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Spoiler Alert: Contains Recipe for “Meaty Mangler”

April 13, 2010

I’m always trying to take my favorite nephew, aka JEK, to a restaurant called Mortenson’s.

I love our trips together because it’s time well-spent, usually just the two of us. And I love it at Mortenson’s because it’s the sort of place where they cook with actual butter, and where they don’t get cooked chicken shipped in, pre-sliced, in a tub.

It’s not exactly a diner but it is a family restaurant of pretty good caliber. The real draw is that they make their own ice cream there. Every kind is listed out and described in a book at the table called the “Library of Flavors,” so you have ample chance to read and ruminate throughout the meal.

Mortenson’s is perfect.

JEK, meanwhile, is always trying to get me to take him to a fast-food restaurant, and I don’t have any idea why. Doesn’t he know we’re all into sloooooooow food these days? Doesn’t he know that ice cream from a machine that has had clay infused into it for thickness isn’t as good as Moosetracks or say, Almond Joy? Doesn’t he know that aunts don’t buy fast food?

I’m a Mortenson’s bully.

When we arrive, it’s usually after he’s made some incisive comments about my driving. He is 9 and knows how to get exactly nowhere, but he can tell when you keep turning around because you can’t quite find Mortenson’s, and he’ll show you his exasperation. He doesn’t have all day, here. He’s got to get home at a decent hour, so he can resume thinking about aliens in earnest.

Once I’ve located the restaurant and we’ve pulled into a parking space, I forget he is nine and become anxious about him crossing the parking lot. Does he want to hold hands? He does not. But as soon as we cross the threshold, my focus switches and I start hugging my wallet to my chest. This kid has me dribbling parsimonious comments for the remainder of the trip, because of the battery of questions and requests he levels at me.

Can I give him some quarters for the gumball machine?

Am I going to buy him a Mortenson’s Frisbee?

Would I care to at least keep an open mind and consider buying him a Mortenson’s Frisbee?

We went several weeks ago, and one thing that struck me from that visit was that he kept taking my picture, and then looking at the result and asking me if I am getting enough rest. Ahem.

In the car on the return trip, we had a conversation that came around to the topic of beauty. When I asked him what makes someone beautiful he replied, as if he had it all thought out,

“Well, I’d say that looking well-rested is pretty important.”


We went to Mortenson’s most recently on Friday. He rode with his dad. I drove with Matthew and Henry.

The moment we sat down in the restaurant, JEK ordered a Belgian waffle with strawberries and whipped cream, as well as a hot chocolate. The moment the hot chocolate arrived he called the waitress back and asked for squirty cream. The moment she brought the cream over he told her that he’d like to be the one to apply it to his drink.

She grabbed the can tighter, in a motion similar to the one I make with my wallet, and she made up a pretty good lie about how it was a tough can to use unless you were like, sixteen or however old she was. She doled him out a good amount and yet managed to not give up the can. I had to admire her.

I looked at the huge pile of cream on his drink. “This is perfect,” I told him. “Because in my imitation of you at Mortenson’s, which I was doing for your mom just an hour ago, everything you order has whipped cream on it.”

So we took a picture, though it doesn’t reflect the chocolate fudge sundae with chocolate ice cream and . . . you guessed it, that he ordered about 10 minutes later. Three out of three things he ordered had whipped cream on them.

I’m not sure that it’s his fault. I remember him being perhaps two years old and being presented a plate by my mother. It had chunks of cut up hot-dog around the perimeter, with squirts of whipped cream interspersed between the chunks. I am not willing to assert that there was any food on the body of the plate.

I remember being completely torn about whether I was excited or worried about that meal. I’m still torn.

For many years between then and now, JEK lost his taste for hot dogs. But over dinner, when we were playing “what’s your favorite food with tomato in it,” (he made up this game, but clearly, we share some genetic material), he gave me a recipe for a sandwich that he has perfected.

He initially called it the Meaty Mangler, but then he amended it make it sound less scary.

I can’t remember the real title but I’ll update when I get the correct info. In case you’d like to try the Meaty Mangler at home, to see if it is your favorite tomato-filled food:

TK née Meaty Mangler

  • Bread
  • Some kind of meat (“ham, hot-dog, or meatball”)
  • Ragu sauce
  • Garlic powder


4 Comments leave one →
  1. April 14, 2010 9:24 am

    I”m confused. it doesn’t have cheese? Otherwise, yum. It may not be my favorite food with tomato yet but I can see its potential for super yumminess. Also it sounds somewhat portable, which may be important to a person who spends a lot of time thinking about aliens.

    • April 14, 2010 9:26 am

      the ham OR meatball thing is what really gets me — but i agree. the non-cheese fact is very confusing. maybe it’s like not serving cheese with your fish, in italy? if you are going into space, you shouldn’t have cheese, either.

  2. Meg permalink
    April 16, 2010 2:04 am

    I love Mortensen’s and I completely relate to the on-again, off-again component of hot dogs.

  3. April 16, 2010 9:51 am

    He sounds a lot like my n0t-so-little nine year old!

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