For the past six years, my family has been celebrating Mother's Day with brunch at the five-star LeMont. And for the past six years, I have had to think to myself, What have I done to deserve this?
Or better yet, Why doesn't my husband keep our three young lunatics while I go to LeMont and stuff myself silly?
Because as it is, I spend the morning trying to get the children into their Sunday best, practicing how to use napkins and not shirts, deciding which flip-flops are dressy enough to wear. And at some point I wonder: Does my family hate me?
I've considered it a few times. Why else would they subject a wife and mother to the French decorum of taking small, polite bites — not to mention the frequent restroom breaks, and having to issue constant reminders not to blow your nose at the table? And then there's the challenge of keeping children away from giant plate-glass windows overlooking Mount Washington, where they may somehow figure how to break through and fall hundreds of feet. Or even more embarrassingly, drool all over the glass.
But my husband has explained to me we should celebrate Mother's Day as a family. Then too, I love breakfast … and I love breakfast buffets even more. I love desserts … and I love mini desserts even more.
At our inaugural Mother's Day brunch six year ago, my husband parked 14 blocks away and carried our infant daughter in her car carrier, just to be sure the maître d' didn't spot us. (I've actually never understood what a maître d' does, although it must have to do with money, because my husband avoids eye contact at all costs.)
Our waiter, dressed in tails and a stiff white cloth on his arm, asked us for our drink order. How about a screwdriver? He then watched, paralyzed, as I scoured our carefully laid-out tabletop, gathering up the silverware, glasses, plates, butter, salt-and-pepper shakers, flowers, sugar … anything else the kids could destroy or hurl at one of the guys from the Steidl and Steinberg ads — I'm not sure which is which — who was sitting next to us.
"There goes our nice quiet brunch," I'm sure Steidl (or Steinberg) thought to himself "Should've just had the breakfast buffet at Eat'n Park."
But that's what I love about Pittsburgh: Common riff-raff like me can dine right next to Steidl (or Steinberg), have a burger next to Franco Harris, or pancakes with Elsie Hilman. That's something very few cities can brag about. Le Bec Fin in Philly would rather stay closed forever than let a family like mine in for Mother's Day.
And as for breastfeeding? My experience has been that the Pittsburgh French are pretty progressive, and that with the help of a Hooter Hider, breastfeeding is very polite and innocuous.
LeMont's whole brunch is set up like a firehall wedding of the rich and famous. The buffet has silver warmers that are clearly marked (there's no mistaking decaf with regular or scrambled eggs with pancakes), an omelet station, a waffle station and a couple of men in giant white hats cutting meat. I treat the buffet line for the children as if I were on Supermarket Sweep — just grab everything and sort it out later. It cuts down the number of trips from 40 to about 15.
By that point, the kids are typically wandering around somewhere, probably sitting under Steidl's (or Steinberg's) table. But by that point, I am also completely focused on the cookie table — I mean the Cookie Room.
Imagine never having to see someone pick up the very last bite-size cheesecake with little cherries on top … because another plate of mini cheesecakes will almost instantaneously appear before your eyes. I feel happy when I think of that story. And where can you find an endless supply of mini cheesecakes? At LeMont Mother's Day brunch.
Each year, my family watches me eat plate after plate of pancakes and scrambled eggs, while I wear my fancy flip-flops. And bring a purse full of plastic bags so I can stuff it full of mini cheesecakes. And at some point I realize: To suffer through an entire brunch with me, my family must love me very much.