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The Frank Robinson of soups
2007-02-07 04:00
by Bob Timmermann

Such was the comment I made here in comment #60 about split pea soup.

I suppose there is good split pea soup made in this world. I know some people love it. But for me, it is something I cannot abide. And why is this so you may be asking? Actually, you're likely not asking and don't care one way or the other. But I will tell you anyway.

It all goes back to a hazy childhood memory. I don't even know what year it took place, but I'm guessing it was sometime around 1969 or 1970. The Timmermann family, Dad, Mom, and four sons, were on a weekend drive up the California coast.

One of the stops was in Buellton, California, which is now much more famous for its appearance in the film "Sideways", but at this time it was just a place on the way to the more famous Solvang.

Buellton's principal claim to fame in this era was one thing: split pea soup. In particular, Pea Soup Andersen's, a restaurant that actually specializes in serving split pea soup.

My parents must have really wanted some this soup and they dragged all four of their sons, who likely ranged in age from 4 to 10, and wanted them all to partake in the gustatory glory of split pea soup. But they didn't count on one thing: none of us had seen split pea soup before. Once my brothers and I saw what it looked like, we apparently decided, in a show of solidarity, to refuse to eat any. We insisted on eating off of the children's menu, which at the time consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Here's a dessert menu from sometime in the 1970s.

Just why my parents thought their sons would, sight unseen, ride in a car for two hours and then get subjected to the green horror of pea soup, is still mind boggling. But what also surprised is how upset my mother was over the fact that we wouldn't eat the pea soup and how expensive the PB&J sandwiches were. I can't remember the exact price, but they were likely over $1 each. Throughout the years, the prices of the PB&Js were adjusted for inflation in my mother's retelling of the story about the trip to Buellton. Eventually, the sandwiches were served on solid gold plates and cost $50 each.

I actually ate split pea soup once when my grandmother (who lived with us and was the regular cook) made it at our home. I recall it as being one of the longest dinners of my life. A bowl of smelly green slop was tossed in front of me and I was told that my options were: 1) to eat it or 2) reconsider option 1 carefully. I was around 10 at the time and I believe that the moaning and wailing that I made as well as those made by my brothers put the kibosh on any future split pea soup dinners.

For all I know, if you like split pea soup, my grandmother might have made great split pea soup as she was a very good cook. But to this day, I associate split pea soup with a rare time that my mom tried to play hardball to get me to eat something. And also trying to make us feel bad about making them spend money. It was quite unusual on their part.

Now we can fast forward to early in 1993 and I'm with my parents at the Pasadena location of California Pizza Kitchen. My mom gets her order and realizes that it comes with whole slices of tomato on it. She peels them off and tosses them aside. I asked her if she had trouble eating them as she was suffering from colon cancer at the time.

She said, "No, I hate cold tomatoes."
"But you always made me eat them."
"And so."
"You grew tomatoes in the backyard."
"And so."
"And you told me to eat the tomatoes."
"And it took you this long to realize that I was bluffing?"

Despite these clever mind games, I will still not split pea soup. And one day, I hope that Hap-pea finally hits Pea-Wee on the hand with his mallet.

Thanks for indulging this disgression from the usual offerings of obituaries and updates on whether or not Barry Bonds is ever going to sign his contract.

Comments (51)
Show/Hide Comments 1-50
2007-02-07 07:10:31
1.   Cliff Corcoran
I don't get it, pea soup was just about the only kind of soup I would eat as a tyke. And good pea soup is still one of my favorites, esp with hunks of ham and/or bacon in it. In fact, I like it so much just writing this makes me want some.

Then again, in general I can take or leave soup altogether as a form of food. I mean, have you ever heard anyone describe something as "soupy" in a way that gave the term a positive conotation? I'd say there's a reason for that. Likely the same reason that my actual favorite "soup" is a "chowder" (New England clam).

2007-02-07 07:11:39
2.   Jon Weisman
On the contrary, thanks for explaining!

The funny thing is, for years, your feelings about pea soup matched my feelings for Solvang.

2007-02-07 08:19:48
3.   D4P
Does "And so" mean the same thing as "So?"...?
2007-02-07 08:35:35
4.   Greg Brock
Hmmm...When I made the throwaway line about Pea Soup Andersen's, I had no Idea!
2007-02-07 08:51:29
5.   Jason in Canada
Oh, I agree. I think I had the same exact experience as you, including stopping at the restaraunt on the way to Solvang. Although, with my peanut allergies I think I convinced my mom that I was allergic to the soup as well and have never touched it since.
2007-02-07 08:51:42
6.   Bob Timmermann


2007-02-07 09:00:49
7.   mintxcore
when i was young i used to always see the Anderson's billboards (pretty much the only billboard ad in the Santa Barbara County) and they had a fat man with a mallet and a skinny man holding whatever that thing was, trying to split the peas. It totally made me want to go there...

