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April 21, 2024

Our family's Easter brunch

Since all of us in the family are restaurateurs and excellent cooks, our Easter brunch was, if I may say so, an amazing feast! To start, my granddaughter placed three large plates of fresh, nicely cut fruit on the table, filled with strawberries, raspberries, cherries and blueberries. The youngest kids climbed onto their chairs in no time and reached out their hands and raided the colourful plates. A few minutes later, their cheeks were coloured blue and pink, and their small aprons stained with raspberry juice.

I’d prepared the crêpe mix the night before, but as soon as my daughter walked into the kitchen, she took control of the helm. She still had to assemble the various elements of each service. With her daughter by her side, they first prepared over 20 crêpes filled with different garnishes: spinach-feta, ham and Swiss cheese, bacon-cheddar and delicious apples brushed with homemade caramel. They were all kept warm on the stove’s hot plate.

My daughter and her daughter then cooked all the meat traditionally found in a good French Canadian breakfast and placed it on the table alongside a big tureen filled with baked beans, a big plate of smoked salmon garnished with capers and red onions, a large bowl of roasted potatoes, my famous cretons and a nice spread of homemade jams: strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, orange and citrus marmalade. I’ve long had a knack for making delicious jams. I never measure anything and my middle finger is my helper, letting me know when it’s time to turn off the heat. It never fails!

My eldest son’s sons were tasked with preparing a variety of breads, toast, bagels and croissants. They cut the butter into little squares that they placed in small dishes to be arranged in front of each place setting. Then the 15 adults sat down at the table and the feast began. As they’d already swilled their coffee while talking, they switched to orange juice. Heavens! I still remember the fresh orange juice I forbade the employees and my own kids from drinking while they were working at the restaurant. In those days, the juice imported directly from Florida was expensive and precious. No one was allowed to drink any of it except the customers who paid for it.

I was left penniless in 1987 when I opened our first small restaurant. It was an old wreck of a snack bar that had been closed for two years. I remember it like it was yesterday: a 29-seat room covered in cobwebs that I bought after selling our house in the suburbs. I’ll never understand why my young kids and I immediately fell in love with the place.

Perhaps this was a new adventure for them? Maybe this was my opportunity to build a brilliant destiny for myself? We had to scrub, clean, paint, sew a few nice aprons and write our menu on the walls. I never could have imagined in those days that I would create an exceptional breakfast restaurant concept. Living in a third-floor apartment on a commercial street in Montreal near our tiny eatery, the kids got used to the city cacophony, public transportation and the sleepless nights their mom spent inventing new breakfast dishes.

My daughter and her daughter are at the stove ready to take omelette orders. Over 15 bowls filled with omelette garnishes are lined up on the counter next to them. Service is running smoothly! By the sounds of it, you would think that all the adults haven’t eaten even a crumb in three days! Seated at the end of the table, my eyes sneak a look at each of my guests’ face. They are hungry, thirsty and are relishing their food.

My oldest son congratulates the cooks, thanking them warmly. He volunteers for dishwashing even before he’s done eating his main course. His girlfriend says she’ll assist. Dear Josée is a very good cook herself; she especially excels at roasting meat and her man, a big eater, couldn’t be happier.

All the guests are content. The youngest ones ate earlier, and they’re now running around in the big house, playing hide-and-seek and having fun with the toys their grandfather (my oldest son) brings them each time he sees them. All the adults are helping themselves to more coffee and chit chat like they haven’t seen each other in 10 years. Then Josée stands up and orders me to stay seated.
– “You’ve done enough already, mother-in-law! I’ll take care of the dishes.”

When the conversations finally dwindle, my children’s children get up and raid the leftovers, like they always do when they come to grandma’s house! Again, my daughter and her daughter busy themselves wrapping up the pastries, crêpes, meat, baked beans, cheese and the other leftovers on the table. You have to be quick to get what you want! When the table is empty and the stove and counters wiped clean, the young ones help with the dishes. Soon the kitchen sparkles and the adults move to the living room. It’s time to digest, continue conversations and tell me repeatedly how everything was delicious. I can hardly take any credit; I just have to get them together. At Christmas, Easter and a great-grandson’s birthday.

How many more Easter brunches will I be able to host? Time goes by so fast! Three more short years and I’ll be 80. Perhaps I’ll have crooked fingers, cracked kneecaps and my memory will be gone? I’ll forget my superb cretons recipe, my great-grandsons’ ages and maybe my daughter-in-law’s address? For now, I still have my head on straight and I intend to enjoy every family occasion and celebration to the fullest!