battle 8–day 4–peas

Victory is mine! And Meat Pusher Elwood’s.

Despite the horrendous rain and floods, and the fact that I skipped one whole night because I was unprepared, pea week wasn’t all that bad. I was counting on winning it. Except I hadn’t yet eaten peas. Plain ole, run of the mill peas. You know, like when someone says to you, hey friend, do you like peas? What kind of peas do you think of? Do you say back, well my friend, do you mean sugar snap peas or snow peas or garden peas or sweet peas or snap peas or field peas or black-eyed peas or split peas or chick peas? No, you don’t ask that, you just assume they’re asking about plain ole green peas, and then you say, ferfucksake no, peas, gross.

That’s what I would say anyway. (And BFF Lauren  isn’t allowed to answer that totally rhetorical question because she probably would clarify.)

Given that gag response, it was my responsibility to myself and the project to confront plain ole peas head on, right?

Enter Meat Pusher Elwood, stage left.

When I first started this project my grandfather chastised me because he was so horrified that I would consider giving up my meat and potatoes heritage for vegetables, for shame. I assured him that I wasn’t becoming a vegetarian, that I am just broadening my horizons to include more sides with my meat, but as the weeks drag on I’ve noticed my nights are made up of more and more meatless meals. Elwood has recently resurrected my grandfather’s campaign, but more kindly, consistently pointing out how frequently I’m failing to include meat with my veggies. I have to admit I totally agree that this is a huge failure on my part, so when he suggested having a little pig with my peas, I thought, of course, yes, absolutely, yes, yes, yes.

This is the bacon peas recipe Elwood sent me:

  • 4 slices bacon, diced
  • 2 cups peas, cooked
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. In a frying pan at moderate heat, brown bacon.
  3. Add the peas, cream, salt, and pepper and stir.
  4. Pour peas mixture into a buttered baking dish, cover with bread crumbs, and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until brown.

The recipe seemed easy enough, and I actually tried to follow it pretty closely, except David still wasn’t home so I was cooking by myself, and cooking by myself is when shit goes wrong. And the kinds of questions I need answered to keep shit from going wrong are the kinds that recipes skip right over (because they assume I already know how to cook…well, screw you, recipes) and the interweb isn’t sure about.

For instance, when a recipe says “4 slices of bacon, diced,” and then later it says, “In a frying pan at moderate heat, brown bacon,” does that mean I dice the bacon before I brown it because the “4 slices of bacon, diced” was written in the recipe before the “In a frying pan at moderate heat, brown bacon” part? Or does the placement really matter because that was just the ingredient list? And should I really only pay attention to what’s in the direction list? If that’s the case, they should have told me to dice it somewhere in the directions, and they should have told me when to do it, like, before or after I browned it. I’m just saying, for people who don’t know how to cook, this could be an important distinction. Like, I don’t have any idea if it makes a difference, but what if it makes or breaks a meal? Maybe it does. I don’t know. Grrrr, recipes.

bacon

I decided to cut up the bacon before browning it. I based this decision on my previous bacon makin’ experiences, which have mostly all been disasters. I thought maybe if it was cut up in smaller pieces I could try cooking it hotter and faster. I feel good about this decision. So, bacon diced and browned. Next.

I used frozen garden peas, which I thought was about as basic a plain ole pea as I could get without going canned. And that’s when I encountered another seemingly simple recipe instruction that totally stumped me for, like, a minute. What do they mean when they tell me to cook the peas? Because  Lauren and I thought maybe frozen peas are kind of already cooked and then flash frozen, although neither of us was sure about this and we had the conversation in the car and Google wasn’t nearby and …OK, here we go…Google says frozen peas are blanched and then frozen at the peak of ripeness. I have absolutely no idea what that means.  Jesus, peas. I hate you right now. OK, fine. Grrr. Merriam Webster says blanching means scalding or parboiling in water. That doesn’t really clear things up for me, but I’m done looking shit up right now, we’re moving on. So, I was asking myself, aren’t my frozen peas kind of already cooked? Do I need to do anything else with them? I was a little leery of tossing frozen-peas-I-wasn’t-sure-were-cooked into my dinner, especially since the frozen peas had instructions for further cooking on the package, so I decided to “cook” them. I did some more thinking about this and decided that when the recipe said “cooked,” they meant something along the lines of the oh-so-basic-stovetop-steam. I hoped they didn’t mean baking them, frying them, sautéing them, or for fuck’s sake, blanching them.

