Day 220 Cream Pea Soup

I have lots of produce I picked up on the weekend at both the Kitchener Market and the St. Jacob’s Farmers Market. I am determined to use everything this week. But how to do this when I can’t cook at home?

Yesterday I added a section to this blog outlining some of the challenges I’ve faced so far in trying to cook and write everyday this year. Perhaps that is why today I’d had enough. I came home from work determined to use one of my stoves. I have two — one on the top floor in what can be an apartment and one on the bottom floor in what is my kitchen during normal times in my life. I decided to try moving the top floor stove into position since it was on wheels. I had to move some furniture and other items to get to the stove out of the back of a bedroom but I succeeded and it is now sitting in the kitchen next to various pieces of bathroom fixtures scattered around the kitchen floor but at least it is usable. Of course the fridge is on the bottom floor. I will have to plan ahead to prevent multiple trips up and down two flights of stairs.

I decided to make Cream Pea Soup. The recipe was contributed by Mrs. R. Von Pirch for the 1906 Berlin Cook Book. Both the Kitchener and St. Jacob’s Markets had peas already shelled and in convenient packages. I suspected that Mrs. Von Pirch was not able to buy peas in this form in 1906 so I hunted down some peas still in their pods and bought those instead. Shelling peas outdoors is one of those timeless pleasures. I sat on the front step of my city home among a few flowers that have survived drought, and watched people and traffic go by, much like I imagine the residents of my home have done for the past 120 years. The traffic and clothing have changed but even in 1912 there could be the occasional auto among the horse-drawn vehicles.

Once the peas were shelled I measured and discovered I had one cup of peas (1/2 a pint) so this recipe is cut in half. That suits me fine as I’m hesitant to try it. Peas are not my favourite vegetable. I put the peas on to boil in a little water. I wasn’t sure how long to boil them but since the recipe mentioned mashing them through a sieve I decided they needed to be soft. While they cooked I pondered how to cut an egg in half. Solution? Beat the egg and then pour off half of it! It worked perfectly. I add one cup of milk before adding the egg/milk mixture to the drained peas. I decided half a walnut of butter was about a teaspoon. I sprinkled in some parsley, salt and pepper and kept stirring. I mashed the peas against the side of the pot as I stirred so that I ended up with a combination of whole and mashed peas. I would suggest removing the soup just before the boil as mine did start to curdle. The soup looked more appealing than I expected but I still needed to taste it.

Mrs. R. Von Pirch was the wife of a very influential minister (from 1882 to 1905) at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church . Susanna Catherine Wagner was born in Toronto and met and married German born Reverend Reinhold Von Pirch there in 1881. I can’t find the couple in either the 1901 or 1911 census so this information comes from the Waterloo Generations website and the home page of St Peters Lutheran Church. Rev. Von Pirch was a minister and professor of German in Toronto before coming to Berlin. He was responsible for starting English language services at St. Peter’s.  In 1889 the couple moved into the new parsonage on Margaret Avenue. Susanna’s husband died suddenly in 1905, probably while this cook book project was underway.

I anticipated this soup would look like the canned pea soup of my childhood. I never found it an appealing colour — that sort of institutional green. Instead this soup looked fresh and it tasted that way too. I was afraid the egg and pea tastes would dominate but it was a good combination along with the butter, milk and parsley. I think this soup would appeal to anyone who loves peas. A modern cook might add the classic mint instead of parsley but other herbs would go nicely too. This is another soup that could time travel.

CREAM OF PEA SOUP
Boil 1 pint of peas until tender, then remove from the stove. Have ready 1 egg beaten into 1 pint sweet cream or milk, stir into the peas, then add a piece of butter the size of a walnut, a little parsley chopped fine, salt and pepper, put back on stove, stir (so the egg does not curdle) until the mixture comes to a boil. Mashing the peas through a sieve improves the soup.

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