Not Our Mothers’ Mother’s Day

I have a very good friend and we have done everything at exactly the same time.  Three kids.  Divorce.  New Marriage.  Always within a year of each other and always there for each other.  When we were in our single lives, raising kids alone, we would often have family meals at one of our homes with all the kids.  We had each other’s back.

Our first-born sons were the best of friends.  They were artists and did not necessarily fit in with the other sporty boys.  My husband once said about them, “Are you sure they didn’t once walk through a toxic fog together?”  We still laugh about that.  Sometimes we would think it was a brilliant idea to “mainstream” the boys by sending them on YMCA camping trips to the mountains.  They would come back coated black from dirt, stunned, as if we had sent them off to an inmate labor program.  Unlike all of our other kids who would return from these excursions so happy, laughing with a pack of new friends they’d made, these two were miserable.

Taylor on left, his brother Ry, center, Oliver on right

When Taylor, my friend Cathy’s son, was a teenager, he ran off with a homeless, drugged-out crowd on Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade.  These were hardcore runaways; a scary-looking posse of skinheads & lost kids.  We could not believe this new turn of events.  I held my breath, hoping Taylor would find his way back home quickly, but it wasn’t happening.  A year went by.  My girlfriend happens to be one of the strongest people I know yet this was testing her.   Weeks or even months might go by where she had not heard from him.  A phase was turning into a lifestyle for Taylor.

On a day in early May during Taylor’s lost years, I sent my son Oliver on a mission: “Oliver, you need to go to the promenade and find Taylor.”  This was before they were driving.  Also before cell phones.  Oliver hopped on a bus and started his search.  I got a payphone call saying he was having no luck.  “Keep looking, this is VERY important!!!!”  These homeless kids on the promenade — gutter rats is what they were called — were like vampires, up all night.  Who knows where they hung out during the day when Oliver was hunting for them.  “Don’t give up,” I said, “It’s Mother’s Day and I really want to give Cathy this gift of knowing Taylor is okay.”

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Oliver didn’t give up and he finally found his childhood friend.  Not sure Taylor, now with a vacant look in his eyes, was happy to be found; he was a reluctant hostage, but Oliver managed to pull him to a phone booth.   Then when Oliver dialed Cathy’s number (collect), Taylor backed away from the phone.  Oliver convinced him to get back on, and for one second Taylor did – so, Cathy finally got to hear his voice, and for that one Mothers Day, rest easy.

me on left pregnant with Oliver, Cathy, pregnant with Taylor

Now, I will update you on the happy ending to this story.  Taylor hit rock bottom and got himself into a rehab.  Then from rehab into sober living.  He is a complete success story.  He works the program (AA) and has become a motivational speaker at meetings.  Presently he lives in Thailand and is studying to become a masseur.  By the way, he is a brilliant writer and I hope one day he tells the whole tale of how he ended up on the street and ultimately made his way back.  Each year Oliver calls or e-mails Taylor on his birthday.  The boys were born about a month apart, 29 years ago.  Oliver was actually my very first Mother’s Day gift, as he was born on Mother’s Day, May 8, 1983.  Happy Birthday to Oliver this week — and thanks for hunting down your friend all those years ago.

In the early 70’s, I went often with my dad to one of my favorite restaurants, Chez Puce.  This was a homey little red checked table-clothed place with AMAZING French crepes.  When our kids were first born, in 1983, Chez Puce had moved from Lincoln and Pico to a temporary spot in the Mayfair Theater building near the Third Street Promenade.  We went there with our new born sons Oliver and Taylor.  Soon after, my favorite restaurant closed it’s doors forever and I long to have one of those crepes.  Jeff (father of Taylor) if you’re reading; Chez Puce is not an octopus!!!! That was just some random line written on the front of the menu and on the wall of the crepe joint.  I found this recipe online so I will not swear by it.  The one I would order was a mushroom crepe.  Just to let you know, I did just have a great mushroom crepe at L’Epiceire Market/Restaurant in Culver City.  So, you can go there and order one for yourself.  Or make this!!!

