Dining at Chez Fred
March 2, 2012
By Pat Detmer
The Sainted One is our official Family Cook, and when I say “Family Cook,” I don’t mean just for me. I also mean for Newcastle Niece and The Sainted One Jr., my stepkids and grandkids, and both my sisters and their families.
As Family Cook, he is so respected that his Christmas Eve Spicy Turkey Lasagna recipe has been presented to the hotel chef where my stepdaughter is being married so that it can be replicated for the wedding dinner.
As a bystander to this and in my defense, my mother never insisted that cooking was something that we needed to learn, either for attracting men or for our own pleasure.
While recently comparing notes with my sisters, we remember that my mother never seemed to enjoy her time in the kitchen. There was always a grim set to her lips while she cooked, and she bore an attitude of duty versus a sense of fun.
We still harbor visions of her tenderizing meat with the side of a plate, her left hand on her hip, her actions fast and furious, as if she was going for her Black Belt in Round Steak. You could hear her pounding it into submission from anywhere within a three-block area, and we generally watched her do it from a safe distance.
As sister Susie has since said, “Who needs Prozac when you have a piece of cheap meat and plate?”
So we are a perfect team at Chez Fred: I take the dinner reservations, seat people, make the salad, and provide dessert and comic relief.
And The Sainted One cooks.
He’ll cook anything and cook it fearlessly and well. It’s a treat to eat his food and to watch people enjoy it, and if we ever divorce, I would lose about 50 pounds from a combination of grief and attempting to feed myself.
It’s tough to get a reservation at Chez Fred. You pretty much have to be family, Good Neighbor North or South, longtime friends or a cartoonist who provides art for my newspaper columns.
If there’s a drawback, it’s that the seatings are relatively early and the kitchen sometimes shuts down before guests are ready to leave. I’ve been known to flick the lights on and off when people aren’t moving for the door fast enough post-meal.
The price, though, is always right.
Reach Pat Detmer — who has now been providing columns for this newspaper for 10 years — at firstname.lastname@example.org.