The idea of being able to "YUMM UP" your pie is questionable with the addition of cheddar cheese. am i the only person who has never heard of that?

now i have family in solvang but prior to that, once again when i was a young tyke, i remember going there because my parents thought it was be fun but it was just boring candle stores and like, aebleskiver bakerys. When we finally found a toy store with the He-Man action figure i wanted... it was "too expensive". BAH!

2007-02-07 09:58:10
8.   Bob Timmermann
It's Andersen with an "e" however. Ken will come by and tell us why soon enough
2007-02-07 10:17:43
9.   capdodger
Split Pea Soup at Pea Soup Andersens is a great warmup after a day off of Jalama. It's also the first food you come across on the way back to the Santa Ynez Valley.
2007-02-07 10:39:34
10.   Ken Arneson
8 "sen" is Danish/Norwegian; "son" is Swedish/Icelandic. Solvang is a Danish area, hence "sen" for Andersen's.

Of course, if it's really Swedish, the name will have a double 's' in it. Andersson, not Anderson. Arnesson, not Arneson. As in Arne's son. My grandfather anglicized the name back in the 20s, and now my name is constantly spelled wrong whenever I go back to Sweden.

Good thing you weren't a Swede, Bob: the tradition meal to eat on Thursdays is Swedish pancakes and pea soup. In schools and the military, this often means you eat pea soup every Thursday.

2007-02-07 10:40:12
11.   ToyCannon
I've never had split pea soup. Gooey green food has always been my kyptonite until my wife finally talked me into trying guacamole at the age of 30 and now I eat to much of the stuff.
2007-02-07 10:41:25
12.   D4P
I like pancakes, and I like pea soup, but never shall meet the twain.
2007-02-07 11:09:05
13.   Greg Brock
Will we get a game thread for Mexico vs. USA tonight?
2007-02-07 12:06:43
14.   Daniel Zappala
Wow, brings back memories of my own family drives to Solvang and stopping at Pea Soup Andersen's. I think 90% of all kids are predisposed to think the green stuff must be yucky. But please, don't tar Solvang with the same brush. Solvang is a Danish tourist town, my mom's side of the family is Danish, and therefore Solvang is a little slice of heaven. Right mom?
2007-02-07 12:28:19
15.   ToyCannon
I love the drive and I even like Solvang. I'm sure one day I'll make the drive and realize the pretty Valley will have become some super suburb called Ynezerland with all the hills leveled as the open space between Andersons and Solvang will be non existent just as all my other drives have become one and the same.
2007-02-07 12:36:26
16.   capdodger
Ahhh... Solvang. I spent many a Tuesday, Friday, and Sunday afternoon there eating at Taco Loco and watching my friends get arrested for shoulder-tapping cigs and shoplifting booze. Pretty Main Street, though.

Good times.

2007-02-07 13:17:59
17.   D4P
I think 90% of all kids are predisposed to think the green stuff must be yucky

I thought it looked gross as a kid, and didn't try it until I was an "adult"

2007-02-07 13:32:52
18.   Greg Brock
17 Are we still talking about soup?
2007-02-07 13:40:05
19.   Andrew Shimmin
I'm indifferent to pea soup, but I hate me some Solvang.
2007-02-07 13:58:35
20.   dianagramr
Pea soup with some ham and croutons .... yum.

(guess I'll be finding some pea soup for dinner)

2007-02-07 14:13:24
21.   Bob Timmermann
When my grandmother moved in with my aunt after my mom passed away, my aunt told me that she made it a point to make sure that no pea soup was prepared in her house and at one point, she took a hambone and threw it in a trash can two houses away.
2007-02-07 14:19:43
22.   deadteddy8
There's good split pea soup out there, but not at Andersen's. It's been unconscionably bland each time I've gone. I remember thinking the split pea soup at the Senate cafeteria in DC was fantastic. Then again, that was almost ten years ago.

--David A.

2007-02-07 14:21:43
23.   Greg Brock
I can understand the divisive nature of split-pea soup, but the Solvang hatred baffles me. It's a quaint little town. My grandparents used to drive down to LA to visit us from Cambria, and always spent the night in Solvang. Pre-internet, it was the spot to purchase Steinbeck nut-crackers, which were both ridiculously priced and not used to crack nuts. Solvang holds a special place in the blood pumping organ.
2007-02-07 14:27:05
24.   Greg Brock
Or Steinbach nutcrakers. Whatever. Stupid spelling.
2007-02-07 14:36:38
25.   D4P
the Solvang hatred baffles me

Consider the source

2007-02-07 14:37:54
26.   Ken Arneson
23 I can understand the distaste for Solvang. I haven't been there in ages, but it always felt fake to me.

Solvang : Denmark :: Las Vegas : New York, Paris, Venice, Ancient Egypt, Medieval England, and the Roman Empire.

Now I happen to enjoy the little fake city thing, but I can see why someone wouldn't.

