Saturday, April 12, 2008


Saturday morning dawns grey and wet. Looking out the hotel window, after wiping away the condensation, I can see the downtown skyscrapers topped with fog past the roof tops of the French Quarter. I step out and begin my way toward Mother's Restaurant at the corner of Poydras and Tchoupitoulas in the central business district. Upon arriving, I find a long line waiting to get in, a sure sign of good things to come. I take my place and look through a window into the kitchen where the cooks are hard at work, one of them rolling out biscuit dough, a sign of wonderful things to come. Before long a waitress comes out and, picking a point a few people ahead, orders everyone behind them to follow her. She leads us around the corner to a door marked "Mother's Next Door." This is a place usually reserved for banquets and private parties, but today it is being used as an overflow dining room, it is large but has a great feel, exposed brick, a very tall ceiling, and an ancient skylight combined with a beautiful bar and tables with white linens.
The line is moving quickly now toward a hastily assembled serving station and register.
"Whachoo want, baby?" She wants biscuits and gravy, but doesn't get it that here you get biscuits, and you can get a side of "debris", the gravy with meat scraps from the roast beef pans.
"Whachoo want, baby?"
Her words lilt, every syllable slapped playfully, I want to listen to her talk for hours.
"Ferdie special and a cup of crawfish etouffee, please."
"Aw'right, what's your name?"
"Aw'right, Eric."
I pay and wait by the counter. Everyone else in line seems to be ordering stuff from the kitchen, mine is being made right there.
"Here you go, Eric." I take my food and sit at one of the large communal tables with a couple who, it turns out, are horrible dining partners. But I have my food, they do not, and I am happy.
The Ferdi special is a Po' Boy sandwich packed with baked ham, roast beef, debris and dressed with shredded cabbage, pickles, mayo, and Creole and yellow mustard. Etouffee means smothered in French and the dish is made by cooking vegetables in a rich seafood broth until the veggies are very soft and the broth has reduced and thickened. It is the ultimate cold weather comfort food and Mother's does it right.
Hunger sated, I step out and light a cigarette and notice a cook doing the same, I congratulate him on the food and we talk about food and restaurants until he has to get back inside. I take a look back at the line of people that has again formed, tourists by the looks of 'em, wish them a good meal, and start walking toward the Mississippi River.

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