Alright, so peas “cooked.” Check. Bacon browned. Check. Add peas, cream, salt, pepper to bacon, and stir. Check. Add to baking dish and sprinkle on bread crumbs. Check, check.

neapolitan bacon peas

After Elwood had given me this awesome recipe—which even after all this deliberating had come together quite nicely—Nascar Patterson came in from out of nowhere and reminded me, quite rightly, not to forget the cheese. Patterson, good one.

bacon peas mmmm

I stood over my bacon peas and stared at my three best melty cheeses, trying to decide which one to use: mozzarella, yellow cheddar or white cheddar. Obviously I used all three. Neapolitan bacon peas. Holy excellent. Holy, holy, for the love of all holy meat, holy excellent.

Plain ole peas, in.

WE DID IT!


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battle 8–day 3–peas

After the PB&J incident, I was determined to refocus my energies on sugar snap peas, except I was still being kind of a baby about driving in the floods (I mean, it’s not like it was just regular rain, people died, come on, I get to be a baby about driving in that, right?) and then, and then, I was reminded of this combination of joys by my favorite news source, the Associated Press: “Days of downpours and thunderstorms saturated the ground from Alabama through Georgia into eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, just months after an epic two-year drought in the region ended after winter rains.”

It’s not like I didn’t remember the drought, I did. And it’s not like I didn’t know we had just had days and days of rain, I did. But come on AP, did the drought have to be so epic? And was it absolutely necessary to point out in the same breath that the grounds are now saturated? Because this is what happens when rains saturate grounds after epic droughts in Georgia: trees fucking fall. I don’t mean branches break or the tops snap off; I mean whole motherfucking trees uproot and fall the fuck over.

And this displeases me. To an excessive degree.

So Tuesday when I began to imagine myself dodging falling pines and washing away in muddy flood-y bits, I decided, eh, maybe I’ll skip the extra driving and just make do with what I’ve got at home. I’ve got peas, Google and the will to live; I can definitely make dinner out of that.

At this point, I was no longer married to the sugar snap peas. I would eat whatever peas the Internet told me to. Plus, I wasn’t sure which ones the sugar snaps were. When I bought them at the farmer’s market I told myself, don’t forget, the sugar snaps look like this and snow peas look like this, but of course I forgot immediately. So Google and I sorted out which ones were which (snow peas are kind of flat and have tiny little peas in them, sugar snaps are fatter and look more like green beans to me), and then we talked about which of my peas would go best with what food I already had in the house. The amazing thing about this is that these days I actually do keep some food in the house…fresh food. And get this: David is out of town. David is out of town and I have food in the house and I’m feeding myself. I don’t know if the world has turned upside down or if I have a brain tumor, but the times, they are a changin’.

sugar snap peas

(No comment on the fact that I could have done this Monday night after I gave up on beige and pea casserole.) (OK, comment: I still don’t yet have the mindset of, it’s dinner time and this is what we have, let’s cook it, because I still can’t cook and I don’t have a full memory bank of vegetable items I can cook because I don’t like them. I mean, I like some now, but this is a slow process. I still need Google…and the will to live.) (Plus, I make a seriously good PB&J.)

The snow pea recipes all looked too complicated and required more ingredients than I had, and the frozen pea recipes were all too fancy for my mood, but the sugar snap pea recipes were Goldilocks right. Most interweb people, including my favorite people on Facebook, suggested dipping them in ranch and eating them raw, which I almost did, but then Google gave me a super easy looking pea and mushroom idea, and I figured in the spirit of the project—learning to cook and continuing to eat vegetables I’ve added to my diet—I might as well try that. Plus, I actually had mushrooms and I was just a little bit beside myself about that.

