The act of cooking is transformative in so many ways. Unassuming ingredients become a rich and deeply comforting dish. A repetitive chore like washing up the dishes can be meditative, even therapeutic — never underestimate the satisfaction of completing a simple task. Creativity uplifts, even on days when working in the kitchen first seems like drudgery. And the simple act of peeling carrots is a time of connection and celebration as a child learns a new skill.
As I write this, a huge — yes, huge — pot of yellow split pea soup is simmering away on my stove. It’s a double batch that called for my biggest stock pot, the one that I keep in the very back of the corner cupboard, requiring me to all but crawl inside to reach it. The sight of that massive pot on the stove, about two-thirds full of a nourishing, rich and delicious split pea soup, makes me feel in touch with my farm-girl-4H-homemaker roots, and competent, like a good provider for myself and the people I care about. I’ll be freezing jars and jars of this soup for lunches and dinners to come, and sharing them with anyone who’d like to take a container or two home.
Most important, today’s pot of soup represents the future: skills to be carried forward by a new generation, deep bonds forged ever more strongly, and memories formed to savour in years to come.
You see, I made this soup with Little Miss A and Little Miss E, who are five and four years old. They each got to wash their own bag of split peas and then pour them into the pot. We talked about using math in the kitchen and they helped measure out the six quarts of water.
After that, the older Miss A got to peel the carrots for me. It was her first time carrying out this simple task and she did it carefully (safely!) and well. I showed her how I was chopping the vegetables, and my technique for not cutting my fingers. We had a great deal of discussion about the scummy foam that rose up in the pot as the peas came to a boil, and why I was skimming it off. (It boiled over at one point, adding drama to the proceedings.) She helped strip thyme leaves from their woody stems and smelled all the herbs that were going into the pot. We talked about how they add flavour, fragrance and colour as she helped me measure them and added them to the skillet of cooking vegetables. She inspected the smoked pork chops (“Mommy likes that!”) before we added them to the pot.
Just as time will enhance the flavour and thickness of this soup, so will the memories we made today become sweeter and deeper. Miss A talked about how she might make this soup for her mother when she’s ten, and I envision her making it sometime when she’s an independent adult, with the skills and responsibility to feed herself wisely and well. And someday, when I’m very old or no longer here, my granddaughters will remember this time we spent together in the kitchen today, and the love we shared over a pot of split peas and a scattering of carrot peelings on the floor.
Yellow Split Pea Soup with Smoked Pork
Yellow Split Pea Soup with Smoked Pork
© Urban Cottage Life.com
I’ve been making this soup since I found it in the March 2011 issue of Food and Wine magazine, and have adapted it along the way.
- 1 750-gram bag (1.65 lb) yellow split peas
- 3 quarts water
- 2 tbsp grapeseed or olive oil
- 2 celery ribs, cut into 1 cm dice
- 2 carrots, cut into 1 cm dice
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 red chile pepper, minced
- 1 tsp dried marjoram leaves
- 1 tsp dried thyme leaves (triple if using chopped fresh thyme)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
- at least 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper or to taste (for me, that’s lots)
- 1 smoked pork loin chop
I like to pick over the peas to ensure there aren’t any bad ones or debris, and rinse them before using. Add the peas to a large pot along with the water, and bring to a boil. The impurities will form a scum (charming!) and foam to the top, and I like to skim that off with a large spoon. Once the foam starts rising, keep an eye on it because it can spill over before you know it. Simmer the peas for a few minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it stand for an hour.
In a skillet, heat the oil over moderate heat. Add the vegetables, herbs (except the bay leaf), salt and pepper and cook, stirring from time to time, until the vegetables are softened (about 8 to 10 minutes).
Add the vegetable mixture to the pot of water and peas, along with the smoked pork chop and the bay leaf. Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook for at least 2 hours, stirring occasionally. The peas will start to break down and thicken the soup. About 10 or 15 minute before it’s ready, check for seasoning and add more pepper to your taste, and some salt if you feel it’s needed. Remove the bay leaf and the pork chop from the pot. Trim the fat from the chop and remove the bone. Using a fork, shred the meat, then return it to the pot.
Cool and keep in the refrigerator for up to three days or so. The soup will thicken as it chills and the flavour will continue to develop. Once it’s cooled, you can transfer it to freezer containers and keep it for a few months. I like to freeze mine in single portions for easy lunches and dinners.