Give Peas a Chance

Stevie's Home

GUESTS: Vegetable Exorcist
             Steive's Mother and Father

EXORCIST: All right, Stevie. When I count of three, you'll be forever free of this silly little aversion of yours. One, two ...

[cut to the opening title, we hear pea glob being thrown]

E: [exits the dining room to talk to Stevie's parents, he has peas on him] Your son's problem is beyond my skills. I am sorry.
MOTHER: [offering a napkin] You have a pea on you.
E: [snatching the napkin from the mother] Do I?
M: You were our last hope. What can we do now?

E: Well, there is one who can help. I hesitate to suggest it for as I don't care for his methods. [hands them a business card] But in little Stevie's case, I'll make an exception. Good day.

Alton Brown
Food Phobia's
Good Eats

1234 Main Street
Anytown, US 12345
(555) 555-1234

FATHER: Uh, professor, let me show you out.
E: No no, I said "Good Day".
F: Uh, uh ...
E: Thank you. No. I said "Good Day"
F: Please send us the cleaning bill ...
E: I don't ... [exits]

Alton Brown's Office

AB: [phone rings, AB answers] Yes. Yes. No. Maybe. [Hangs up phone]

Stevie's Home

AB: [rings doorbell, parents answer]
F: Mr. Brown?
AB: I'd like to see the subject now.
F: Excuse me?
M: Please, come on in.
AB: Thank you. Thank you. [pokes his head around the door to dining room with Stevie] Hi Stevie. I'm Mr. Brown. I hear you're having trouble with your peas.
: [growling off camera, throws peas at the wall]
: [tastes the peas, nods, and exits]
M: What do you think?
AB: How long has he been like this?
[holds up three fingers]
AB: Three hours?
M: Three days.
AB: Let me guess. You told him he couldn't leave the table until he ate all of his peas.
F: Well, that's how our parents got us to eat them.
AB: Oh really. And were the peas that your parents were trying to get you to eat as gray, lifeless, mushy, and disgusting as the ones on the wall there?
M: [shocked] Disgusting?
F: [with much resolve] Yes, they were that disgusting. And we liked them.
AB & M: [look at father in disbelief]
F: Okay, we didn't like them ... but we ate them.
M: Well, look, Mr. Brown. Can you help our boy or not?
AB: I don't know. He's pretty far gone. You know how kids are when they dig in their heels. They're like pit bulls. [goes off on a tangent] You ever seen a pit bull really grab hold of something? You have to get a pry bar in their mouth and jimmy it around, and ... [returns to the present] The problem here is not so much that we need to open his mouth. We need to open his mind to the possibility that peas aren't just good for you, but that peas are good ...

["Good Eats" theme plays]

The Kitchen

    I wish I had a dime for every case of pea-lock I was called in to work. It's the ugliest culinary dispute a family is likely to face. And it always has the same result, you know? The kid buckles, he eats his gray, lifeless orbs, and then passes on the tragedy to another generation. It's a vicious cycle all based on ignorance. Neither little Stevie nor his parents appreciate the fact that unlike their leguminous cousins—beans and lentils—peas are unique. They can be eaten at almost any level of maturity. They can be consumed dry or fresh. And, of course, in the case of sugar snap peas or snow peas, they can be consumed in their pod practically in a raw state. They will have to wait for their own show, however, because today we are going to focus on the pea that American kids love to loath: the English garden, or sweet pea, and it's very versatile, ancient ancestor, the field pea.
    Now, field peas, which usually come in yellow and green, sometimes orange, are heartier and starchier than sweet garden peas. And they're historically significant, because they were one of the first foods to be gathered and then dried. Now, imagine a cave-dwelling family that had peas like these would be able to get all the complex carbs, proteins, minerals, and good old-fashioned calories that they would need to survive a winter when the hunting was bad. And because they split naturally when they dry, they can be cooked without long soaking, which even gives modern cooks a big advantage. Oh, and here's another fascinating fact.
    Early European agriculturists, like my little friend here [points to a cave-man doll] learned fast that if they were going to live off of staples like wheat and barley, that they were going to have to practice field rotation. That is because cereal crops tend to deplete nutrients from the ground. So, you have a parcel of land, you split it in half, you grow your grains on one side, and you leave the other side fallow so that it can recover through a growing season; and then you rotate the crops. Peas, however, do not deplete nutrients from the land. In fact, they feed it. So if you take the same parcel of land and split it into thirds, growing peas there [1st third], and we'll say wheat here [2nd third], and leaving this little piece [last third] fallow down here, you could actually double your nutritive output every other year. Now peoples who adapted the three-field method, such as the Franks under Charlemagne, eventually came to dominate the economic landscape of Europe. So you could say that peas changed the world.
    Now I'm not going to try to tell you that little Stevie—or any American kid, for that matter—is going to learn to love field peas simply because they have historical significance. But I will tell you that I think American kids can learn to love field peas because they have a very, very complex flavor and a nice, meaty texture that lends itself well to a wide array of applications such as split pea soup.