  • 3/4 lb. sugar snap peas
  • 1/2 lb. mushrooms
  • 1 tbsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • String the peas. Cook them in boiling, salted water until tender, about 5 minutes, and drain. Slice the mushrooms. Heat the butter and oil in a large frying pan over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until they’re soft and the liquid has evaporated, 10 to 12 minutes. Add peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and heat through, 2 or 3 minutes. Squeeze 2 teaspoons juice from the lemon. Add the juice right before serving.

I actually think I did most of this right. I didn’t pay attention to any of the ingredient amounts, I just used what I had and tossed in what-looked-like-enough butter and oil. Then I might have slightly overcooked the mushrooms. But otherwise, given my skills—like the fact that I think I might have been sautéing but I’m not sure because I don’t really know what sautéing is, which is probably best because I might have been intimidated by that dumb word and really fucked up the mushrooms, and yet I might have done it right anyway even though I had no idea what I was doing—this one turned out pretty tasty. If I didn’t have so many other kinds of peas to get through I would consider pea week won.


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battle 8–day 2, kind of–peas

Night two of pea week fizzled out before it even started. As usual I didn’t plan my week very well, so even though I had tons of peas, I didn’t really have the other ingredients I needed to make the peas any more exciting than the basic stovetop version I’m used to. This is actually how I usually do it and it’s usually fine. Usually. I have an idea early in the week what I might eat, but I don’t make any real decisions until the day of, and I just pick up what I need on my way home from work or after I’ve let Maggie out. Usually this is perfectly fine. Usually. Until Monday. Monday we were on Day One Million of the heaviest rains the Atlanta metro area has seen since the. . .last time we had heavy rains. Of course, it was great at first since we’re just coming off the Great Drought of 2008, at which time our governor stood on the capitol steps and prayed for rain. You read that right. Well, you got it Sonny boy. The rains came. And came and came. And then the floods came. I was more or less oblivious to the flooding situation until people started dying. Then shit was real, yo.

I was driving home, the whole three miles from my office to my house, in the downpour on sugar snap pea night when I suddenly found myself in all these treacherous flood-y bits where I thought I might get swept away, never to be heard from again, and just like that, I would never have to eat sugar snap peas (which wouldn’t have hurt my feelings all that much, because I have been oh so unexcited about pea week…peas…gross). I managed to make it home to let Maggie out, but I had no interest in braving the dangers of the flooded roads again to get what I needed for dinner that night. I was stumped. I called Lauren.

Me: Lauren, what should I do for dinner tonight?
Lauren: Pot pie.

So, you remember yesterday when I said I only know of one way to prepare peas? That was a little bitty white lie. I may know of one other way, but I hate it so much I try to ignore its existence. Lauren, on the other hand, has witnessed so many incidents of me having OCD fits over this other way of pea preparation that I know I would never get out of including it here.

Peas in pot pie.

So, OK, fine, I have super hard feelings toward peas being included in pot pies. Here’s what I say, I say, why ruin a perfectly good chicken and gravy and pastry pie with vegetables? Terrible. So I make them better—improve them drastically—by flick, flick, flicking all the vegetables (not just peas, but certainly most definitely the peas) out of pot pies before chowing down. It’s an arduous, time-consuming, anxiety-ridden process, but it’s worth it.

Still, Lauren and I determined real pot pie was too much work and that I could just put peas in a chicken casserole and that would suffice (clearly I wouldn’t put any other pot pie veggies in there, they’re still awful…celery, UGH). “Beige and pea casserole,” she said. Perfect.

Except for the part where I still didn’t have any ingredients to make anything. I might should have mentioned that to her first. Peanutbutter and jelly it is.


