It’s that wonderful time when the smell of curing tobacco floats on the night air and the molasses smell of pickling corn floats from the trench siloes during the day. We’re having a cold snap (only 82 this afternoon following a rain so hard that water blew under the doors on the north side of the house), and the field peas are ready to pick and enjoy.
Growing up in Pennsylvania where there were no field peas, I rely on the cooking directions of the late Bill Neal (1950-1991) and his seminal “Southern Cooking” (The University of North Carolina Press, 1985, revised 1989). I’ve learned to love them with pepper relish and freshly chopped onion. Add corn bread and slaw, and you’ve got a Song of the South.
Bill Neal’s Field Peas
3 cups shelled cowpeas, lady peas, crowder or black-eyed peas
3 ounces pork sidemeat (I used the frozen bone from our Easter ham today)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup thinly sliced onions
1 bay leaf
1 red pepper pod
1 garlic clove, peeled and chopped
2-1/2 cups water
Wash shelled peas well and drain. Cut sidemeat into small strips and, along with salt, onions, bay leaf, pepper and garlic, simmer in water for 15 minutes. Add peas and water to cover if necessary. Simmer for 35 minutes to 1 hour or longer, depending upon maturity of peas. Serves 6.
Field peas have about 80 to 85 calories per half cup so you probably won’t want to eat 2 cups as I did for lunch. However, in those two cups I also got 18 grams of dietary fiber and 11 g protein. We’re out of last year’s pepper relishes and I haven’t made any yet this year so we topped our peas with homemade chili sauce.
Thirty-five pounds gone this morning and I’m beginning to make the transition from “Nothing feels as good as bacon tastes” (thank you, Adam P-P) to “Nothing tastes as good as being skinny feels” (Catherine C.M. and Sally N.). I’ll never be skinny, but yesterday I did shop in the ‘L’ section of Goodwill pants and tops instead of the ‘XL.’ It surprises me how good I look and feel in the black and white tunic with elastic under the bosom, and it surprises me to think that strangers seeing me think I’ve always looked like this (if they notice me at all). They don’t know how much work it’s been so far, and I don’t want them to. Oh, who am I kidding? I want the whole world to know!