Thursday, August 30, 2007
Purple Hull Peas and Ham
“What’s all this? Politics, parenting, humor? I thought I was going to get recipes here, Woman.”
Yeah, yeah. It’s a kitchen. Kitchens are places for food, yes, but have you ever noticed that at every gathering, people always end up in the kitchen? It’s a place where life happens, this kitchen, the place where we are all instinctively drawn to share that life together. Like family. So, pull up a chair, kick off your shoes and have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine depending on when you arrived here. You can even help cook if you want. You are family now, afterall.
Because we do food around here. Lots of food. Lately, you can sit at the table and help shell some peas while we chat. I have just discovered the joy of fresh-shelled peas and beans. I sat up alone one night (where were you?) and shelled a pound of purple hull peas. I thought, this must have been a great excuse to just sit and talk, this pea shelling thing. It doesn’t get in the way of talking, and you are forced to just “set a few” and be together. Why don’t we have those kinds of activities anymore? Oh yeah, TV. Damn that infernal box. I think we will just leave it off and shell peas.
I picked up the purple hull peas on impulse. I had no idea what they were. I just wanted to know if fresh shell peas (beans) tasted substantially better than dried ones. Turns out, the purple hulls are in the same family as southern peas like black-eyed peas and crowder peas. They are thought to have originated in Africa and to have arrived here with the slave trade. Purple hulls are said to be the tastiest of the “southern peas” as well. I was surprised to find out there is an entire Purple Hull Pea Festival held in June, and as the web site describes it (http://www.purplehull.com/growingpeas.htm):
“For most of us who were raised in this area, growing purple hull peas is sort of second nature. We've been doing it since we were youngun's, and it's sort of like learning to spotlight deer - you never really forget.”
Definitely southern. So, I reached deep in my own rural roots and ruminated a bit on what to do with my freshly-shelled peas and could only figure on one dish. It needed to be basic soul food, a real comfort dish. Something involving parts of animals not normally used by most of us post-megamart with its gleaming pre-packaged, watered and additive-added ham steaks. Something more like “hog jowl” or “ham hock.” Yeah.
Purple Hull Peas and Ham
Looking for this recipe? It will be part of an upcoming book with Ali at Cleaner Plate Club.
This turned out so well that people at work were following me down the hall to find out what my lunch was. The Kiddo took a couple dainty bites, then dived in like I’d starved her for a week. Comfort food works that way. There were no leftovers to photograph.