I was five years old. The issue was peas.
Cold canned peas, the big slimy pellucid gray green horrors, lay in a lump on my plate, alone and unwanted. My sister and I had downed our ground round patty and mashed potatoes in lonely splendor in our Beverly Hills dining room. I think it must have been a Friday night, and something special was on the TV, maybe Clint Eastwood as Rowdy Yates.
We were alone because our parents never dined with us. Gladys, the cook, made two meals if Mom and Dad were home. Our meals, containing bland food groups, happened at 6:00 pm. My parents ate much later, and I’ll bet they never ate canned peas.
This night, my Mom came in to check on us, martini glass in one hand, cigarette in another and surveyed us. “Georgianna, you did a good job,” she said approvingly. My sister’s plate was empty. “You may go watch Rawhide and eat your dessert in front of the TV.”
Then she turned to me and said, “Finish your peas, Benita.”
“No, they taste bad,” I said. “I don’t want to.”
I could feel my sister holding her breath. No one ever argued with my Mom.
She looked at me coolly. “Then you can stay here at the table until you finish them,” she said calmly. “No TV, no dessert until you finish them.”
And so I sat, kicking the table leg, squirming, and scowling for the next hour and a half. Hot tears kept leaking out of my eyes at the utter injustice of being forced to eat something that looked and tasted bad. I was sent to bed hungry. BUT I DID NOT EAT THEM!
From that day forward, I never chewed and swallowed another canned pea. If it came in a can or hid in a Swanson’s pot pie, or even worse, lay in wait in a perfectly good tuna casserole, I never tasted it. My sister and I became experts at picking them out, hiding them in our napkins, or swallowing them with milk, ten at a time. The same held true for canned lima beans.
Wouldn’t you agree that most canned vegetables taste awful? Cooking with canned vegetables takes no love, no care and no consideration for color, texture, taste and nutrition. To me, opening a can, dumping it a microwave safe dish or saucepan, and heating it up is the equivalent of saying, “Shut up and eat this—I’m busy.”
Then we started Tiny Tim’s Garden.
Two years ago, we grew our first peas from seed, because our friend’s daughter, age seven, loved fresh peas. Her private pre-school and kindergarten involved their tiny charges in planting, caring for, harvesting and eating fresh vegetables. So, I gingerly planted some Territorial Seeds “Oregon Sugar Pod II” and “Cascadia Snap Peas” from Uprising Seeds.
OMG, what a great experience, from sowing to eating! I became obsessed, lovingly curling their tendrils around supports when they were tiny. I bored guests with trips to see their pretty flowers. And then the happy day came when I came home to and found the pods were ready to eat. And I stood in the garden for many minutes, stripping the pods off the vines, tearing the string down the pod, and popping the light green candy sweet peas into my mouth. Foodie heaven.
This month, I’ve nicked my pea seeds, soaked them overnight and planted them in seed start containers in my greenhouse. They’ll pop any day now, but I’m languishing for peas, and it’s still cold in Bellingham, where it’s been in the mid 40′s and 65 mph winds have whipped around the garden. Ten years ago, I found Epicurious on-line and the best pea soup recipe ever. Try it: dried peas are so much better than canned peas!
SPLIT PEA SOUP WITH ROSEMARY
- 6 slices bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 leek, thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 (10.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
- 1 1/2 cups green split peas
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- Darigold Mexican sour cream
- Place bacon in a large pot, and cook over medium heat until crisp. Stir in onion, leek, carrot, and garlic; cook until the vegetables are soft, about 8 minutes. Pour in chicken broth. Stir in split peas, bay leaves, and rosemary. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low; cover, and simmer until peas are cooked, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve in individual bowls and top with a dollop of sour cream.