My grandmother’s favorite soup was Split Pea. It was made with Kielbasa and not ham – one of her tricks. It’s a warm spicy blanket that covers you inside and out. It reminds me of her kitchen, her perfectly set and rolled hair, her 1″ long pink painted nails with a 2″ long cigarette ash hanging off the end of a Pall Mall….don’t judge, it was the 70’s.
When I entered my 20’s and slowly began to realize that Ramen Noodles were not impressive faire for entertaining, I started to ask her for recipes when I would visit. This made the holidays with the family a little easier to pass, and the stories I would get from Mommom were – quite frankly – hysterical. It’s amazing how a boiling pot on the stove will release libatious stories of island hopping and shoe shopping with my long deceased grandfather. It made her so much more human than maternal – and it’s fun to scare your relatives with the fact that I just might know where the proverbial “bodies are buried.”
So let’s just say that I have been cooking a pretty decent version of Mommom’s Split Pea soup for nearly two decades. TWO decades. Until today.
So…my best friend calls me on Saturday to let me know that he’s been sick and can’t return to work or school for five days. This sucked that he couldn’t go, because he was going to go to the Edwin McCain concert with us – and we all know how that turned out. Now that the kids are back in school, and I am still a “woman of leisure” until the new semester starts for me – I had time to kill and figured that what sick person doesn’t love homemade soup? Really?
I started with a crock pot, bag of peas, Kielbasa, carrots, celery, onion, and some beef bouillon. I usually make it in the crock pot if I have at least 5 hours — and I had 4 hours plus some travel time. Easy-peasy, right? I’m not going to BLAME the Winn-Dixie peas, but I did flinch at the grocery store when I bought the generic brand bag. Although I love most store brands, something deep down inside told me these were going to be trouble.
After letting them cook on high for 3 1/2 hours they were still — um — stones. Rock solid, no swelling, no sweating, no peeling. Just angry green rocks staring back at me. Fine — I’ve got at least another hour. So, I packed up the crock pot in my car and drove down to the beach. When I knocked on the BFF’s door carrying a crock pot in a blue plastic storage bin with my purse and grocery bags on one arm, and the ladle that had gone rogue in the car during the thunderstorm under the other, and it all other ways a hot mess, all he could say was, “you know it hurts when I laugh.”
No worries, this soup is going to be awesome and you’ll be feeling better in no time! Rockstar Supermom promise! Just don’t look at it yet…it’s got another hour to go. So, turned the crock pot back on, put on a crappy movie and decided to catch up a bit. He’d been on bedrest for 2 days with only his Cuban mother visiting, at least I was someone new to look at.
At the end of the movie, I went back to the soup. No dice. Chunky, green semi-hard peas. No worries — just a little more time – let’s make sure this puppy is on high.
Another movie, and plenty more BS to talk about and it’s somewhere near 3 p.m. The peas have been cooking now for more than 6 hours. They will be smushing any minute now — ANY MINUTE NOW, I PROMISE.
It was time to get out the big guns. I had officially had enough of these damn peas. I asked him for a sauce pan so I could get a nice rolling boil going and be done with it once and for all. He looked at me with a bit of incredulity – I forgot, he’s a bachelor and his kitchen is filled mostly with alcohol and condiments. If I ever needed to cook something with vodka and ketchup, he’s the guy to call.
He was able to produce a pressure cooker – which I have to admit in my 39 years I had never used. So I decided to transfer the soup and fire that baby up.
I was fine until something on the top popped up and steam came out the top. Did this mean it was done? At this point, I am desperately trying to look cool and confident while having no clue what I am doing. I am having visions of Mommom alternately yelling at me and howling with laughter at the same time. My friend is standing at the kitchen counter muttering something about my entertainment value while I am losing my mind. Now, it’s personal.
I let the pressure cooker go for about 30 minutes until I was sure that everything but the peas had been pulverized – and I was right. What I hadn’t counted on, however, was the fact that now the bottom 2 inches of pan had become solid roasted pea brittle only to be loosened with battle armor. I had to convince myself not to cry – well, in public anyway.
The peas never did soften. The bachelor, however, thought it made a nice appetizer to Vodka-Ketchup stew and ate it. All of it — because that’s what friends are for.