Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Pea and ham soup in an era of cultural change: some critical insights.

The heavy pot lives under the sink, off to the side, next to the wok and in front of a rotary food mill that I have never used. Lifting the pot out requires a manoeuvre straight out of an Eastern stretching guide, but putting up with the complicated move has two advantages: I get to the keep the $100,000 for a new kitchen and the $40 for an Iyengar yoga class.

The heavy pot in question no longer has its lid handle. When I cook with it, I have to kind of flip the lid up with one hand - gauntleted with a tea towel, catch it with the other hand and try not to sustain steam burns. Apart from all that, the pot is in perfect condition. Why throw it out?

I dragged it out for the annual mid-winter pea and ham soup ritual. Imagining I had posted a recipe for this at least once a year on this web log, I searched the archive but couldn’t seem to find one more recent than 2005; in any case this new recipe is probably a better one.

Pea and ham soup for the winter solstice.

I sliced the end – about a tablespoon’s worth - off a stick of butter, paper and all, peeled off the paper and threw the butter into the pot. The butter melted lazily, barely bubbling, barely hissing, as if going to sleep. Then I crept up on it and threw in – all at once – two large onions, two medium carrots, two sticks of celery and one parsnip; all in small dice.

Then the broken lid went on and the vegetables steamed in the butter on a low heat for ten minutes, or enough time to drink a cup of coffee and read The Weekend Australian in which an article was suggesting that ‘social media’ (sixty billion people huddled, alone, over sixty billion computer screens is ‘social’?) such as Twitter was changing the face of business:

“ ‘Plenty of smart companies are using [Twitter] to build a brand, turn their customers into a community and cement the names of their products in the minds of their market.’ ”
One Tweet and you’re cemented. Academia is jumping onto the bandwagon as well, bringing with it, in a satchel over its shoulder, its unique brand of jargon:

“... the Digital Cultures program in the faculty of arts at Sydney University ... encourages an understanding of the ‘crucial connections between technical innovation and cultural change’. Director Chris Chesher sees social media as ‘part of cultural literacy’. He says employers will be looking for people who combine technical skills ‘with that broader critical insight of an arts education’.”
As against the oafs who come out of the sciences building? My personal critical insight is that employers are not currently looking for people at all; let alone those enhanced by broader critical insights and the ability to send diary messages of no more than 140 characters.


The vegetables were sweating. I rinsed one and three-quarter cups of green split peas and added them to the pot along with half a kilo of bacon bones (excellent butcher’s own from the Blairgowrie butcher; very aromatically smoky and no fake red colour) and ten cups of water.

When it came to the boil, I turned it down, threw in a sprig of thyme from the garden, put the lid back on and left it for two hours.

Later, I chopped and fried some pieces of bread the boys had left and made crunchy, garlicky croutons. The soup was served in large bowls and garnished with the croutons along with fresh parsley and pepper. No salt; the bacon is salt enough.

So that was it. No better dinner on a cold winter solstice Sunday night.


“I found her notebook underneath a tree/she’d been twittering all about me/the words she’d written took me by surprise/you’d never read them in her eyes.”

(Apologies to David Gates.)


selena said...

I love the quote. Right on.d

A Melbourne lass said...

I don't get the whole Twit(ter) thing either, some people have trouble constructing full sentences now and speak in shorthand, as if their brian's text messaging their speech. That's what parts of the world are coming to I guess, but I don't get it

I'm going to try you Pea and Ham soup though...sounds delish


A Melbourne lass said...

That should read BRAIN...see, I should've done a spell check, or at least proof read it

Ange said...

Love Pea and Ham Soup - one of my all time faves. Twitter - I tried it out and it doesnt quite do it for me