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A Shout From The Attic: Peas, Perfect Peas

Ronnie Bray reveals to the Epicurean world the delights of a Yorkshire delicacy, mushy peas.

One of the joys of being a Yorkshire lad was an early introduction to Yorkshire caviar. Mushy Peas!

From something simple and unostentatious, comes something with a grandeur all its own. Mushy Peas is a dish that never fails to please the discerning palate, but it has another dimension that is often overlooked by epicures who live only for pleasure. Mushy Peas has a lesson in life for us if we will stop eating long enough to think about it.

Life is like mushy peas. I do not say this to be controversial but to demonstrate an iron-bound principle of life, the cosmos, and all that is or ever was or will be. Perhaps it has never been your blessed lot to eat or be acquainted with mushy peas, but no matter, I will explain.

Mushy peas, a plural sounding term that identifies a distinctive singular, has the texture of highly viscous gloop, the colour of spring grass, the aromatic quality of all our yesterdays, and the savour of the Broad Acres of Yorkshire! It is a triumph of haute cuisine in which many individuals become one – and, what a one!

Mushy peas are the essential side dish to fish and chips and its presence on a dinner plate a sure sign that a wandering Yorkie has found his way home. It is impossible to eat mushy peas any other way than cooked into a full mush. Written on every Yorkshire man’s heart is, “Half mush is no mush at all!”

The raw outer semblance of the materials doth belie the immensity of the completed meal, and in the change from one thing to another, there is the great lesson of life that was hinted in the prologue.

Of all raw materials to be found in the kitchen, the stuff of mushy peas is the least appetising. Bullet-hard, round, shrivelled, pale, dehydrated, marrowfat peas that mice can’t get their teeth into and that will keep forever, a horse sized tablet of bicarbonate of soda, and a soupçon of salt are the unappetising ingredients of this right royal dish. As they stand in the raw state they are inedible, fit only to be projectiles for Smith & Wesson’s long barrelled pea shooter.

The peas must be steeped overnight in cold water into which the bicarb pill has been dissolved. At cockcrow, he water must be changed, the salt added, and the pellets brought to the boil. Once bubbling, the heat is reduced to a simmer, and prodigious patience applied until the bubbling brew turns into the delicious distillation of pea purée that in its velvety green elegance assumes the denomination, ‘Mushy Peas.’

The healthy greenness is maintained by the bicarb in the steeping water that somehow prevents colour bleed during the cooking process. The taste is that of mushy peas and is like nothing else on earth.

OK, I hear you growl, what does this have to do with life, the cosmos, and all that is or ever was or will be? Simply this. A heart that is as hard as dried peas is good for nothing until it is boiled down and turned into a soft mushy mass that is yielding and giving. Hard hearts, like hard peas, are only useful as ammunition. However, a soft heart is the benison that transforms life’s unpleasant days into palatable pleasantries provoking perfect peace. How pertinent that in a posset of peas, perfect peas, we find the paradigm for peace, perfect peace!

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To read earlier chapters of Ronnie's autobiography please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/a_shout_from_the_attic/

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