    Which we'll begin with 12 ounces of green split peas. Now even though these are split and they're out of the shell, that doesn't mean that they shouldn't get a little bit of a rinse. So, park these under some cold water and just look for anything that doesn't belong: pieces of shell which are not going to cook, small rocks, sticks, things like that. These look pretty good. So, while those drain, we will get the rest of our mise en place.

12 Ounces Split Peas
    [gets an onion and garlic from a drawer, curry powder from a cabinet, chicken stock and butter from the fridge]

    Place your favorite large saucepan over medium-low heat and then add the butter. Now, just as soon as that starts melting, we can add one cup of the chopped onion—the total amount—and a good healthy pinch of salt to help pull moisture out. Give that a stir every couple of minutes and let it cook for two to three minutes, or until the onion is soft. And remember, if you hear a lot of sizzling, you're sautéing not sweating. That's not good.

2 Tbs. Unsalted Butter
1 Cup Chopped Onion
Heavy Pinch Kosher Salt

    Since the garlic is cut into much smaller pieces than the onion, it goes in towards the end of the sweat. Just give it a stir, and cook for one to two more minutes.

1 Tbs. Minced Garlic

In Sweden, yellow split pea soup is eaten in honor of
King Eric XIV, who was assassinated with poisoned pea soup.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Thing

    It appears that our sweat has given its all, so it's time to add a little additional flavor in the form of our curry powder. And I'm going to turn the heat up all the way so that we can bring all this chicken stock to a boil. And that is everything. 1 Tbs. Curry Powder
5 Cups Chicken Broth

    [looks at camera] What? [camera pans to the sink where the drained peas lie in wait, AB walks to sink, picks up the peas] Let's never speak of this again. Needless to say, the peas should be invited to the party at this point. There we go. And just bring this up to a boil, as I said, and then drop the heat to low, slap on the cover, and cook for 45 minutes, or until the peas just don't seem to be able to hold themselves together any more.
    Now, time to check seasoning and that will require a clean spoon [tastes the soup]. A little bit of salt, but not much. What we had in the sweat was good. And [add] a fair amount of pepper. Peas love pepper. There we go. Now although the peas have fallen apart, this is by no means a purée, so you might want to hit it with your stick.

THING: [hands AB a wooden stick]
: [tosses it aside]
: [hands AB a hand-held blender]
AB: Thank you. [purées the soup]

    Now, to transfer this to little Stevie's house all I'll need is my favorite thermos.

THING: [hands AB a thermos]
: [cuddles the thermos] Awwww.

Nearly 80% of the edible dry peas produced in the US
are grown in the Palouse Hills of Washington & Idaho.

Stevie's House

F: Wow. That smells great.
M: It looks really good.
F: Is there any extra?
AB: This is for Stevie. But if this works out, I promise I'll leave you the recipe, okay?
M: [thinking quickly] You know, I remember reading that they used a lot of pea soup in making the movie "The Exorcist".
F: [playing along] Oh, yeah, that's right. Because it, uh, stuck to clothes and stuff.
M: Like your coat, or that shirt which is real nice.
AB: You know, maybe, maybe this isn't what I want to be walking in there with right now.
M: Mmm ... could be ...
F:  ... dangerous.
M: Yeah.
AB: Well, what am I supposed to do with this?
F & M:
[both pull out spoons]
AB: [sighs] Go ahead.

    You know, maybe I should spend some time to try and appeal to his intellectual side.

AB: [puts an Apple notebook computer on the dining room table.] Hey, Stevie. Just got a little movie for you to watch, okay?

    The garden, or sweet pea we know today was born when 17th century Dutch agriculturists spotted the occasional mutant mini-pea plants in their fields. And, no doubt building upon the work of Gregor Mendel, did what they've done with everything from carrots to tulips; they coaxed entirely new varieties of plants out of the gene pool.
    Unleashed upon Europe, the dwarf pea, or petit pois, started a craze in the court of Louis XIV, where lady courtiers took to consuming large plates of the tender goodies right in their beds just before lights-out.
    The Dutch would go on to develop the snow pea which would become very popular, via the Portuguese, in China and Japan ... but that's another show.

AB: So, Stevie, what did you think?
: [throws peas at AB, who leaves]

Between 1700 and 1900 the English developed over 1,000 varieties of peas.

