Phillip and I knew there was only one thing in the world his dad would want for Father's Day, so Saturday morning we filled up the car and headed for Richmond, BC, home of the only acceptable Chinese food in the greater Pacific Northwest. Apparently there are decent Cantonese restaurants in San Francisco and possibly L.A., but, sadly, according to my father-in-law, who makes it his business to know such things, there are none to be found in Seattle. Luckily for us, the good restaurants and the rest of Phillip's family live in Richmond, a suburb of Vancouver, which is about two and a half hours away if you are Phillip and driving like your little Subaru is actually the star of The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift.
This is what we listened to on the way up.
(On the offchance you don't have amazing de-blurry-fying eyes, the screen reads: I'D DIE WITHOUT YOU. PM DAWN. THE BLISS ALBUM. Thank you, allofmp3.com, for providing me with hours of middle school nostalgia.)
Here we have, while waiting at the border, a sort-of typical Northwestern United States set of bumperstickers: "EAT ORGANIC" and a shout out for KEXP, local community radio. This would be the perfect example of local bumperstickeria if there was some sort of vulgar anti-Bush slogan plastered to the other side, perhaps this one, which originates from one of my favorite local blogs. SIGH.
Of the 47 Cheungs in the directory, only one of them is related to us. No one answered when we called up to the condo, so we wandered into the mall below and watched the last five minutes of the Italy-USA game in the television department.
Internet, this is Mr. Cheung, in a perpetual state of getting everyone
out the door so he can go eat dinner. And this is his son Phillip,
caught making fun of Mr. Cheung's choice of overcoat. As Phillip
was paying for dinner, he was still allowed to attend.
We could only get reservations at 5pm so we were the first diners to arrive. They were still setting the tables when we waltzed in: Phillip and me, my in-laws, three uncles and one aunt. And I don't know if you have ever been to an Official Cantonese Restaurant, but if you are a Caucasian daughter-in-law whose Chinese consists of "Yes", "Thank you" and "Oh well!", you just sit quietly and watch the Commotion. The Commotion consists of the youngish waiter in a too-big suit standing at attention at the father-in-law's side while he yammers away about what he wants to order. As he's listing off his items, the aunt and uncles make their preferences known. There is much discussion of what kind of chicken- boiled or fried- and which noodles are better and whether the Bird's Nest is made of potatoes or noodles and you just sit there and drink your tea. And then the waiter will attempt to speak, but he will be cut off, and then he will be crossing things out and writing new things and you look at your Chinese-American husband who doesn't speak any Chinese either and both of you make strained smiles and settle into your chairs for the Long Haul.
The first item that arrives is the soup.
I know this is hard to see, but inside that giant silver pot is a
Wintermelon. And the wintermelon is carved out and filled with broth,
shrimp, scallops, crab, mushrooms and weird little spongy things that I
am 99% certain are parts of a fish I am wholly uninterested in eating,
but I didn't ask to confirm. Another waiter brings this out (a lesser
waiter, wearing a vest instead of a suit) and makes precise cuts in the
melon so as to make sure everyone has a big soaking slice of melon
(which tastes like... melon) in their bowl. Then he stands with one
hand behind his back (every single waiter serving soup in a Chinese
restaurant does it with one hand behind his back) and ladles it into
all the little bowls. And then my mother-in-law picks one out for me,
one that has a lot of melon, because that's the best part. Which, sigh, means I better eat all my melon.
The other dishes were broccoli beef (a standard) and some noodle dish I didn't really like. You can see I already have broccoli beef on my plate, even though the dishes had barely arrived. This is because while they are not discussing who won all the money at mah jongg last night, they are harrassing Phillip to "take care of Maggie!" All I have to do is smile and drink my tea and my plate will never be empty. And if I don't like something I just leave it on the side and Phillip will eat it for me. As long as you are sitting in between your husband and your sympathetic mother-in-law, It's quite easy being a Caucasian Daughter-In-Law.
This was ordered especially for me because PEOPLE. It is SUBLIME. It's a "bird's nest" made of deep fried noodles (YUM) and filled with broccoli and shrimp and scallops and unfortunately I had to share it with everyone else. I don't see WHY, because I wasn't eating their NOODLES. JEEZ.
What I did not take a picture of was the boiled chicken with the boiled head placed neatly next to the pieces.
No one seemed to notice that I was taking pictures. They were talking. They would talk for ten minutes and then someone would lean over to Phillip and tell him what they were talking about. Then they'd talk for ten or fifteen more minutes and then someone else would lean over to me and translate. Which meant Phillip and I were cleaning up the broccoli beef and hoarding all the melon. Which was actually pretty good. (Really! I liked something!)
This was dessert.
This is Red Bean Goop. It has another name, but I think that one suffices. I would rather eat the cold spicy jellyfish appetizer than eat this stuff. I would rather have the chicken head staring at me all evening. This stuff is vile and I have my mother-in-law's permission to never ever eat it.
When we were too full to finish, the waiters came over to package everything up for Phillip (Phillip always gets the leftovers) and the manager came over to hand out cards and wish us well. After that it was off to the condo for a few rounds of mah jongg and Phillip and I drove home. And Phillip's dad? Was THRILLED. We. Had driven up. To Canada. For DINNER. With HIM.
When we got home, we found these in our yard.
We were FLAMINGOED.
Whoever has done this shall pay.