All for Mother

Henri dishes up his blueberry almond coffeecake

Photo Illustration by Carey Wilson

Mother’s Day was always a grand occasion in the small Midwestern town in which Henri spent his youth. Nothing was too good for Mom that day, and families would line up outside all three of our restaurants waiting for tables where they would give Mom her card to thank her for another year of tireless sacrifice.

Smorga-Lars was especially popular, as you didn’t have to bother with reading a menu, deciding what to order, and then waiting for your food to be prepared. In fact, you didn’t even have to bother with sitting down first. You could go straight to the buffet and pile your plate with biscuits, fried chicken, lutefisk, creamed onions, chipped beef, meatballs, tuna with noodles, scalloped or mashed potatoes with gravy, and always several colors of Jell-o. Mom got all she could eat for $3.99.

Naturally, the Bourrides did things differently. Mon père, Etienne Alain Bourride, and I always cooked a special Mother’s Day brunch, letting Mother sleep in. We’d start with espressos, Edith Piaf playing softly on our hi-fi. When the meal was ready and the table set, we would hang our aprons in the closet, and Father would turn the music up slightly. Then he’d pour three glasses of champagne—mine only halfway until he felt I was old enough to drink a full one (9 years old)—and carry them on a tray into their bedroom.

Mother would sit up, pretending she’d been asleep and, as we drank our champagne on the bed, she’d unwrap her gift from me—a new set of measuring spoons, a ladle and napkin rings. Then Father and I would walk her out to the dining room, where we’d enjoy a leisurely brunch and then a short stroll around the neighborhood. Afterward, Father always dropped little Henri off at a matinee and then went back to the house to clean up.

I don’t see ma mère as much as I’d like to. She lives in Provence now in the house that she and Father moved to in 1985 when he retired and returned to France to farm artichokes. L. and I visited them once several years ago, just before Father died, but I haven’t been back since. I’m hoping to go again in September. This Mother’s Day I sent her a crystal champagne glass direct from the Waterford factory in Ireland and a card with 100 euros and instructions to use it to buy a very good bottle of champagne.

Several restaurants in Chico serve excellent Sunday brunches, perfect for Mother’s Day celebrations. Henri especially likes Sierra Nevada Taproom and Restaurant and the Kramore Inn.

On the other hand, there’s nothing quite like a nice brunch at home. Put on some good music (if you don’t have Edith Piaf, you can substitute Billie Holiday, Judy Garland or Ella Fitzgerald, especially her duets with Louis Armstrong), and make your coffee as strong as you like—Henri prefers Bidwell Perk’s North Beach Italian Roast. Then dawdle over omelets, French toast, crepes, or Henri’s Almond Coffeecake, perhaps with some smoked salmon or gourmet sausages on the side. As for the champagne? À votre santé, Lars. It’s all you can drink.

Blueberry Almond Coffeecake
1 cup of fresh blueberries
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 egg
1 tablespoon sliced almonds
1/4 cup sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon milk

Combine berries and brown sugar and set aside. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Mix yogurt, margarine, 1 teaspoon vanilla and egg in separate bowl. Combine mixtures, stirring until moist. Spoon two-thirds of the batter into an 8-inch round cake pan (lightly oiled), and spread evenly. Top with berry mixture. Spoon remaining batter over berries and top with almonds.

Bake at 350 for 40 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean). Remove from oven, and cool ten minutes.

Mix powdered sugar, milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla, and drizzle over cake. Serve warm.

Note: You can substitute raspberries. Also très bon!