My Fucked-Up Family and their disgusting Pea Soup

Oh my GOD.

So my dad and his yuppie brother, after years of not speaking to each other after some conflict a few years ago which I don’t know the details of, supposedly “buried the hatchet” and we decided to go visit them (and my grandparents) in Evanston, IL. My dad’s brother (my uncle, obviously,) is a lawyer with a very prestigious law firm in Chicago. He is as different from my dad as night is from day. He looks like James Spader but with balding gray hair (he’s YOUNGER than my dad, but already has gray hair and is going bald.) My dad is ruggedly handsome, looks kind of like a cross between Al Pacino and Pierce Brosnan, and is (in my opinion) the coolest guy in the world – a player, a ladies’ man, a musician, an intellectual, but unpretentious, down-to-earth and hip. My uncle is like the least cool guy in the world – he’s very rich but everything about him is soulless and boring.

So we get to their house in Evanston after a day of driving from Bloomington, IN. My uncle is wearing one of those yuppie golf caps and a vest, and is playing his usual cheesy soulless pre-packaged music compilations on the stereo in his kitchen while we talk and eat crackers and cheese that probably cost 90 dollars at whatever overpriced yuppie organic market they get all their food at. The conversation seems to be going okay and my dad and my uncle are getting along pretty well. I exchange some polite conversation with my uncle and aunt and a lot of very pleasant conversation with my grandparents, who I love dearly.
According to my aunt and uncle, we’re supposed to eat dinner at six. First we go to a play at a local community theater that they talked up like it was the best thing in the world. The play totally sucked, the acting was high-school level, the plot of it was heavy-handed, preachy, and totally retarded. When we get back, it’s like 7. Instead of serving us dinner, my aunt and uncle then slip out the door, saying they’re going to “get coffee.” Me, my dad, my sister, and my grandparents and cousins wait around for TWO FUCKING HOURS before they come back. I suggest ordering a pizza, but my grandparents insist that we go along with my aunt and uncle’s dinner plans and wait for them.

They finally arrive at 9 –o-clock and we have “dinner.” “Dinner” consists of PEA SOUP. Fucking PEA SOUP, with some BREAD on the side. That’s it. It’s not even good pea soup, it’s watery and tasteless and shitty. This is from a guy who could probably take us to the nicest restaurant in Chicago every day for a year if he wanted to. Later, my dad tells me he is utterly convinced that it was a passive-aggressive gesture and they deliberately served us this ridiculous “dinner” as a way of being a jerk to my dad, who my uncle is jealous of. Supposedly. I’d believe it. Over dinner, instead of having a real conversation, my aunt pulled out these cards with questions on them like “what do you admire most about your siblings” and other trite, uninteresting shit, and everyone at the table had to answer. Yes, instead of actually talking about original ideas, we did this while we ate our PEA SOUP. I was absolutely stunned at how ridiculous it was.

The next day, we go to the Water Tower mall, where I flirt with a few cute girls, look at about a thousand cute girls, buy a remote control helicopter, and talk to a guy wearing red plaid pants, a tweed jacket and a red plaid vest and tie. (He told me he dresses like that every day, to honor his Scottish heritage. He claimed to have 12 different plaid and tweed outfits.) After this we’re supposed to meet my aunt and uncle for dinner. The night before, I had suggested we go to the Parthenon, a Greek restaurant which we used to go to when we visit this particular branch of the family (which is half-Greek) in Chicago. But this was shot down by my Greek grandpa who said he was sick of Greek food. So the next day, my aunt and uncle decided to go to this Mexican restaurant which they said was really amazing.

We follow them to the restaurant. 10 minutes pass. Then 20. Then 30. Then 40. Snow begins to fall. Wind begins to blow. It’s a fucking blizzard, basically. We’re driving totally out-of-the-way to get to this restaurant, my dad says, so it had damn well better be good. We get to the restaurant. My dad claims that the roads are going to be iced over by the time dinner is done, and that his brother is a jerk for making us go all the way to this place instead of just going to the Parthenon in Greek-town like I suggested. We sit down, and I order a shot of tequila and a Corona. It takes them about 20 minutes to bring it out. We all order. My dad orders salmon and I order fish tacos. The food takes forever to come. When it does, it tastes like absolute shit. The fish tacos are smothered with this disgusting, watery mayonnaise-like sauce that reminds me of sperm. I have no idea what kind of sauce it is, but it tastes awful and there’s WAY too much of it. I try some of my dad’s salmon. It tastes like tuna fish – the least-fresh, most shitty piece of salmon I’ve ever eaten, and to make things worse, it’s covered in another disgusting kind of sauce. It’s the worst Mexican restaurant I’ve ever eaten at, and on the drive home, my dad is absolutely furious with my uncle.

