made the reservation. The kind of place where you can dress up and the kids can wear jeans and there are candles and a view of the docks and the loons and guitar music playing softly somewhere in another room. The tablecloths are white and the napkins are cloth and there are no prices listed on the menu next to entrees I'd never heard of before, much less eaten.

While we waited for our food, we ate bread dipped in oil and I had a glass of wine or two while everyone else drank lemonade. The kids gave me cards they made that read, "You're the best Mom in the World" and listed the things they love about me, like the fact that I wash their clothes and cook for them and love them no matter what. They'd pooled their money and got me a mini-food processor, something I've wanted for a while now, and they recited, together, the poem "Invictus" and I got a bit teary and excused myself to visit the restroom and when I got back our food had arrived. (Always works. Leave for a moment, and the food shows up.)

And what a fascinating array it was. Every plate was a work of art, with little sauces dabbled here and a tiny portion of meat there, and a tiny pile of dried fruit and nuts in the corner and what the waiter called a "reduction" glazing the white space on the plate. Mr. Sundberg ordered pheasant and received three small strips of meat on a bed of fancy lettuce, with some cheese crumbled next to it and a squirt of potatoes on the other side. The kids had chicken, done up the same way, and asked the waiter — who seemed a bit surprised at the request — for some ketchup and barbecue sauce. I'd ordered what turned out to be a chunk of tuna seared with sesame seeds and rather pink in the middle. Everyone finished in no time at all and sat there staring at me as I sliced my tuna and remarked on how nice it is to have someone else do the cooking. We decided to share a dessert, thinking we'd already overspent on dinner, and when the tiny little chocolate cupcake arrived floating in a chocolate sauce with five raspberries bobbing around it, we oohed and aahed and each took a spoonful and then it was gone.

I'm thinking fancy places are more about the experience and attention to the senses and less about filling you up, which is fine if you're not a kid used to platters of fries and big ol' bowls of ice cream. Because it was Mother's Day, I drove home, and we all agreed it HAD been an experience, but the kids seemed rather quiet. So I pulled into the drive-thru at the burger stand on the edge of town and ordered up a few malts and a family-size bucket of cheese curds. The kids cheered as I handed them each a chocolate malt. They chattered the rest of the way home, and we spent the evening on the deck playing Scrabble and eating cheese curds and popcorn, and later on, when I kissed them each goodnight, I thanked the kids for a fine, fine day.

It is, after all, not so much what you're doing but whom you're with when you celebrate a day in your life. That's how it goes for me, anyway. Especially on Mother's Day. Send me bowling or parasailing or golfing for the day. Long as I've got the kids around, there's not much I wouldn't enjoy. Now, there'll be a day down the road when they'll all have gone off into their own lives, that's when I'll do it. That's when, on Mother's Day, I'll rent a Hummer for the day and take a long drive. Maybe I'll go visit the kids, and maybe I won't. Perhaps I'll head up along the North Shore toward Canada, windows open wide, singing along with my favorite cd, "Delta Dawn, what's that flower you have on? / Could it be a faded rose from days gone by? / And did I hear you say / You would meet me here today..."

Homemade Ranch Fries
Wash 4-6 large potatoes and slice lengthwise into 6 or 8 wedges each. Place in a bowl and drizzle several tablespoons of oil over. Mix until well-coated. Sprinkle desired amount of parmesan cheese and garlic salt over, and a little pepper, and mix again. (You can also use a store-bought seasoning mixture such as Mrs. Dash or Lawry's.)

Pour potato wedges onto a greased jelly roll pan or cookie sheet, separating the slices so they're evenly distributed. Bake at 500 for 15 minutes, turning fries over with a spatula about halfway through.

Serve with burgers or fish or chicken and ranch dressing for a dip. Variations include sprinkling shredded cheese and/or crumbled bacon over before baking. Fries are done when lightly browned and fork slides in easily.


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