Everyone has their hypothetical “last meal” (or at least they should). For me, it would be my Mom’s baked chicken, white rice with gravy, and green peas. I grew up in the 70s and the concept of fresh, locally sourced vegetables was unheard of. Mind you, this was the era of big cars, shag carpet and T.V. dinners that came in aluminum trays with that mystery desert at twelve o’clock.
So my peas came in a can, but not just any can—Le Sueur! This was considered gourmet back in 1976! And my Mom would not dare buy any other variety.
To this day, green peas remain my favorite vegetable. However, I didn’t discover fresh green peas until I was an adult. If you have never had fresh peas, then you don’t know what you’ve been missing. But don't feel bad because there is a a good reason if you haven't.
Peas are best eaten shortly after picking, but alas they do not travel well and spoil very easily. They are also in season for only a short time during spring. This is why most peas are found frozen or canned. In fact, only 5 percent of peas harvested are actually eaten fresh. It is this rarity that historically reserved them for the wealthy and the royalty. They became quite the rage in the Court of Louis XIV of France. Here’s what Madame de Maintenon (second wife of Louis XIV), said about peas in a letter to Cardinal of Noailles in 1696:
The question of peas continues. The anticipation of eating them, the pleasure of having eaten them and the joy of eating them again are the three subjects that our princes have been discussing for four days...It has become a fashion—indeed a passion.
Peas are best eaten simply and require very little effort. They are good raw in a salad or gently simmered and served with butter and mint or other light herbs.
Peas are spring’s reward for our survival of winter. So, pick some peas (or more likely grab some frozen in a bag) and enjoy. More peas please!
Here’s a simple recipe for peas called “peas in butter” from Larouse Gastronomique:
Cook the peas in boiling salted water, drain them, and put them back in the saucepan over a brisk heat, adding a pinch of sugar and 3 ½ ounces of fresh butter per 6¾ cups of peas. Serve with chopped fresh mint.