When I received a big “mess” (that’s the Southern word for a bunch) of Dixie Lee field peas in my CSA box, I was a bit taken a back. At first I thought they were really long green beans – it had been so long since I had encountered a field pea in its shell. Handling them took me back to hot summer days sitting on my grandmothers’ screened-in porches with several bowls and buckets before us: one for the whole peas, one for the shelled peas and one for the scraps. With my series of bowls, I sat on the couch and shelled while my three-year-old “helped” but stirring the peas with a whisk. He was fascinated with the process – “what do you do with the crusts?” he asked – referring to the shells. He smelled the peas and sampled them raw. I shelled for what seemed like forever, boiled the peas with a little onion, chicken broth and water and this is all I got:
|Peas - Can't do much to make these suckers pretty!|
Was it worth it? Yes! For the connection I felt with my grandmothers – one who is gone and one who is still here but whose mind is slipping away. And for the connection I felt with my son who will hopefully one day have fond memories of shelling peas with his mama.
A few days later, I had a “mess” of green beans. My almost six-year-old son was my helpmate this time. Again, I recall hot summer days in the garden dodging yellow jackets picking green and filling our buckets with white half runners – the green bean variety of choice in both my grandparents’ gardens. We would then sit on the screen porch stringing and snapping. Sometimes, Granny would be working the peas and Mama and I would be stringing the green beans. It was an operation. The green beans were so abundant that there would always be plenty for canning. I remember standing in steamy kitchen filling Mason jars with hot green beans. What a treat to pull those green beans out in the middle of the winter and enjoy the summer’s bounty!
I can’t say that my son really “got” how to properly string the green beans, and it would have been a whole lot easier to do it myself, but watching him enjoy it and feel like he was contributing to the family meal was worth the extra strings. I have a hard time getting him to eat his vegetables, but last night, he ate every bit of the green beans he helped to prepare. I had never thought of it before, but I’m sure my mother quietly forgave the extra strings and stems that made it into our green beans due to my efforts. And for that, I’m grateful. Whether sitting on the porch or in front of the TV watching “stories” with our hands in beans, it was the camaraderie that really mattered – not the imperfect pieces that came from a child’s hands.
And here I am with my imperfect blog, feeling like a child again trying to emulate the grown-ups. We all have to start somewhere! For me, it’s at the dinner table with my family. And here’s what we had for dinner.
|The only thing missing -- a tall glass of sweet tea.|
Turkey Meatloaf - Based on this recipe:
Note: I used plain spaghetti sauce (no extra stuff in it) on the top and I cut back the oatmeal a bit and added a little bread crumbs. I probably cut back on the onion, too.
Mashed Potatoes – I never follow a recipe for these. I just cook some potatoes, drain the water and mash with a little butter, cheese, sour cream (in this case I used fat-free Greek yogurt which I wouldn’t really recommend because it gave them more of a tartness than I would have liked) and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Green Beans – Simply cooked in water, a little chicken broth, a little vegetable oil and lots of salt. If you want to be old-school, cook with a little fatback or bacon!
Field Peas – Cooked to death (the Southern way) with chicken broth, onion, salt, pepper. Again, use bacon or fatback for even more deliciousness if that’s your thing.
Tomato – For some reason, Southerners like to eat a wedge of tomato with everything in the summer. Maybe because there is always an abundance of tomatoes sitting around? I don’t know, but you have to have a little tomato to go with your peas and green beans. It’s especially good with creamed corn and fried okra!
So, I hope my post brings back food memories for you or encourages you to do some shellin’ and snappin’ of your own. Also, I’m on the search for the best squash casserole ever. I have some squash I need to do something with and am thinking of giving squash casserole another try. I’ve never been a fan, but maybe I’ve just never met the right casserole! If you have the recipe to end all recipes and don’t mind sharing it, I’d love to make it and give you a shout out here. If you’re a blogger, I’ll definitely provide a link and promote it on Facebook and Twitter. Stay tuned for more Southern veggies soon – ‘tis the season!