Yellow pea soup casts me back to childhood every time I make it. In a family of five children, with a budget consciousness on food, I often wondered why we never seemed to be eating what everyone else was eating. If we were having a broth soup made with old bones, ‘they’ were having something creamed. If we were eating homemade bread, ‘they’ were eating Wonder white. This preoccupation of ‘not so fancy’ meant that I would sometimes miss out on the fact that what I was eating was actually really good!

It seemed to me that this particular soup cost next to nothing to make. I was there when the bag of dry peas was pulled from the grocery store shelf and I saw that the price was a give away compared to everything else. The ham hocks were from our own pig and the carrots from our garden. I do not recall if there were any herbs added to the pot. And for some reason, it felt like making it took all day.

The family pea soup recipe may have been one dish that was full of flavour, but I was fixated on thinking of it as peasant food. Despite its lack of glamour though, it now remains one of my favourite dishes from our time together on the farm.

A recent purchase of ‘Bacon Ends’ from Lavergne’s Western Beef Inc. out on Navan Road was the inspiration I needed to rekindle the past. I wondered if it could serve well as the salty pork portion in a hearty batch of yellow pea soup.

I started early this morning to get the pot going. The recipe I follow now is an elaboration of one I found in Gourmet magazine October 2001.

A very slow simmer brought tenderness to the pork without drying it out. The peas heated gently, softened and thankfully didn’t turn to glue. The wafting aromas were rich in the savory.

As the smells permeated through the house, I contemplated if this would be the Friday night dinner or perhaps an impromptu lunch. I have my list of regulars that don’t mind the ’emergency’ calls to rescue me from bounty.

As lunch time approached, what happened next was just pure serendipity. I had spent the morning cooking but with my head waltzing down memory lane. Out of the blue two of my brothers and an old high school friend stopped in on their way back to Toronto from a mini ski vacation at Mont Tremblant. Like props for my story, they sat at the kitchen bar, soaking up the hearty goodness and reminiscing about food from the ‘good old days’. (I didn’t realize that my brothers doctored up the legendary ‘water’ soup with mustard to give it extra zip.)

When I heard the story of Tremblant’s $7 soups and $18 sandwiches, it left me wondering about their timing to my kitchen so close to Noon. They feasted on their yellow split pea but I also rustled up frikadellers, open face sandwiches and a panini, doing whatever food artistry the ingredients on hand would allow. Bridgehead’s Mayan Fusion was noted as being strong. I was pleased. That’s how they like it. The last stash of the almond sweet Zangebak’s were moved from the freezer. Another creation at risk of being fossilized in the past. My brothers barely remember them.

And as quickly as they came, they were gone again. Full, fueled and homeward bound.

The cost of the ingredients for a bowl of soup was about 50 cents. The cost of the surprise visit – priceless.

Yellow Split Pea Soup
Inspired by recipe in Gourmet October 2001

1 pound split yellow peas, picked over and thoroughly rinsed
8 cups water
1/2 pound ‘Bacon Ends’ from Lavergne’s
1/4 pound ham (‘Cold Cut Ends’ from Lavergne’s)
3 cooking onions, finely chopped
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only), rinsed thoroughly and chopped finely
2 cooking onions, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely diced
1/2 celery stalk, finely diced
3/4 teaspoon dried savory
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Chopped fresh chives

Pick through peas. Rinse thoroughly.

In a dutch oven combine peas, water, bacon ends and 3 of the onions, finely chopped. Bring to a boil. Then skim off the froth. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. The peas should then be tender. Remove the ‘Bacon Ends’. Remove the meat for the fat. Shred the meat and chop larger pieces. Return to the pot. Add ham chunks.

Melt butter in a large skillet or saucepan. Cook leek and remaining 2 onions over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add leek/onion mixture to soup. Add carrots and celery. Add savory, thyme, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Part of the time have the pot partially covered to thicken the soup. Remove the chunks of ham. Dice and return to pot.

Garnish with chives.

Serves 8

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