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Germany, Timeless Recipes

The joys of pea soup

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Boston winters are cruel.

I thought I was a stoic Northerner, but the 7 feet of snow and the long nights slowly chipped away at my resolve to brave the winter and I became a husk of the sun-loving girl that had embraced Boston and its summer only a few months before.

Boston summers can, at times, be even crueler, at least when it rains.

Just when you think you have finally escaped the biting winds, a cold torrential rain leaves you soaked and even more unhappy than the winter had by your sense of injustice. After all, hadn’t you just survived the hardest winter of your life?!?!?!

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This winter, during my darkest hours, my only comfort was soup. So, when I was met by a resounding “no” to every activity suggestion I made by a wet and grumpy Maltese ex-pat, I knew the only solution was soup. In my mind, soups are for winter and salads are for summer, but what if the view from your window for the last 10 days has been gray skies and rain?? And not everyone has as nice summers as we do!

Sometimes soup is exactly what we need to warm ourselves and awaken, even in the summer.

When studying Neruda, we read his odes to socks, artichokes, and onions. But in his odes he forgot two things: soup and peas.

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I am not a poet and will not hurt my poor readers eyes by trying to create my own ode to the pea. Instead, here is my prosaic ode to peas. Unlike most vegetables the pea doesn’t take it gives. These plants can be cultivated and then cut down before harvest to fertilize the ground. Their hardiness allows them to grow in diverse climates and have become important additions to many local dishes. In France les pois are served as a side dish beside beef, in Malta most wine stews have piżelli, in Italy piselli are used almost as often as tomatoes delicious pastas, and in Britain every shepherd’s pie is better with peas. Lately, every blog I read leaves my mouth watering for more peas. They are high in protein and low in cost, can be frozen and canned easily and survive in cold climates everywhere.

Yet, for me, peas are Northern European. In France, Italy and other Mediterranean countries, the abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables gave the pea a less integral role.

Scandinavia and Northern Europe had no choice but to embrace the pea.

The growing season in Northern Europe is short and vegetables with short growing seasons are needed. The pea grows quickly. If the Northerners were lucky, they could harvest peas two or three times during the growing season. They were also easy to dry — just place them on the roof and they’ll dry in a day– and easy to store. At that time, most meat was salted for storage. To remove the salt, this meat was often boiled in water. Peas were later added to make soup. Out of that grew the tradition of salted pork and split peas which has become emblematic of Dutch and Northern Cuisines (so much so that according to several articles, pea soup is enjoyed every Thursday in Sweden.)

So next time you visit Amsterdam, visit the coffee shops, but eat some pea soup too.

Of course, this pea soup is German. In case this recipe doesn’t appeal to you. Try one of these: 1, 2, 3

Even the river cruises of Germany are joining in!

You don’t have to use my recipe, but do enjoy them while they’re in season.

And thanks to Jeremy from pretty instant for the great pictures!!

TRANSLATIONS TOMORROW!


2 tbsps butter
2 cups frozen or fresh peas
4 medium size carrots
1 medium onion
3 cups broth – vegetable or chicken
About 3 tbsps flour
Bits of pumpernickel bread
salt and pepper to taste
fresh Parsley

  1. Melt the butter in a large pot. Add the peas to butter and allow to soften for about 2 minutes. Make sure not to burn the butter.
  2. Add the carrots, onions and broth. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let simmer for 40 minutes.
  3. Add flour and mix to thicken. Add pumpernickel bread. Simmer for another 5 mins.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with fresh Parsley.
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