By Hope Quay 

My Smart Mouth: Recipes, Memories and a Dash of Split Pea Soup

 

December 26, 2018



I don’t know about you, but my favorite thing about the holidays is the food. It’s something of an understatement to say that I like to eat. In fact, I would say a good portion of my life revolves around food – deciding what to eat, purchasing food, preparing food, planning my next food-centric excursion…you get the picture.

Picky eaters are one of my biggest pet peeves – especially adult picky eaters. Granted we all have the odd thing we just can’t stomach (mine is mushrooms), but if you’re a thirty-five-year-old man whose diet resembles that of a spoiled four-year-old and you never learned the manners or fortitude to eat what’s prepared for you then frankly, I can’t imagine how you’ve made it this far in life. If I were not so annoyed by picky eaters, I would feel sorry for them – food doesn’t just keep us alive, it enriches our lives and, in my opinion, refusing to expand your palate is denying yourself one of life’s greatest pleasures.

In part, my joy in food comes from twenty-odd years of working in the food and beverage industry, in which time I’ve had the opportunity to sample the work of many talented chefs and been exposed to all different types of ingredients and styles of cuisine, as well as different flavor pairings.


I also come from a long line of ladies who enjoy their victuals. A trait for which, as my dear departed Grandmother (who was not subtle about such things) would say, we have the rear ends to show.

I can remember spending hours with this same Grandmother, leafing through cookbooks like most people do magazines and ooh-ing and aah-ing over various recipes. We routinely marked the pages of things we wanted to try, although at that point Grandma, who had health issues, wasn’t doing much cooking, and neither was I, being about ten years old.

Many years later, most of those glossy “Taste of Home” and “Country Cooking” cookbooks reside in my kitchen, place markers intact. They’re always my first resort when stumped for dinner ideas, and several of my go-to recipes have been adapted from their pages. After Grandma passed some years back, my auntie also had the brilliant idea to photocopy her handwritten recipe cards, giving us each something personal to remember her by in the kitchen. The problem with Grandma’s recipes (other than her fondness for such depression-era staples and mid-century weirdness as baked bean sandwiches and tinned, deviled ham) is that, not unlike me, she was clearly not a fan of strict measurements and rule following. Her recipes call for a pinch of this, a dash of that, and the old standby, “season to taste.”


The one thing I do remember Grandma cooking was her favorite split-pea soup – usually post-holiday. What I recall about the recipe mostly involves my Grandma standing at the kitchen counter, her hands greasy to the wrist as she manhandled the leftover ham off the bone, occasionally popping choice morsels into her mouth. It’s probably not coincidental that I am to this day convinced that using your hands and eating as you go are two of the most important marks of a good cook.

As a cook, I am nearly incapable of following a recipe to the letter (which makes me an interesting cook and a rather poor baker). Since I tend to use what’s handy or leftover and view most recipes as a jumping-off point, it’s somewhat difficult for me to accurately share my own recipes with anyone who asks for them.

However, in the spirit of the post-holiday leftover funk, and in memory of Grandma, I’ll try to share one of my favorite comfort food recipes. This recipe is cheap (most of the ingredients are already in your kitchen) and perfect for when you’re broke after the Christmas cash hemorrhage and you’ve had your fill of that leftover holiday ham, but you still need some comfort food to bolster your butt for the next four months of winter.

Crock Pot Split Pea Soup

Ham, bacon or leftover pork roast – as much as you have.

I package split peas

1 – 2 cups of grated or julienned carrot strips OR 2-3 red, yellow or orange bell peppers, finely chopped (or a little of each – why not?!)

Half a medium head of garlic, finely chopped, or 2- 4ish tbsp chopped garlic from the jar (the amount of garlic to add to any recipe is relative. I routinely add four cloves for every one the recipe calls for. So…season to taste, on this one.)


One medium onion, finely minced

around 1 TBSP liquid smoke

around1/4 to 1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce (Grandma’s “secret” ingredient!)

3 dashes soy sauce

1 dash of your favorite hot sauce

2 bay leaves

Sprinkle of red pepper flakes

Sprinkle of rosemary

Salt to taste (Start with a little and add more near the end of cooking time, as there is a lot of saltiness to the ingredients already. I love salty food, but if you don’t, you may want to omit the soy sauce and proceed carefully with the salt.)

Fresh ground pepper to taste

Two 32 oz cartons of chicken, beef or vegetable broth (or four cans) plus as much water as it takes to reach almost to the top of your crock pot.

Preparation: This doesn’t take much explanation.

Rinse the peas in a strainer. Dash some olive oil or butter in the bottom of your crock pot and then throw in all of the ingredients. Season until the ghosts of your ancestors whisper for you to stop. Cook on low all day long – 8 to 10 hours.

Serve with crackers and/or fresh buttered bread. Enjoy!

(Grandma will be around later to “measure your ass with an axe handle.”)

 

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