Saturday, May 12, 2012

Mother's Day and Spanish Coffee

I have no idea where I’m taking my eighty-seven year old mother for Mother’s Day this year. Last year was taxing, to say the least. When it comes to eating food she hasn't prepared, Mom is as cautious as Howard Hughes. She doesn’t like breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner unless it’s a slice of meat between two pieces of bread. She hates sauces or condiments, preferring cold meat served the “natural way.” When she says this I imagine meat brought down by a pack of hyenas on the Serengeti, clad in fur, twitching and covered in flies.

Last year Mrs. Chatterbox and I came up with a great idea. The only thing Mom loves more than coffee is coffee with booze in it. We have a restaurant in Portland that specializes in Spanish coffee. Here, baristas with fingers longer than Edward Scissorhands put on quite a show. They’re dressed in black and circle the restaurant like matadors while creating the concoction for which the restaurant is justly famous.

First, a cart with mysterious ingredients capable of giving an alchemist a wet dream is wheeled to your table. The barista opens a book of matches, removes a match and lights it, all with one hand. With the other, he mixes a wonderful blend of liqueurs in a brandy snifter, using the lit match to ignite the mixture. He then raises a pot of Spanish coffee as high as he can (which is pretty high) and pours a cascade of coffee into the snifter, which he delivers with a flourish. I don’t generally like coffee drinks but this one is good enough to trade your mother for, especially if your mother is as unpleasant as mine. So last Mother’s Day we took her to this restaurant. Mom was seated with her back to the room, and even before her fanny touched the chair she barked at the hostess, “Bring me a cup of coffee.”

The lovely young lady smiled at her, passed out menus and said, “Your server will be here in a moment to take your order.”

When she disappeared I said, “Mom, don’t ask me why, but please don’t order a cup of coffee.”

She glowered at me, “Why not?”

“I told you not to ask. Just trust me.”

Aside from Spanish coffee, this restaurant is renowned for its steaks and seafood, so of course Mom ordered a chicken breast. She told the server, “I want it natural. Don’t let the cook do anything to it. No fancy spices or sauces, or I’ll send it back.”

“It comes with Spanish rice or rosemary potatoes,” said the server.

“Bring me a baked potato. Nothing on it. I’ll add my own salt and pepper.”

Mrs. Chatterbox and I ordered our meals and the server disappeared. Good thing Mom was such an enthusiastic talker (I had to pick it up someplace) because it seemed our surprise was going down the toilet: the restaurant was packed with moms being treated to Spanish coffee, including the one at the booth directly behind us. Mom blithely chatted away about an unpleasant incident in a restaurant that occurred before I was born. She didn’t notice the coffee version of Cirque du Soleil taking place right behind her. For the next forty minutes we ate our meal (except for Mom who complained that her chicken and potato were dry and flavorless) and I pretended to hang on Mom’s every word to keep her from turning her head and witnessing everyone else in the room being served Spanish coffee.

When our plates were cleared away Mom announced she was ready to leave.

“We have a Mother’s Day surprise for you,” I said when the server arrived to ask if we wanted dessert. “My mother will have a Spanish coffee.”

“Very good sir,” he said to me.

I’ll admit that Mom appeared fascinated by his skill and dexterity; she even managed a brittle smile when the steaming snifter of Spanish delight was placed in front of her. “I’ve never seen anything like that,” she said, when he’d gone. “Have you?”

Since everyone in the room had ordered the same thing, I wanted to say something snarky like, “Actually, I’ve seen it thirty times—TODAY! But I held my tongue.

Mom sipped the coffee. “Ooch…too hot. It burned my tongue. Now I won’t be able to taste for a week.”

That was the one and only sip of Spanish coffee she took, and she still blames me for that time we took her to that dreadful restaurant where they served coffee so hot it blistered her tongue. That old saying is certainly true: No good deed goes unpunished.

Happy Mother’s Day


  1. Argh. You both get an A+ for effort, and even if she remembered the burned tongue more than the show, at least you and your wife will remember the show. It sounds fascinating~

  2. you also have a "Depression Mom" Those ladies that went through the great depression feel guilty at anything nice in life. That slice of meat between bread was a banquiet for them and now they feel anything "fancy" is wasteful. I think they secretly like the nice stuff, they just can't get around to admitting it.

    I love that your Mom also says "Dreadful" my Mom sayed this all the time. Does she also declare "Shame on you" to those who offend her in any way? Gotta love her generation, they were tough, had to be tough, and don't know any other way. Happy Mother's Day to her! I hope the waether isn't just Dreadful.

    Loved this post.

    1. My grandmother used 'frightful' rather than 'dreadful'. Frightful seems to have completely disappeared in later times.

