This is a post about peas.
When my younger sister DW was a baby, she had a plush toy that consisted of a long green pouch that zipped open to reveal three soft and smiling peas. I don’t know how much she liked the pea pod, but it was one of my favorites, even if I, almost six years older than she, had little interest in playing with it. It’s just that the peas were so cute. This remains my fondest memory of peas.
N’s aunt likes to make gifts of food. The best gifts come from her garden: lemons, oranges, pomegranates, and figs. More often, she brings us produce she has bought at the supermarket, maybe a kilo of zucchine or eggplants, whatever has a special price when she finds herself there. By far, though, her favorite gift is food in jars. Often it’s something she has cooked herself, invariably something that I don’t like, prepared in a way that makes it even more unpalatable. The most memorable of these abominations was a jar containing peas so overcooked that they had become a paste.
After several months of quizzing N about whether we had eaten her culinary creations for dinner and hearing his sheepish “no” in response, she confided to me one day, “I think it’s better to bring uncooked food here.” As though I was the one who needed convincing. When she left, I rejoiced; I thought I had finally won the battle. Then, a few days later she came bearing another gift: three jars of uncooked peas. Sure, they were uncooked, but they were still peas…and in jars. Really, what compels someone to make a gift three jars of peas? I don’t even know what to do with peas in jars, so I just put them next to two other jars of peas I’d found in the cupboard when I first arrived, and then I hid them all behind a big sack of semolina.
A few days ago, I decided to make gnocchi alla romana, and when I moved the sack of semolina, I rediscovered the peas. I was quite pleased that I had forgotten them for so long. I checked the expiration dates on their lids, certain that I would have to throw them in the trash. But I was wrong: apparently peas in jars last a very long time. I suppose that by now it’s clear that I really don’t like peas. The problem is that whenever I’m offered peas, they’re mushy and have that hideous color that all green vegetables have after they’ve been conserved in a jar or a can or they’ve been cooked for far too long. When I find such peas on my plate, I cover them up with other things I haven’t eaten. I have a suspicion that the aunt’s pea paste started out as peas in a jar.
On our last trip together in the supermarket, N and I walked through the frozen food section on our way to the register. A bag of bright green frozen peas caught my eyes. “Look at these peas,” I said holding them up to N’s face. “Aren’t they beautiful before they’ve been turned to mush?” Then and there I decided to that we needed to buy the frozen peas. My fond memory of DW’s plush toy makes me want to like peas, and since I’ve never seen them fresh around here, I’ll have to make do with frozen. Once I find a recipe that I like, I’ll invite N’s aunt and all the other pea over-cookers to dinner one night and serve them beautiful jewel-green peas, cooked just long enough. The mushy pea lovers will probably complain that my peas are undercooked, but if that happens I’ll just open up one of the five jars of peas in the cupboard for them.