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battle 8–day 1–peas

So, pea week was originally supposed to be “peas, sugar, snap,” but of course I had no idea there is actually just one whole kind of pea called sugar snap and another whole kind called just snap. I think I have some other peas further down on the list, but after a long conversation about the virtues of all the variations of peas with some people who care a lot less about this than I do but who humor me because I’m weird and pushy, I determined to try to do this week all the peas I could find. So, I’ve got sugar snap peas, snow peas, frozen garden peas and frozen sweet peas. I couldn’t find snap peas, despite the Internet telling me they’re real, and I didn’t buy canned. Everyone I talked to was incredibly vehement about not buying canned peas: “Whatever you do, don’t get canned peas.” It made me wonder if canned peas are poisonous or so lacking in nutritional value that they are actually detrimental to your health. And then of course I thought about my poor parents, who fed me canned peas my entire childhood (I didn’t even know frozen peas existed until last year, and even then I only used them as ice packs), which is probably why I hate peas so much, because somewhere deep down I must have known the dangers, and then I immediately feared for my parents’ lives and thought I should warn them of the biohazards in their pantry. Mom, Dad: Canned peas will kill you.

Since I haven’t had much history with most of the vegetables in this project, my usual lack of ideas is born of a real lack of knowledge, but since I “ate” canned peas (i.e., pushed them around on my plate for hours until I had negotiated my mom down to a mere bite or two that I would gag on and swallow dramatically before she finally let me leave the table) that were always prepared on the stovetop in the same tiny saucepan at least once a week as a kid, my lack of pea ideas is born of tunnel vision: I didn’t know there was any other way to prepare them.

I got my first chance to expand my pea brain Sunday night when I got the coolest invitation to a party at Seth and Amy’s house for the Jewish new year. I’m pretty sure Seth and Amy think I’m a total nutball for not eating vegetables and fall into the category of thinking I should be studied as a NASA science experiment for my ability to survive in this state. Seth kindly asked what my vegetable for the week was, at which point I excitedly offered to bring a pea side. He warmly accepted, but I could hear him hoping he already had enough food otherwise. He knows I can’t cook.

Fortunately for Seth and his guests, and me, I didn’t intend to cook. Brilliant Supporter Erica C., who also grew up not eating veggies but has since discovered that most vegetables can be tolerated with enough cheese or animal fat, had that day given me her recipe for a salad with peas in it. A salad wouldn’t normally pass muster for an entire dinner for me, but it was perfect for a party. All I had to do was go to the farmer’s market and pick up the stuff to go in it. That’s all I had to do. That’s it.

Do you get the feeling this whole project will eventually turn into my adventures and missteps at the grocery store rather than how I’m actually learning to cook and eat vegetables? Me, too. I’ll refocus. But in the meantime, wanna know what I couldn’t find this time? The lettuce. I promise I’ll just take a fucking chaperone next time. I promise.

At home I put together Erica’s super awesome salad, which is easy and can be modified any number of ways:

  • Greens (I used mixed field greens)
  • Frozen peas (I used frozen sweet peas, and apparently you don’t have to do anything to them, just let them thaw and toss them in, I’m really glad I asked about this because I was about to put those fuckers on the stove and we might have have a hot pea salad…yum)
  • Mushrooms
  • Cucumbers
  • Carrots (Obviously I didn’t use carrots)
  • Raisins (Erica said you can use any color, I used golden)
  • Cheese (Erica said you can use any kind, she’s been using feta lately, I used goat cheese because I couldn’t find feta and I’m just feeling the love for goat cheese right now)
  • Crunchy bits (Erica said to use croutons or chow mein noodles, neither of which I could find at YDFM, so I used unsalted sesame sticks, they were great)
  • Dressing (Erica said two different dressings but all I heard was balsamic vinaigrette, so I got that, because that’s my favorite, when I got to Seth and Amy’s they had a homemade balsamic vinaigrette and it was super)

sweet peas

The salad was lovely. I liked it, I ate it, I would eat it again. I couldn’t taste the peas. Randy, who was also at Seth and Amy’s, said in his most naysayer-like voice, uh yeah, you can’t taste them in salads. I wasn’t sure what to do with that information, so I just shot fire out my eyes at him for being a naysayer while I considered the point of putting peas on a salad if you can’t taste it. I’m pretty sure the point is to taste my food, but I keep running into all these veggies that are either tasteless or prepared in a way that masks their taste. What’s the point of that?

So, the salad was great, but I’m not sure why it has peas on it. Up next, sugar snaps.


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