California Asparagus and Mushroom Filled Crepes
12-15 crepes
1 pound fresh California asparagus, ends trimmed
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
8 ounces button mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup Gruyere cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 savory crepes (purchased or use the recipe at the bottom)
1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese, for topping
Savory Crepes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
Additional unsalted butter for frying

Crepes: In a medium bowl, combine the flour and salt; whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs; whisk just the eggs until thoroughly mixed. Slowly and steadily whisk in a little more than half of the milk, while incorporating more and more of the flour from the edges into the batter. (If you add all the liquid at once, the batter will be hard to mix and lumpy.) Once you have incorporated all of the flour, whisk in the melted butter and enough of the remaining milk to make a batter the consistency of heavy cream. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes or cover and refrigerate overnight. If you refrigerated the batter, bring to room temperature before proceeding – you may need to add a bit more milk to the batter if it has thickened too much overnight.

Heat a traditional, seasoned, steel crepe pan or 8-inch non-stick sauté pan over medium high heat. Using a pastry brush or paper towel, brush or wipe the pan with a thin film of the melted butter. Add a scant ¼ cup of batter and immediately rotate the pan, lifting it off the heat, so that the batter swirls and forms a thin even layer over the surface of the pan. Place the pan back on the burner and cook until it just begins to brown underneath and the top surface looks set, about 1 minute. Using the edge of a spatula, loosen the edge of the crepe from the pan and flip (your fingers work best at this point!) Cook just until browned lightly,
about 1 minute. Transfer the crepe to a plate. Repeat with the remaining batter — stacking the crepes directly on top of one another when cooked. Crepes will keep tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for 3 days, or frozen for 1 month. Let frozen crepes come to room temperature before separating from the stack.

Filling: Bring a large sauté pan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the asparagus and cook until tender crisp, about 2 minutes. Transfer the asparagus to a colander, refresh under cold running water to stop the cooking, and drain well. Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until the moisture they release has evaporated and the mushrooms are golden brown. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring, until light golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the stock; bring to a boil, stirring briskly, and cook until thickened,
about 1 minute. Remove from the heat. Add the cream and ¼ cup Gruyere cheese, whisk until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper; set aside.

To assemble crepes: Place 2 tablespoons of the cheese sauce down the center of a crepe and top with a spoonful of the cooked mushrooms. Arrange 3 asparagus spears down the center of the crepe so that the tips extend just beyond the edge of the crepe. Roll up and place, seam side down, in the prepared baking dish. Repeat with the remaining crepes, sauce and filling. The crepes should fit snuggly in the dish. Sprinkle the remaining ½ cup grated Gruyere over the tops of the rolled crepes.
Bake, uncovered, until the crepes are warmed through and the cheese has melted, about 12-15 minutes. If you prefer a browner top, place under a heated broiler just until golden brown. Serve immediately.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

7 Responses to “Not Our Mothers’ Mother’s Day”

  1. mogull says:

    oh how i love that song… really takes me back to a happy time.
    thanks for the moving post. it has been a blast to know you “ova thurty years” (pronounced phonetically). the pops are kvelling.

  2. Laura Plotkin says:

    Thanks for another warm and loving story…and, fyi, Soliel on Westwood Boulevard (just 2 blocks south of Wilshire on the east side of the street), makes a very satisfgying chicken crepe!

  3. Erin says:

    Oh I remember Chez Puce, Yum! I lived a couple of blocks away from there, before the babies.
    Taylor is an inspiration and a blessing. Our boys, those days, I miss them.

  4. David Miller-Engel says:

    another great story Fredde…..but I still cook crepes the Magic Pan way on the back of a heated pan…lol

  5. Mel says:

    D(elightful)ramatic and heartw(rench)arming all the same ~ and then, catch your breath, a meal!

    I have a friend at the moment with a lost son sometimes ~ thank god for program to aid ~

    P.S. Soleil _is_ a good restaurant, btw – when in Westwood, try ~

    (ooh!, heartwrencharming = great new word! : )

  6. pauli says:

    Truly terrifying and wonderfully moving Fredde. There must be a reason that so many people have to live through the nightmare to get to the happy ending. Thankfully, Taylor found his way. Crepes are so comforting…I like them warm with black raspberry jam inside for dessert.

  7. Christel Chesney says:

    Glad Taylor found his way back. He was fortunate many don’t. And kudos to your son for finding him…..and making his Mother happy just to hear her voice. And love to you for suggesting it. You truly are a wonderful friend.

Leave a Reply