  3. When I'm 87, I hope Favorite Young Man takes me to a bar for a beer and a bump.


  4. Oh, my. Well, I think you did good, even if it wasn't exactly as you'd envisioned. I think I agree with joeh, I have a Grandma that could be a sister to your Mom... Let's just say, she gripes when people send her flowers, because they "are a waste of money". Yeah, way to compliment, there, granny... Sigh. But it still sounds like you tried. Good for that much, anyway...


  5. The old lady sounds a true character.

    Maybe the one positive about old age is that you can be rude to everyone and get away with it.

  6. Wow. Yeah no good deed goes unpunished. But you gave it your all man. It shows true love for your mom.

  7. Ouch. Good thing you're able to keep your own sense of humor. And your comment about Augie...he cracks me up at least once a day! :-)

  8. Yowza. I'm so glad I'm not a coffee drinker. Now if the server could have done that sort of a show with a Diet Dr. Pepper?

    I'd be ALL over that.


    You're a good son. *smile*

  9. I bet my sister will be like that if she gets to be 87. Every time we go to Red Lobster she orders the chicken. Then has to analyze it to make sure it's all pure white. Me, I just shovel food in and call it good.

  10. Sounds like you gave her the perfect gift--something to complain about! :)

  11. That looks like quite a performance they put on, and the coffee looks amazing.

    Maybe you could send mom a box of Omaha steaks next time and tell her to cook 'em any way she wants. And while she's at it, you'll take one, too. With a plain baked potato. ;)


  12. Your line about a mom as unpleasant as yours reminds me of the Beanie and Cecil line in which Cecil says, "Just like mother used to make. And we all know what a lousy cook mom was!"

    Happy Mother's Day to your wonderful Mrs. Chatterbox. And a special award to you for putting up with your mother.

  13. To me it sounds as though liberal amounts of coffee is what keeps you alive and kicking well into old age. So ... please post the recipe for that Spanish coffee.

    P.S. I hope your mom doesn't read your blog!

  14. You've set the dog off barking, having me laughing so loud! Oh my, I'm so glad I've stumbled across this treasure, it's the funniest post I've read yet. I will DEFINITELY be back!

  15. You and Mrs. Chatterbox get extra bonus points for dealing with your mother.

    I had a co-worker once who shared two things with your mother: loved to talk and highly negative and critical of everything. She went on an Alaskan cruise once, the dream of a lifetime for many people, and came back complaining about this, whining about that, picking on everything. Some of our co-workers and I were sitting in the lunch kitchen listening to her when the cheery HR person walked in and said, ", Susan, what was the best thing about your vacation?"

    The co-worker, for the first time ever, was at a loss for words. Hahahaha....

  16. You have dealt with a challenge with patience and composure
    . Some people you can never satisfy. You tried!

  17. I realized today that I haven't been receiving my weekly dose of laughter from your posts...thank you SOOO much hacker I'm here for my dose and you did not disappoint. I hope you drank the rest of the coffee if just for the dulling sensation of the alcohol...;0)

    I posted my latest tease about my YA fantasy novel, Lunadar: Homeward Bound for my post today and was curious what you might think of it?

    Donna L Martin

  18. Oh Chubby, I think your Mum is a sweetheart and you just don't know how to say it. Happy Mother's Day Mrs.Chubby's Mum, I'm sure you really loved every bite of that dry meat and spuds, didn't you?

  19. Nobody can ever say you didn't try...

  20. it is the thought that counts.

  21. I always enjoy reading your posts, Stephen. I want to thank you for your lovely comment about my mom's portrait of me. It meant a lot to both me and her. She's thinking of beginning to paint again and reading your comment and compliment has helped her realize she was always good and that talent just doesn't fade away. So thank you. Your mother doesn't seem to know it but she has a wonderful son.

  22. I am certain you exaggerate but my, it's too funny.

  23. Here from Hilary's. I am actually afraid this is not exaggerated one little bit :). I know how snarky women can get!

  24. Mom sounds like a fiesty gal :)

    love the shot of the preparer, that's a coffee dance!

    congrats on POTW

  25. oh my word. this woman you call mother! ;) laughing over here from hilary's!

  26. Hilarious stuff. Congrats on the POTW!

  27. OMG this is the most hysterical thing I've read in a long time. I LOVE your writing style. This is great stuff. My mom cannot go to a restaurant without complaining about something, so I can totally relate. Congrats on the POTW and I hope you are up for a new stalker because I'm following you from this moment on.

  28. You can please some of the people some of the time but there are those that you can never please. Ah well, you seemed to have turned out well.

  29. The coffee sounds absolutely delicious! There is a special place in heaven for those take care of cranky Mothers! I think a seat has your name on it!