Peas in jars

This is a post about peas.

Peas, in jars

Peas, in jars

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.


16 responses to “Peas in jars

  1. i have a love/hate relationship with peas. i usually love them in light pasta sauces and usually hate them by themselves.p.s. i love the little babystrology app that you have in your sidebar, that’s so clever. hope the pregnancy is going well!

  2. I dislike peas in a jar as much as you do! I always have a nice bag of frozen peas in the freezer. :)I once made peas as a side dish and they were the brightest green color because I cooked them just enough. My husband wouldn’t eat them because they were too bright green! lolHis Mom uses peas in a jar…enough said!

  3. Eryn, I’m the same way. I have much less trouble eating peas that are in other things than peas on their own. Glad you like the Babystrology ticker!

    Giulia, what is it with overcooked veg around here? At first I thought it was just N’s family, but every time we eat at someone’s house, the vegetables are always mushy. Yucko! I’ve slowly trained N to eat firm carrots and green beans. Broccoli is a lost cause. I hope peas won’t be!

  4. Must admit I thought the intro sentence was the cutest thing :) Of course, if the title and picture hadn’t given it away already, then…Do they really? No fresh peas where you’re at? Hmmm… I never paid attention if I’ve seen them fresh in Italy or not. Usually, I add peas to a larger recipe, but not alone on the side.

  5. Mmm…I love peas–fresh, frozen, from jars or cans. You can send ’em my way!I always used to make them with a little butter and garlic powder (just enough to heat them, very little stirring and smushing), but then one day I opened a can here and P started eating them as is–turns out I really like them that way too. Who knew?And yes, overcooking veggies is a horrible sin around here, I agree. Blech.And I too *love* your Babystrology widget :)

  6. Ha ha ha the veggies are ALWAYS overcooked here! THen they usually have either too much salt/ oil/ vinegar added as well. I always tell them i like my veggies the way they like their pasta. Just cooked to al dente and HOT! Once i cooked a stir fry meal for my inlaws. They looked at all the colourful veggies in horror! Then they actually ate them (a miracle in itself) and were saying ‘how weird, they are just so crunchy’, and i said ‘yes, but what do they TASTE like?’. ANd all of them had to admit they tasted v nice indeed. Needless to say no one is ever interested in repeating the experience! VanessaPS i give my daughter (15 months) frozen peas straight out of the bag. Actually i let them ‘warm up’ for a minute or so first so they aren’t hard and she doesn’t choke on them. She LOVES Them and are esp good for teething. Italians who see me do this think it’s something even more barbaric than my usual ways….

  7. Frozen peas are all I will eat. I always have a bag of them in the freezer. I love to add them to pasta- either with pesto and pine nuts- or with plain pasta with black pepper, olive oil and parm cheese…oh and they are great from throwing into soup :)

  8. Yup, farfallina, they really do eat jarred peas. Kind of disappointing isn’t it? When I think of Italian cooking, fresh ingredients come to mind, not nasty peas in jars! :(

    Songatrice, I’m hoping I can become a lover of peas, like you. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to eat them out of the jar. Speaking of which, do you really want the peas? Because I have the perfect size box to ship them in! ;)

    Vanessa, I love your stir-fry story. I’ve been wanting to do a stir-fry for ages but was wondering how it would be received. So you got them all to admit that properly cooked veg tastes really good! Good for you!

  9. Well now, Robin, you realize that youve just given me the inspiration to make my first dish with peas!? I think the simplicity of the pasta with pepper, olive oil, peas and cheese. I’m putting that on my menu for this week.

  10. I think it is amazing how many people hate canned peas, and even more amazing how many people hate peas, period. To me the trick is not to think of them as compared to fresh peas, but as a thing all to themselves, different, separate. Not my favorite, but fine in things like soups in which they’d get overcooked anyway.Use a bit of speck and onion and add the pureed peas and voila! Pea soup. Or give them to Sognatrice.I was once served them made into a salad with onion and mayonnaise, and it was good, as long as you didn’t compare them to fresh, green peas.

  11. Judith, you make a good point about thinking of canned peas and fresh peas as separate categories. When I lived in one of the Plains states, I used to insist to my friends that they not call what passed for pizza there “pizza.” I told them I could eat it if I didn’t think of it as pizza, but otherwise not. My problem with canned peas is that I don’t like vegetables very much, and I only started really eating them in the last decade. So I’m still in the very fussy stage of only eating veg if it’s fresh and done the way I like it. Hopefully I’ll get past that soon!

  12. Judith – that’s exactly how I think of instant coffee! I don’t mind a cup of instant coffee now and then and used to drink it a lot when I was younger. Just don’t compare it to regular coffee – it’s a different drink – hot, milky and perfect at bedtime.I don’t like canned veg very much (although I love fresh veggies and frozen veg) but canned peas can be ok in a pasta sauce. We make one on nights when we’re tired which is just canned tomato, chilli, small can of tuna and some canned peas. Put it over some penne and it’s quite nice, nourishing and very quick. And it contains all food groups!

  13. Look for fresh peas in the spring. We get them from the vendors that drive through selling vegetables or at the market. They come out around the same time that favas do and will still be in their pods. There’s nothing like eating fresh peas right from the pod and actually, they don’t seem like peas at all. It’s one of my favorite spring foods – sweet and crunchy. We even planted some last year, but the pheasants got to them, trampling and eating them all, and we didn’t get any. If you can find them, I’m sure you’ll love them fresh.

  14. Kataroma, with all these comments about putting peas in soups and sauces, I’m actually starting to rethink my view of canned peas. I’m sure I’ll always prefer fresh, however.

    MB, I’m really encouraged by your comment. There’s a vendor who comes through here a few times a week, and in the spring, I’ll check with him and at the weekly market. Eating peas fresh from the pod sounds like an amazing experience.

  15. I don’t blame you, KC, but peas are too good to be eaten only for that brief period when they are crunchy and sweet from the garden. Same for fave. I’ve learned to love dried fave as done by the Pugliesi. I’m still working on cooked carrots, because I can’t make my carrot bake every single time.

  16. I understand completely, Judith. I feel the same way about figs. Dried figs and fig conserva aren’t the same as fresh, but figs are just too good to forget for the long months when they’re not available. I am now on a pea odyssey and I commit to finding ways to love them!

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