Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I Did This Weekend, Part I - Food

This weekend both my parents and Andrew's mom joined us for a trip to Santa Barbara to do wedding stuff. Andrew's mom has not yet seen the location. I was expecting frustration. And I got it. The whole weekend was technically "fine" but this is my blog and I'm going to spend some time on here whining about it because I can't afford a therapist.

Our first challenge: Dinner! And it was a challenge. Andrew's mom's culinary repertoire is limited, to say the least. And my dad's is worse in almost every way. So, we have to be sure to go to a restaurant that won't offend the delicately bland tastebuds of either one of them. Garlic is offensive to my dad. Chicken is offensive to Andrew's mom... no wait, the "idea of chicken" is offensive to her. She says, "We're not chicken people" but she eats chicken parmigiana, lemon chicken, chicken picatta, chicken marsala, fried chicken, etc. It's just plain roasted chicken she doesn't like. And chicken in place of something that "should" be something else (ie. chicken on a pizza) seems to be upsetting to her. She calls any place that serves something other than her idea of a good meal, a "yuppie" establishment. She calls CPK "yuppie" and I witnessed this conversation once in response to us wanting to go to Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill after it opened in Vegas:
Andrew's mom to her husband:
Andrew & Christina are going to this new restaurant at Caesar's but I don't think they'll have things that we like.

Oh yeah, what do they have?

Andrew's mom:
It's weird stuff and it's overpriced.

Oh yeah? Yuppie stuff like that restaurant in California. What is it? CPK!?!

Andrew's mom:
Yeah, like that.

She compared a chain restaurant with a line of frozen pizzas to an award winning restaurant created by a highly acclaimed chef. I said nothing in response, but I couldn't help but chuckle a little at overhearing this. What DOES she like, you wonder? She almost always wants Italian or a steakhouse. She likes maybe 3 things at a Chinese restaurant and she'll eat maybe 2 things from a Mexican restaurant. My dad won't eat any Mexican. No Chinese either. And it always looks like a winter wonderland on his plate because he douses everything he eats in table salt. EVERYTHING! Even fried chicken and cheeseburgers. It makes me cringe a little bit every time. What's worse is when my nephews were little, he always reached over and doused all of their food in salt and would say, "that's how big boys eat it." He also gave them a yuck face at any food he thought they shouldn't like. Weird foods like tacos. He would tell them, "No, that's gross. Don't eat that." Both Andrew and I have suffered from child abuse in the form of forced eating habits. When he was little, his mom and grandma would shovel all of their leftovers from their plate onto his and tell him to finish it so as not to waste it, hence his desire to eat way too much at each meal. And I was always given particular foods and told to eat just like my dad, hence my horrible sweet tooth. We've both since "grown up" and done what we can to change those habits. I don't coat everything in salt anymore and I actually eat exotic foods like mayonnaise, ketchup, lasagna and vegetables [shudder]. The sweet tooth still lingers, though. Do you have any brownies on you? Because if you do, I want one!

So, we decided on Buca di Beppo for dinner, mostly for Andrew's mom and because I know my dad will eat 1 Italian thing (spaghetti and meatballs - that's it). Plus, it's family style and that's always nice. When we got there, I already had the plan: let the 3 of them order 1 thing each and that's it. Andrew & I will eat mostly anything (so will my mom), especially when it comes to Italian. That worked out pretty well, I think. My dad ordered spaghetti and meatballs asking the waitress, "You guys don't put any cheese on that, do you? I don't want any cheese on it!" Because cheese on anything other than a cheeseburger is somehow offensive to him. When the spaghetti and meatballs showed up, he dished some out onto his plate and took a fork and knife and started cutting up the spaghetti noodles, slicing this way and that, the whole time scraping the bottom of the plate with his utensils, making that near nails-on-a-blackboard-annoying, scraping sound. At this point I'm really holding back. My nerve endings are all on fire. But I keep my cool and say nothing. Next step, you guessed it, shower that spaghetti in salt!

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful. We went back to our place, hung out for another 30 minutes or so, then they all left for their hotel rooms. I savored every moment of quiet I could get until morning.

The next day we drove to Santa Barbara. The plan was to stop at Andrew's aunt & uncle's for breakfast. Bagels are the breakfast of choice for his family. And that's the only choice really, because it's the only thing that the health conscious aunt and uncle like that his mom also likes. BUT... my parents don't eat bagels. Again, something else that seems completely inoffensive to me is just not consumable to them. It's friggin bread, folks. And it comes in every flavor. What is the damn problem? Whatever... I didn't say anything and technically it was no big deal. I just bought them blueberry muffins along with everyone else's bagels from Noah's. We got whole wheat bagels for the healthy aunt and uncle, and everything bagels for Andrew's mom. She won't eat anything other than onion, garlic or everything bagels. Just mention a sweet bagel and you'll get a gagging face from her. Again, whatever... bunch of crazies!

Later that day we had the task of picking a place for lunch. We looked at a directory of a big outdoor mall and there were several choices. All the parents turned to us and said, "Whatever you want, it's your choice." Andrew, clearly reading my mind, replied, "It doesn't many any sense for the 2 people here who will eat anything to decide what to eat for 2 of the pickiest people on the planet." Sometimes he is perfect! My mom so wisely pointed out, "Well, they want you to choose hoping that you'll pick something they'll like." Andrew quickly pointed out how frustrating and passive aggressive that is. I love him. Because it's true. It's creating the illusion of making this our decision. And I am really sick and tired of illusions!