“He always does this. He makes us go to these shitty restaurants in the suburbs instead of going somewhere NICE in the city, because he’s being passive-aggressive and he has no respect for me,” said my dad. I fully agreed with him. I found the whole experience to be absolutely frustrating, disgusting, and horrifying. My dad and I discussed the past two days at length, and we both agreed that my uncle is a soulless dork who is jealous of my dad and has been since they were kids, deliberately is a bad host to us when we come over, and that my grandparents always take the side of my aunt and uncle and their kids even though they’re totally disrespectful to them. (Their spoiled kids, by the way, bitched that the jewelry given to them by my [and their] grandparents was “too cheap.”) Unbelievable.

My grandpa is a great man. He is a salt-of-the earth guy, a blue collar worker and a war veteran, and the patriarch of this family. His two sons both had tremendous success in their careers – the first people in their family to go to college, and they both graduated Yale and went on to great things. Yet my dad became this great guy, and my uncle became an unbelievably boring, pretentious and vindictive man. I swear to God, they should make a movie about this family.

Thank you for sharing! Seriously, that was well-written, fun to read, despite the subject.

Your dad sounds cool. And patient and tolerant, to put up with that bullshit.

What’s your aunt like? When brothers (or sisters) turn out so radically different, maybe it’s because of their spouses.

Ugh. Sorry to hear you had to deal with the BS from that jerk.

My father-in-law forgot to feed me and the other vegetarian (his only grandson) tonight. He claimed a few years back that linguine and clam sauce was a tradition that they’d done every Christmas Eve (they hadn’t) and by god, we’d better be there. Each year I’ve dealt with various usually-edible veg options for me. This year, he completely forgot to make it. In previous years I’d chalk it up to a passive-aggressive thing about my vegetarianism but this year I think it’s failing memory, judging by his reaction when he noticed. Since I have a broken wrist I’d eaten before coming over, since I didn’t think I could twirl linguine properly anyway.

My aunt is just like my uncle - aloof, distant, and passive-aggressive. But according to my dad, my uncle has always been like that. As a matter of fact, my dad recently had his 50th birthday gala, a gigantic party with all his friends and family, a little concert by him and his band, an amazing catered lunch on the lawn - and guess who didn’t show up? Yup, his brother. The excuse? They had to be at the award ceremony where their 10 year old daughter won some little award at her elementary school. My dad was slightly offended, but he understood that his brother’s kids were very important to him.

Then he found out the next day that the award was presented at 10 in the morning. They could have easily driven over to Indiana afterwards and been there with time to spare. My dad was absolutely apoplectic with rage. Jesus almighty, what a jerk.

Your Aunt and Uncle left for coffee? And left you folks at their house waiting for ‘Dinner’?

Yes sir, they did.

I’m not exaggerating any of this. They really are horrible, inconsiderate hosts.

Yeah, I didn’t get that, either. Don’t they have coffee in their house? They probably have a cappuccino machine. :confused: They were very rude hosts. There are good Mexican restaurants downtown, and every other kind of restaurant. The tacos sound awful, as does the pea soup.

Glad you liked Watertower–the plaid guy sounds quirky. :slight_smile:

I know, it’s a shame. The Water Tower was alright, I wasn’t a huge fan of the giant crowds of yuppie shoppers, but like I said, there were cute girls everywhere. The helicopter I bought is SWEET! It flies just like a real one, though it’s tough to get the hang of it. I think I’m getting better though. I’m crashing way less, and getting better at maneuvering it and hovering. It’s very entertaining to the other people in the room. The helicopter is only about six inches long, so it’s very small and light and meant to be flown indoors.

Here is my impression of the city of Chicago, excerpted from a letter that I just wrote to a history professor of mine. (I believe in corresponding with former professors.)

"I very rarely visit cities of any substantial size, and going there was an interesting experience for me. We drove through so many distinct parts of the city - from the crumbling industry and dilapidated neighborhoods of the south side to the colossal mansions lining Lake Shore Drive and the towering skyscrapers of the downtown area. All of it was an inspiring sight. If there was one thing that struck me, it was not the skyscrapers but the gigantic high-rise apartment buildings. It was surreal to look up at these gargantuan boxes and think of the humans packed inside them in each tiny room, every window and every little air-conditioning unit signaling the presence of someone up there with a whole life totally separate from mine. It makes one feel very small. There were so many of these huge apartment buildings and they were all so enormous - having lived most of my life here in Bloomington, it really was an amazing sight. In the Water Tower mall, thick masses of the well-dressed upper-class swarmed from shop to overpriced shop, while beleaguered employees, nearly all of them black, cleaned up trash and served food, and beggars with four sweatshirts on hustled for spare change on the street outside. The economic disparity was clear as day. All in all, it was an interesting city, but I think I do prefer it here in Bloomington. "

Oh yeah, and this uncle of mine - his legal exploits include:

Defending the Union Carbide Corporation against asbestos litigation

Defending the Dow Chemical Corporation against lawsuits over faulty silicone breast implants.

Defending various pharmaceutical companies against class action suits.

He’s literally straight out of central casting, or an Onion article or something. Unbelievable.

Coffee? Um, yeah, you do realize they went out to dinner and ate real food while planning the Pea Soup juggernaught. Can you imagine what that conversation was like?

