When I was younger my mother used to make Split Pea Soup. I hated it. I remember an ugly, gnarled bone sitting in a pot or slow cooker, still clung with remnants of buff-rose colored meat. I remember the dusty looking, crocodile-skinned dried peas clattering in like little pebbles. I remember the color of them going bright green before dulling to a drab olive shade. It thickened to an overbearing porridge, nubbly and rubbly textured, almost like a loose but lumpy potato puree.
She wasn’t a bad cook—not in the least—but I dreaded hearing we’d be having ham for a big family meal or something; it meant split peas would show up in the pantry soon, and this soup would be made shortly after. Now, their texture can be almost endearing and comforting, and I’ve even come around to split pea soups considering they’re not a thickness of cosmic proportions.
With spring upon us, peas are on my mind. Mine tend to come from a frozen bag rather than in fresh form. I know that the image of a bag of frozen peas, stashed deep in the dark graveyard that is my freezer doesn’t really conjure up thoughts of spring. Think of it as bringing something out of the winter freeze and back to life, bright and green, if it helps. Frankly, unless you grow your own fresh peas, there’s no point buying fresh ones from the store or even the farmers’ market. After a mere few hours of being harvested, the peas start to loose some of their flavor, and have gone completely starchy within a day or two—though if you do grow your own peas you could certainly use them in this, just be sure not to salt this until they’re tender, otherwise they’ll turn a bit hard.
But anyway, this is my take on that rough mush. I’ve swapped pancetta for a ham bone (although you could use bacon); gone with frozen peas instead of dried, cutting down the cooking time considerably; and pureed the soup for a cleaner texture, more in line with the theme and tone of spring. And what better time for a rebirth or reinvention of something old than the season of newness?
I love the fresh and sweet lightness of it almost being punctured by the salty and meaty pancetta. Its color is so invigorating and boisterous, especially compared to its ancestor; it’s the essence of spring and so cheerful just to eat.
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