Wednesday, June 16, 2010

From Pod to Plate

It began with a simple request - "Let's stop at Gerardi's on the way home..."

Gerardi's is a farmer's market that I have driven by for nearly all twelve years of my teaching. I don't know why, when I first set out on this quest for sustenance, I didn't think of Gerardi's right away, but I imagine that it has something to do with the fact that Gerardi's has become nothing more than scenery on my daily commute. A couple of weeks ago, when I was talking to my mother-in-law about my one trip to the St. George farmer's market, she thought I was talking about about Gerardi's. When I finally realized what she was talking about I thought, "Why not? I should check out Gerardi's!"

Today, my husband and I finally checked it out and cashed in. Due to a long stint of my sickness, a death in the family that caused my husband to leave town, followed by my husband suddenly suffering from some pretty severe back issues; our fridge and our pantries were barren - we were in desperate need of all types of sustenance! I thought, for sure, I was going to break the bank when it was time to ring up, but everything came to less than $40 - woo hoo!

There is one purchase that I planned on blogging about today: peas. As we walked around the market we grabbed some plums, a pineapple, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, cherries, strawberries, bananas, lemons, grapes and I looked longingly at bok choy, brussell sprouts and beets (ie. things I am a fan of, but still haven't convinced the husband of their true splendor), and then, at one point a large pie of pods caught my eye...

Whoa - look at that! The sign says "PEAS", but they are still in the PODS. Oh my... that is just so cool! That looks like fun!

I poked my husband and, as I smiled from ear to ear, said, "You want to try some fresh peas?" I was so excited by this prospect. Then came his response, "No, I don't want to do all of that work. That's just too much work."

Now let me pause for a moment. There are two reasons that this was NOT an appropriate response.

#1. It is the last week of school. Why is that relevant, you ask? Well, that's a really good question if you don't live in my world. In my world this is the week where students who didn't want to do the work all semester or all term come a callin' to beg for dispensation just in time for graduation. It is frustrating. It is unfair to those who worked SO hard all year to earn the right to graduate and... I will end this explanation there, before I continue ranting on about things that are not relevant to my sustenance.

#2. What is wrong with a little work to get some good food on the table? Am I the only one that has a desire to touch my food in its natural state? I appreciate where my food comes from even more when I can feel its skin versus its insides, when I can see its stem, its seeds, et cetera! In addition, this can all be safely said tonight because I have no lessons to write tonight, my year is coming to a close, my at-home work is winding down.

So, my response to my husband, "I don't think it's that big of a deal. I want to try them." A funny thing then happened - he started suggesting all types of things we could make with peas!

When we arrived home, I put our purchases in their appropriate places. For some, that meant the fridge, for some others, that meant our fruit bowl:
And then I realized it was high time that I got to work. I decided to check out my reference materials first to see exactly how much work I actually had in store (if you heard the tone of my husband's voice you would have thought that we would not be able to actually consume the peas after about a week of drudgery!).  I grabbed my copy of Vegetables Everyday by Jack Bishop feeling absolutely confident that Jack Bishop's sound advice would be soothing, rewarding and fodder for a later "I told you so," stance with my husband! I was, regrettably, wrong. I could not believe what I was reading, but even Jack Bishop - my veggie vishnu - wrote (And I QUOTE!!), "Part of the problem is the labor. It takes a long time to shell the peas and most people would rather not bother" (Bishop, 241). I read with mouth agape. How difficult was this going to be??? Of course, I read further, and Bishop's main point was that it was so difficult to find the right place to purchase fresh peas at just the right time, that, gathered all together, all of these variables made it seemingly not worth the effort especially since frozen peas weren't so terrible and snow peas make a suitable substitute.

However, there I was, in my kitchen with a pile of plain-old shelling peas and a point to make with my husband. I took a deep breath, grabbed my first pod and slightly squeezed it between my thumb and fore finger, when it split, straight down the middle and revealed and entire family of the cutest little peas I have ever seen! I took a picture of my first-ever shelling:

 (impressive, I know)
Not all of the pods split so simply, or were so full, but it was still so much fun. The peas were attached to the pod so I would slide my finger down the pod to pop - pop - pop - pop each pea out of the pod into my strainer waiting below. I guess it took a little while, I didn't time myself or anything, but it was fun (maybe I am a food-nerd or something). Here's how it turned out:

Only one, very important step remained: preparation. What should I do with these peas? Will their taste be worth the effort? Will my husband and Jack Bishop be right about it simply not being worth my efforts?? 

I selected a simple recipe from Bishop's book Buttered Peas with Fresh Herbs (Bishop, 247) and used chives as my "herb" since that is what I had. My husband wanted to have his peas with saffron rice and chicken and I thought this recipe would be mesh the best with this. (Side note: This was also a ridiculously easy recipe and I had already worked sooo hard, right?)

The results? 
They were super-delicious and worth the effort. 
However, if I want to believe what I read today, I should count myself as lucky that the stars aligned - the peas must have been picked today (yesterday the earliest), I bought them and, not knowing this, prepared them right away (peas, evidently, can NOT wait) and they were a relatively good batch of peas in the first place! Do I recommend that you try to make fresh peas yourself? Well, let me recount a bit of a conversation that happened tonight over dinner:

My Husband, out of nowhere says, "I feel lucky."

I, having no idea what he is talking about, because our previous conversation does not seem to connect to this, simply ask, "And why would that be?" (I was half-laughing, because I really never know what to expect from him!)

"I just had real peas. I don't think a lot of people - anyway, people I know - have eaten peas like this before. These are really good."

Whoa. He was serious, he was talking about the peas, and the experience of eating them made him feel "lucky." I understood what he meant, though... both of us could have easily traveled through this life without ever eating fresh peas, it is not something that is ever on anyone's life "to do" list, and it is really easy to avoid since frozen peas are not that bad, but the fresh peas were different - they were fresh and that's a flavor all its own!

It is something to consider when making your next meal. It doesn't have to be fresh peas, but is there something fresh you could be making that you would be lucky to have? Something that your senses and your sensibilities will thank you for?

On that note, it is time for dessert and I believe I have some berries waiting for me in the fridge!

Green Peas

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