Winter has arrived with a vengeance and I found myself reflecting - in fact, marvelling, in a weird kind of way - that it will be the very first winter since 1904 that my grandfather will not be here. How amazing is that thought - all those winters through war, depression, another war, baby boom, prosperity, disco(!) ... he was there.
Born in February 1905, he died three days before Christmas last year. Just a few weeks before, I had been visiting his house (he lived on his own, refusing to go into a rest home) and, showing some other relatives the plants in his small back garden, I pointed out a clematis. 'It's not a clematis, it's a WISTERIA!' boomed his voice from inside the house. He was totally on the ball. And the selective hearing was 100% accurate to the end!
So - winter.
The infamous London yellow fog (and occasionally, a Melbourne fog) was called a pea-souper after this:
Take a ham hock or some bacon bones, place them in your largest pot with a chopped onion, a chopped carrot, a chopped potato, a couple of cups of split yellow peas, a bay leaf and some pepper.
Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple hours or until the peas break up.
Serve on a bitterly cold day.
There are plenty of recipes for pea and ham soup. Soak the peas overnight, cook the onions first in butter, include garlic, include thyme, include this or that, remove the hock and dice the meat back into the soup before serving. It's really whatever works for you.
When I was young, it was always made with long narrow bacon bones. Man, they were seriously salty and delicious. They tended to soften up during the cooking and I remember *we children* fighting over the bones, gnawing the softened ends and sucking the juices out. Totally disgusting. And totally delicious.
(Of course, having grown up, I'd never do anything like that now. Would I?)
However you cook it, I imagine pea and ham soup would be at its best with a touch of fresh farm cream stirred through, a good sprinkling of emerald green parsley on top, a Guinness to hand, and the rain coming down in sheets onto an iron roof. Look out, I'm channelling the Irish O'Briens again ...