Andrew's mom's friend suggested an Italian place in Santa Barbara. And she clearly had that stuck in her head because she mentioned it like 4 or 5 times. When we walked by there, looking at restaurants for the rehearsal dinner, she mentioned how great it smelled. Okay, okay, we get it. You want to eat there! So, we did. I felt kinda bad. My dad doesn't eat anything Italian other than the same old spaghetti and meatballs. But honestly, I would rather please Andrew's mom because she is so passive aggressive, with an emphasis on the aggressive. My parents are passive aggressive with an emphasis on the passive. If we please her, we eliminate a lot of complaining and whining and huffing and puffing and scowling and gagging faces. My parents are a little more gracious. It's a toss up as to which demeanor I prefer. With Andrew's mom, at least you know what she's thinking. Even if she doesn't come out and say it, she'll make it known! But then her actions are kinda rude and childish. Silly me, I don't like the food I'm enjoying to be responded to with a "blech" noise and a gagging face. But with my parents, they flat out lie. My dad will "yum" his way through a meal even if he hates it. So you're always left wondering. I can still tell when he hates something though because he overacts it. But not everyone else can tell. I could tell he didn't like this spaghetti. The sauce was too thick and had too many herbs in it. He doesn't like any seasoning other than salt. And he phonily over-yummed his way through every bite. Everyone else enjoyed their food. Andrew and his mom each ordered something that both of them wanted so they could eat half of each and share. That's usually something he and I do. But it seems that whenever she's around, they share instead. I don't always like that. It makes me feel a tiny bit second-fiddle. I know I'm being silly, but like I said at the beginning... this is my blog and I'll whine if I want to. ; ) Oh, and she also grabs his hand when she's scared, and holds it with her fingers interlaced with his. We were at Disneyland over the holidays on a couple of rides and she did that. With her husband of 20+ years sitting right next to her, she reached for her son to comfort her... with an interlaced finger hand-hold. Perhaps I'm crazy or just overly sensitive about boundaries in family relationships... but it made me uneasy. Luckily, Andrew lets go pretty quickly and pats her on the back instead. Cuz if he kept on sitting there holding it, we might have a problem.

While we were at lunch, we discussed one of the restaurants we were going to visit as a potential rehearsal dinner spot. I read them the sample menu she sent me. It was a choice of salmon, crusted chicken or braised short ribs. Andrew's mom expressed concern. She said, "My family... we aren't short-rib-people." I'm sorry, but what is a "short-rib-person"??? It's beef. Do you eat beef? Yes? Okay then, we're good to go! I can't create a menu with everyone's favorite thing on it. Besides, what if my family are "short-rib-people"? She just gets to veto it anyway?? That was kinda my breaking point. I had to walk the rest of the way up the street a little bit away from the others. I did speak up while we were there at the table. I said, "Okay, well that's just a sample menu but I don't understand what is so controversial about short ribs." I didn't get an answer.

We walked around a bit more, scoping out restaurants. When we saw all we could see for the day, my parents headed off in a separate direction to spend the rest of the weekend in Solvang. Andrew & I drove home with his mom. On that drive she learned the truth about my brother. I'll save that for Part II (or Part XIV). When we got home, we relaxed on the couch, watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (super cute - I recommend it), had a late Del Taco dinner during which Andrew's mom gave him her nachos to finish. Then she slept on our couch (that's Part III so stay tuned), woke up the next morning, wanted some coffee but we don't drink any so we don't have any. Andrew drove to 7-11 to get her a cup and when he brought it to her she made the gagging face at it. It wasn't up to par with the generic-brand instant coffee she drinks at home. Plus the brand of vanilla creamer wasn't the exact same as she usually uses. Heaven forbid! She drove back to Vegas at 10:30am on an empty stomach because she's afraid to eat anything when she travels due to her Crohn's Disease. And don't give me any, "Christina, you shouldn't pick on the eating habits of someone with a gastro-intestinal problem" because (1) I deserve a little more credit than that and (2) Andrew's mom eats all of the WRONG foods for her disease - heavy, fatty red meats, no vegetables or whole grains EVER (seriously - NEVER EVER), and drinks soda after soda, plus she smokes which I'm sure is also an irritant. She's not a picky eater because of her disease. Her disease is actually greatly worsened by her picky eating.

I am going to take every precaution I can to ensure I never end up as picky or narrow-minded as our parents. Oh, and I have so many more examples of it from this weekend. SO MANY! Just you wait!


  1. Well, no offense, but it sounds like your dad's palate is more limited than Andrew's mom.

    I don't know how healthy bagels are...they are not the poorest choice you can make by any means, but I once was told that one bagel is equivalent to six slices of bread. Sometimes you can think you're making a wise choice selecting a bagel and then it ends up having more calories than you should probably have in one food item at one meal. I don't know...

    I DO think it's funny that you watched Cloudy With a Chance of MEATBALLS! Seems like the perfect title for the dining experience you had all weekend! LOL

  2. Yeah, that's pretty accurate to say! My dad is probably the worst eater I have ever known! It can be rather comical to just mess with him sometimes. He takes a bite, then "Hey Dad, I put cayenne pepper in that!" and watch his face drop. He knows I'd never actually do that and luckily he's a good sport about pranks! I only think he is better in the sense that he tries to not be rude about it when served something he doesn't like. Tries. Doesn't always succeed!

    I think I saw that same thing you're talking about... that bagels = several slices of bread. Andrew's aunt and uncle aren't carb watchers necessarily so I guess they don't mind it. She's technically an everything watcher... a nutritionist and dietitian and health coach by trade. She probably just makes it balance out at the end of her day.

  3. This post reminds me so much of Tyler's dad. He will only eat at a chain restaurant. It drives us batty. We are mostly vegetarians and usually I end up eating a side salad and bread because he can't stand to go anywhere that isn't a chain. Once he only wanted to go to Applebees... do you know what I can eat there? Yeah, me neither ;)