The Kitchen

    Have you ever heard the old nursery rhyme: "Pease pudding hot, pease pudding cold, pease pudding in the pot, nine days old?" Of course you have. But have you ever taken the time to wonder why it's "pease pudding" instead of "pea pudding"? Well, it turns out that the original singular of the noun was "pease". It was twisted by the Saxons, most likely, from the original Latin pisum [pron: PIE-sum]. What happened was that as the English language developed the standard "s" plural, "pease" became used as a plural and a new word, "pea" had to be invented as a singular. Fascinating? No, not so much.
    Well, let's take a look at pease pudding which like most English puddings, was really just a bunch of mushed up peas put in a cloth and boiled for hours and hours. I actually believe that this is the device that began the whole kids-hating-peas scenario. Luckily, the natural evolution of this method brings us to a far more kid-friendly form. Ladies and gentlemen, the burger. But, in our case, we're not going to be talking about a hamburger, but rather a peaburger, which is my secret weapon against pisum-phobia.

    Start by placing a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and then pile on the vegetation: one-half cup of chopped onions, and a half-cup of chopped bell peppers—green or red will do nicely. Top that off with a generous pinch of kosher salt. This will help pull some of the moisture out of the sweat. Stir that off and on for five minutes, or until the veggies are nice and soft.

1 Tbs. Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Chopped Onion
1/2 Cup Chopped Red Bell
Heavy Pinch Kosher Salt

    Now when they are soft, add two teaspoons of minced garlic plus about four ounces of sliced mushrooms—criminis would be nice—and let that cook for another four minutes. Remember, we're still sweating here. I don't want to see any browning.

2 tsp. Minced Garlic
4 Ounces Sliced Mushrooms

    When the mushrooms are soft and have given up a good bit of their moisture, add one cup of dried split peas, and one-half cup of uncooked brown rice. Then follow that with a teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin. Finally, liquid in the form of three cups of veggie broth—homemade, of course, would be nice.

1 Cup Drive Split Peas
1/2 Cup Uncooked Brown
1 tsp. Ground Coriander
1 tsp. Ground Cumin
3 Cups Vegetable Broth

    As soon as that's all mixed in, you're going to want to increase the heat and bring the liquid to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for one whole hour until the peas are good and tender.

In 1670, colonists survived on a ration of one pint of peas a day.

The Kitchen

    Once your peas are cooked, move them to your food processor and just pulse five or six times until they're just combined. Do not purée them.

    Once that's done, add 3/4 of a cup of dried bread crumbs, plus a little kosher salt and black pepper to taste.

3/4 Cup Plain Dry

    This mixture then goes into the refrigerator for at least half an hour so that the texture can firm up and the flavors meld. When you're ready to cook, just place a non-stick pan over medium heat, lube up with just a little bit of olive oil, maybe half a teaspoon or so, and dose up a burger. I usually use a disher and get about five ounces per burger. Flatten out just as you would a regular hamburger patty, but then lightly dredge in just a little more of your bread crumbs. That's going to help to create a firm, brown outer crust. It'll taste good and help things stay together. Cook for three to four minutes per side, flipping the patty just once. If you want to do this on the grill, you'll also go three to four minutes per side, over high heat.
    Voila! There we've got it, kids. Imagine, a burger that is actually good for you, and good eats. Yep, I think little Stevie's about to meet his match ... oon as I'm done with my lunch, of course.

A former mistress of King Louis XIV wrote "It is proper to lick peas
from their pods after they have been dipped in a simple sauce."

Stevie's House

AB: [holding an empty plate] Well, it cleared his plate.
M: [with father, eating the last of a pea burger] Oh, what a relief!
AB: And so, apparently, did you.
F: Oh, they really are good ...
M: ... were ...
F: ... were good.
AB: Uh huh.
M: Well, Mr. Brown, thank ... Honey, get his coat ... thank you so much for all of your help. And if we ever need to call on you again, we'll pick up the phone, send an email ...
AB: We're not ... we're not done here, we're not done.
F: But he ate his peas.
AB: No! No, he ate MY peas. Don't you see? He doesn't know he ate peas. But, it's okay. We've got a chink in his culinary armor now. Now it's time for Stevie to face the pod.

Harry's Farmers Market: Marietta, GA - 10:15 am

    This shiny green pod contains eight fresh garden peas. Now you don't often see peas in this, their original and intended container, for two reasons. One, peas are at their best during a very slender slice of springtime, usually from late March through May. Another reason is that, once picked, peas lose their flavor fast. As much as 40% of their sugar can convert to starch in the first day after picking. So, long-distance shipping is pretty much out of the question. That means that if you do find these fresh, you want to be sure they're very, very fresh. You want the pods to be nice and firm, a little glossy, and when you rub them together, they should squeak. If they rattle, it means that the peas have pulled away from the inner pod, and they are therefore past their prime.
    Now, as I said, these will lose flavor fast. So if you're not going to cook them right away, even the refrigerator's not going to buy you much time. Nope. For that, we'll need to go to the freezer.

