Who could be afraid of the humble garden pea, I hear you ask? Someone with a woman living upstairs – a woman that frequently likes to play loud alternative music about how the nutritional composition and caloric density of peas compares to more voluminous vegetables…that’s who.
Yet, my inner creative spend-thrift-come-eco-warrior strikes again, prodding those floorboards and getting her to turn that music down a notch. I’m quite proud of this accomplishment. Not only does it tick the green, creativity and frugality boxes (in more ways than one), I also feel like I have done my parents a small favour. It’s a drop in the ocean given that they are currently letting me live under their roof again and take over the house with books, tea and rubber ducks...but a small favour, nonetheless. And, very small things can make all the difference, as the story of The Princess and the Pea appropriately demonstrates. Though, I ain’t no princess...and this story involves a far greater preponderance of peas.
Dad had come back from the supermarket with a new bag of frozen peas: a staple foodstuff in any British family home freezer, I hope you’ll agree. I mean, you obviously must agree...because, apparently, in these u n p r e c e d e n t e d times, Tesco had completely run out of every single kind of petit pois and only had a few bags of cheap garden peas up for grabs.
These garden peas had their debut when my parents had pie and mash one evening. I sat across from them slurping at my soy sauce doused noodles with chopsticks, pretending to be cultured. There wasn’t much conversation.
Until...Mum pipes up. “Is it me or are these peas rock ‘ard?”
“They are a bit, yeah”, says Dad.
However, the peas themselves couldn’t be blamed until it had thoroughly been ruled out that my Dad had steamed them properly: that is, long enough to soften. So, the garden peas had a matinee a few days later.
This time, not liking to be on the outside of any thorough discussion on quality analysis, I added approximately ten peas to my rice that evening, thus enabling me to be a properly informed voice in the conversation. Ten peas at the time felt like quite the achievement, and I gleefully blabbed about how proud I was of myself in my food diary to give to my clinician.
However, and most importantly, the peas were indeed rock hard. They were henceforth referred to at home as the “bullet peas”.
Initially, we all resolved to do our bit and chip away at the bullet peas until they were gone, before hopefully investing in a new bag of petit pois. I was okay with this decision, because I knew that doing “my bit” only required me to consume about twenty to thirty or so peas over the next few weeks...the other 800g my parents would handle, as with other such things like loaf crusts and abnormally small pittas.
However, a couple of weeks later, as I was getting ready for work one morning, my Mum announced out of the blue that she couldn’t bear the bullet peas taking up valuable freezer space any longer. “I think I’ll just put them in the food waste, and we’ll just resolve never to buy that brand again...I mean, we’ve done our best with them."
The inclusion of “resolve” and “done our best” was Mum’s way of trying to counter the cognitive dissonance she felt about wasting food. It appeared to be working for her, but bullet-like or not, the thought of almost a kilo of peas going into the food waste bin disproportionately distressed me. My noisy upstairs neighbour has no qualms about wasting food. However, I myself am acutely prideful in my values of creativity, frugality, and waste reduction. An opportunity to employ all three seemed too good to miss. I felt a steely determination to put the peas to good use, even if it meant actually having to consume some of the blasted things.
I genuinely really enjoy cooking. It’s just using the finished product as intended that I have a problem with. So, I’ve made a helpful rule that, if I want to cook or bake, I have to eat the results. This stops the house filling up with an unbearable number of muffins and sourdough loaves. There’s enough of them on people’s lockdown Instagrams, after all.
And with that, my very own pea and mint soup recipe was born. It tasted pretty damn good, and the peas bore no resemblance to bullets once the blender had finished with them. Now, there’s a lovely sized space in the freezer ready for some new, hopefully less al dente, petit pois. What’s more, my soup was ‘normal’ enough that my folks had a bowl each, too.
Reflecting on this, I am chuffed by my creative undertaking. I am also chuffed that this proves again, that I can – and do – prioritise values other than those dictated to me by the noisy upstairs neighbour. I'm also chuffed that I've made peace with peas.
Though, the funny but sad thing is...if it had been a bag of oven chips, I'd have had no issues with the lot going in the bin. A two-faced hypocrite is that woman upstairs.
“We are kept keen on the grindstone of pain and necessity.” H.G. Wells, The Time Machine