Uncle: So, what are we gonna feed em?
Aunt: Well, if we are gone long enough they will probably just order pizza.
Uncle: Good point, I’ll have cheesecake for dessert then.
Aunt: If they are still there when we get back let’s break out the Pea Soup.
Uncle: CLASSIC! (Clinks champagne glasses with Aunt)

I’m thinking your Dad probably dug back up that hatchet, right? I have learned that being around “passive-aggressive” and vindictive people like that are just not worth it, even if they are family. I think it’s cool that you and your Dad can talk about it, sounds like he needs some sort of outlet to vent his frustration and I’m sure he’s glad to have you to talk about it with.

This reminds me of my husband’s family, right down to the pea soup. One of my husband’s sisters lives in the Twin Cities, but the rest of his family is from Wisconsin. Last year, we had Thanksgiving at my sister-in-law’s house. They decided that we needed to “do something” as a family on the day after Thanksgiving. We came over to their house the next morning as planned and spent the next several hours saying, “What do you want to do? I dunno, what do you want to do?” My husband got a little ticked off and we decided to leave. He told them to call us when they finally decided what they wanted to do.

We went off and did a little Christmas shopping. Then, since they had never called us, we figured we were free of them for the day and decided we were going out to eat. We were driving over to the restaurant when the phone rang.

“Well, we’re already making dinner. Oh, and could you stop by the grocery store and pick up some saltines on your way over?”

You guessed it…dinner was nasty, watery, flavorless pea soup. Good thing we brought those crackers, because they had more flavor.

Passive-aggressive? Perhaps. Or it could be that my sister-in-law can’t cook. She makes lasagna with Velveeta cheese, too. Ick.

Did they eat the pea soup and bad Mexican food? Maybe they just have shitty taste in food.

Yeah they ate the food, but I think they have pretty good taste in food and that they were deliberately having us eat shitty food.

I have many fond memories of going to Greek-town in Chicago and eating at the Parthenon restaurant with my family. We’d have roasted lamb, squid, octopus, olives, feta cheese, dolmas (stuffed grape leaves,) roasted potatoes - like, the most amazing meals ever. I used to always look forward to that whenever we’d go to Chicago, when I was younger. I’m thoroughly pissed that we didn’t get to go there, especially since there are no Greek restaurants where I live.

You so should’ve gotten up in the middle of the pea soup dinner and called for pizza.

More choice quotes from my dad about the experience:

“Every time we follow them somewhere in our car, they drive too slow, until there’s a light changing - then they go fast, and we always get stuck at the light and lose them.”

About their dog, a Basenji (their second one): “That dog totally embodies that family. It’s aloof, un-affectionate, and not fun to play with at all. It’s like a pussy-assed version of a real dog.”

How old are your aunt and uncle? I’m 47, and had better manners when I was 9.

Send them a fruit cake as a thank you. And some Folgers.

Ehhh… That would be more passive aggresive crap.

My friends once tried adopting a Basenji. It’s an African hunting dog that is known for not barking, so they figured it would be a cool, quiet dog to keep in an apartment. However, even though it did not bark, it had a terrible piercing keen, and it was probably the most assholish dog I have ever met. Immediately marked its territory on one guy’s bedsheets for no real reason, and then snarled and lunged at him when he tried changing the sheets… this from a reputable breeder, no less. They had it less than 48 hours.

I’m still amazed you found a bad Mexican restaurant in Chicago! Even the mediocre ones have something to offer. Let me guess, was it Wholly Frijoles?

My uncle is actually the exact same age as you - 47 - although he would look 30 if he didn’t have balding gray hair. But baldness and gray hair are a side effect of defending evil corporations for a living. I’m not sure how old my aunt is but I’m guessing around the same age.

The Mexican restaurant we went to wasn’t exactly in Chicago, it was in a suburb of the city. I’ll even name the restaurant - Casa de Isaac. If you look it up, like I did a few minutes ago, you’ll see lots of good reviews of it. Maybe those people had a lucky day when they went there, or maybe my uncle specifically paid the waiter extra to make sure that our food sucked. But after my experience, I would NOT recommend it.

Don’t go to Casa de Isaac!
**Don’t go to Casa de Isaac! **
DON’T GO TO CASA DE ISAAC!!!

And whatever you do, DON’T order the fish tacos, unless you want to eat fish tacos covered in semen-like sauce.

Personally, I would never order fish tacos anywhere in the midwest, or any place that wasn’t within sight of open ocean. And before you get all snarly about that I was born in Indiana and lived quite a few years in Michigan. The chances they will be good are vanishingly small.

That particular part of the story strikes me as a tactical error on your part. Not to say dear uncle wasn’t a dick about everything else.

I had the fish tacos at the Cheesecake Factory in Indianapolis and they were damn good. I’m pretty discriminating about seafood and I do hate that Indiana is landlocked, but I’ve had plenty of good fish. The fish at this particular restaurant must have been fished out of a sewer, and as if that weren’t enough, they were drenched in yak cum, or something similar to it.