2007-02-07 14:49:52
27.   Greg Brock
Solvang may be a caricature of foreign towns, but in the very homogenized American culture, I still find the caricature cute. It's different, which is something you don't get a lot of, especially in the cookie-cutter, tract home, post WWII Western United States.
2007-02-07 15:05:57
28.   Andrew Shimmin
Solvang is like Disneyland without the rides. Or child molesters dressed as cartoon characters. No fun.

I hate the entire Central Valley, so, my Solvang hatred is, in part, categorical. But Solvang is independently hatable. Even stupid Flanders couldn't stand Humbleton, PA.

2007-02-07 15:12:56
29.   Greg Brock
I hate the entire Central Valley

Andrew hates fruits and vegetables, nuts, eggs, and most other food.

2007-02-07 15:23:04
30.   Andrew Shimmin
29- Brock likes giving all his water to a pack of thieving farmers whose main source of income is selling that water back to us (after labeling it gasoline) at eight dollar a gallon.
2007-02-07 15:24:46
31.   Greg Brock
30 Andrew hates the American farmer. I bet he hates the migrant workers too. Is this not our country, Andrew?

I even heard Andrew shot a dog once.

2007-02-07 15:33:26
32.   Andrew Shimmin
31- Brock's only regret is that more of his tax dollars can't go, as corporate welfare, to ADM. Every time Scotty Pippin and Sam Donaldson cash a U.S. Dept. of Agriculture check, Brock gets a funny feeling, "down there."
2007-02-07 15:34:45
33.   Greg Brock
Andrew tried to sell Christmas to China.
2007-02-07 16:08:27
34.   Bob Timmermann
Since when did Solvang become part of the Central Valley?
2007-02-07 16:19:37
35.   For The Turnstiles
34-Since post 28 (or possibly post 19).
2007-02-07 16:23:24
36.   Jon Weisman
I like split pea soup. I've always liked split pea soup. And the only thing that saddens me is when I was told that it is not a particuarly healthy soup.

Maybe it helps to be color-blind.

2007-02-07 16:25:54
37.   Bob Timmermann
But Solvang is in the Santa Ynez Valley and there's a mountain range to go over before you get into California's Central Valley.
2007-02-07 16:26:32
38.   Andrew Shimmin
Wow, look how close it is to the coast. I had no idea. All my Solvang theories were formed when I was young, and, apparently, before I learned the difference between the 99 and the 101. Alright. I hate Solvang independent of any Central Valley animus.
2007-02-07 16:27:03
39.   Bob Timmermann
I always told to hate the soup, but not hate the person who is eating the soup.
2007-02-07 16:47:11
40.   Voxter
37 - There are no good valleys in California. Central Valley, Death Valley, San Fernando Valley. All of these things are bad. I've not seen the Santa Ynez Valley (or if I have, I don't remember it), but I cannot but believe that there must be something very wrong with it.

Anyway, I've avoided Slovang because I'm not big on kitsch, and that's what it always seemed like to me.

2007-02-07 16:57:39
41.   Greg Brock
I can't believe what I'm reading here. No love for the San Joaquin Valley? I'm as Coastal California Guy as I know, but come on here guys...Growing food and pumping oil and ranching are all pretty important things.
2007-02-07 17:20:05
42.   dianagramr

Not even the "Soup Nazi"?

2007-02-07 17:22:32
43.   D4P
Growing food and pumping oil and ranching are all pretty important things

Plus, it's named after one of my all-time favorite pitchers:

2007-02-07 17:52:48
44.   misterjohnny
40 Napa Valley - all good
2007-02-07 18:28:56
45.   Johan
I am surprised that a bunch of baseball fans are somewhat united in Solvang dislike. Solvang is a nice place to stop in the middle of a long drive and walk around and grab a lunch. Like a baseball field is a nice place to skip out from work and eat a hot dog and watch a game.

I don't see anything unlikeable about it. Maybe it isn't your thing, but to out and out dislike it? Come on.

2007-02-07 18:34:18
46.   Bob Timmermann
For the record, I like the whole area, except for Pea Soup Andersen's.
2007-02-07 19:06:11
47.   Andrew Shimmin
I was dragged to a wedding in Solvang. The groom and his family were British, so, there were a dozen or more Limeys whose first American experience was LAX, and whose second was Solvang. I found this a little funny, but not funny enough to distract me, wholly, from knowing that I was in Solvang. And that I didn't bloody much like it.
2007-02-07 19:23:28
48.   Greg Brock
47 Look, you tosser. You can slag Solvang, but don't go slagging the Brits. I'd rather snog a bird from England than bugger a joey from the colonies.

Bob's your Uncle!

2007-02-07 20:01:19
49.   BruceR
Brock & Shimmin need their own blog...too much fun.

43 The pitcher know as Walking Underwear lives !!!

2007-02-07 20:27:59
50.   Andrew Shimmin
48- Sod off.
Show/Hide Comments 51-100
2007-02-07 20:39:16
51.   capdodger
The Santa Ynez valley is quite nice, unlike the Cental Valley. I grew up in the latter and went to HS in the former. They are nothing alike.

That said, if you like, eat, you can shove your hatin' on the CV....

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