The Kitchen

GUEST: Frenchman

    Garden peas take to the deep freeze better than almost any other veggie. They were, in fact, some of the very first foods to ever successfully undergo the freezing procedure. I keep them on hand at all time and, I might add, they're very good for boo-boos [places the frozen bag on his head]. Anyway, these things are useful, unlike canned peas [he's tossed a can of peas] which are inferior when it comes to flavor, texture, nutrition, and just about anything else that you could imagine.

FRENCHMAN: Uh, huh huh. Mercí, monsieur. [takes the can of peas, kisses it, exits]

Why they are so popular with the French, I can't understand. Maybe it's got something to do with Jerry Lewis.
    One of the reasons that kids, or at least country-born kids, don't care for peas is that unlike snow peas and sugar-snap peas, they have got to be shelled and it's a job that's done by little fingers. But to tell you the truth, I've always kind of liked shelling peas. Is that wrong? Well, anyway, there is an easy way to do it. First, you just grab the pea and with one end kind of pointing down, you press until the opening starts and then just unzip it with your thumb, thusly. Then you run your thumb through, like that and voila, no more peas. Once you have about a pound of peas shelled—it's about three cups—you'll be ready to fabricate one of my very favorite app-pea-cations. Get that? App-pea ... Oh, come on.

    Bring three quarts of salted water to a boil and add your peas. Fresh peas will take about three minutes to cook, frozen peas only one minute.

3 Quarts Salted Water +
1 Pound Green Peas

In 1935, a certain very large green man (who sounded like Santa Claus)
became synonomous [sic, synonymous] with the American pea industry.

The Kitchen

    When your peas have cooked, either three minutes or one respectively, it's time to get them off of that hot water. So drain them in a colander and have a very, very large bowl of ice water standing by. And once the boiling water has drained away, just drop that colander right into the ice. This method will keep you from having to pick little pieces of ice out of the peas later. Once the peas have thoroughly cooled, remove and allow those to drain.

    Meanwhile in another bowl, whisk together two tablespoons of red wine vinegar with a teaspoon of kosher salt, one tablespoon of minced shallot, and half a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper and just whisk to combine. When it comes together, drizzle in three tablespoons of olive oil.

2 Tbs. Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp. Kosher Salt
1 Tbs. Minced Shallot
1/2 tsp. Freshly Ground
    Black Pepper
3 Tbs. Olive Oil

    [referencing the science lab-like apparatus he used to drizzle in the olive oil hands free] Amazing what you could find at laboratory surplus web sites these days. Of course, a small paper cup with a hole punched in the bottom would do the same thing, it just wouldn't look so cool.

    Once your dressing has thoroughly emulsified, time for some herbage. Two teaspoons each of fresh chopped mint and fresh chopped parsley. Then, cheese: four ounces of ricotta salata, fontina, or Swiss cut into cubes. Last but not least, the peas. The drained, chilled peas should be carefully folded in.

2 tsp. Fresh Chopped Mint
2 tsp. Fresh Chopped Parsley
4 Ounces Ricotta Salata,
    Fontina or Swiss Cheese

    A mere 20 minutes in the refrigerator will allow these flavors to mingle very very nicely, a fact that I feel certain little Stevie will appreciate.

Today over 90% of all peas are sold frozen.

Stevie's House

AB: [enters with a bowl his peas] Hey, here we go. [pushes plate toward Stevie off camera, to his parents] Keep your fingers crossed.
STEVIE: [takes a bite]
M: [to Stevie] Well, honey, what do you think?
STEVIE: [the camera pans a full 360 as if his head turns all the way around]
He likes it.
M: That's great! [Mother and Father are overjoyed, the hold hands]
AB: [exits]

Outside Stevie's House

    Well, it looks like my work here is done. Unfortunately, scenes like this play out a thousand times a day in thousands of households across this great land. Not so much because the kids in question are spoiled punk brats, but because parents often procure low-grade produce and then cook it to mush. It's a sad, sad story. But it doesn't have to be that way. Look, just treat your peas well, people, and your peas will treat you to ... [cell phone rings] Sorry, excuse me.

AB: Yes ... Yes ... Won't eat his Brussel sprouts, eh?

Outtake: The Kitchen

AB: ... everything else that you could imagine.
FRENCHMAN: [takes the can of peas, and kisses it] Uh, huh huh huh. Mayzee, uh, senor. [flubs his line]
AB: What? Well, he's got one word. It's one word.

Transcribed by Michael Roberts
Proofread by Michael Menninger

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Last Edited on 08/27/2010