It was a rainy day in England, and my husband and I were driving on the freeway when we passed under a bridge with giant white letters announcing: “Give Pease a Chance.” We laughed as the windshield wipers swiped the letters from a filmy blur into clear focus—so typical of rural England to get the spelling wrong. Yet as I shell the peas delivered in my CSA box, I think long and hard that maybe, just maybe it wasn’t a typo after all.
When I was a little girl, I would spend at least two weeks of the summer vacation at my aunt’s house. She lived in the English countryside in a rambling stone home that was full of light, fresh country air and sumptuous smells wafting from the kitchen.
My uncle had a bountiful vegetable garden that provided more produce than they could consume. Much was shared among the small community they lived in, often traded for eggs or milk. There was no freezer, so vegetables were picked just before we ate them and peas were picked in the morning because it took quite some time to shell enough to eat.
At home in my California kitchen, I pick a pod from the CSA bag. My thumbnail finds the little green crease that acts as a zipper, springing open the pod to reveal the perfect globes of sweetness inside. The peas need just a little encouragement to leave the security of their pod and bounce musically into a bowl. Each pea is different—some smaller, some larger; some lighter, some darker. Nothing like two peas in a pod.
As a child, I would sit next to my aunt on the garden step and we would shell peas into her voluminous apron that spread like a hammock across her lap. From there to a colander, then to the pot. While we shelled, we talked; or she told stories, or we recited rhymes. There was a sweet sadness at chore’s end when we had collected enough to eat.
I’m amazed at the clarity of the flashbacks while I shell my own peas. There is something about the tactile quality of the task—the feel, the smell, the color are all part of the experience. I’m seduced into a reverie, recalling tall summer grasses and meadow flowers, dry stone walls and the sound of cows lowing in the late afternoon air. For a moment, I’m a child again, sitting next to my aunt and laughing with her as the peas jump from the pods into the safety net of her lap.
And I think to myself: Maybe “Give Pease a Chance” wasn’t really a typo after all. In this moment, it makes total sense.
Image credit: Dayna McIsaac on Flickr (CC)