1 December 2013

Not Your Nan's Pea Soup

The usual suspects are there: split peas, salt pork, carrots... but taking the opportunity to use up the dregs of last week's wine and the rind from your parmesan adds depth and complexity to this store-cupboard meal.

Never let a bit of snow or a gale-force wind put you off your picnic plans.  If nothing else, you can feel superior to all those people holed up in their houses, eating in their cozy kitchens.  Well, at least if you're going out in that weather, bring something warm.

Pea Soup with Parmesan and Red Wine

salt pork riblets, a small hunk (about fist-sized, if your fist is about the same size as that of a middle-aged woman with small-but-not-tiny hands)
1/2 c. red wine
1 med onion or 3 shallots, finely diced
1 stalk celery with leaves, finely diced
1 big carrot, finely diced
3-4 c. turkey or chicken stock
1-1/2 cups dried green split peas
3 oz. parmesan*, grated + chopped rind

*if you have rind to use up, this is a good place to do it... grate what you can, then coarsely chop the rind; the rind won't melt entirely, but that just leaves delicious bits of goopy chewy cheesiness

Soak salt pork in water for 3-4 days, changing the water once a day.  If you  don't soak it long enough, you will make soup that is so salty, even your girlfriend - who will eat anything - won't be able to finish a bowlful.

Pat the salt pork dry, then brown in olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan or dutch oven.  Remove and set aside.

Saute the mirepoix (onion, celery and carrot) until softened. Deglaze with the red wine.  Return salt pork to pan.

Add 3-1/2 c. of stock, then stir in the peas.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If you are planning to make bread to go with the soup, this is a good time to get started.

Stir in grated parmesan (and chopped rind, if using).  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 2 hours.  Add more stock or water as necessary.  When it's done, the peas will be mushy, the pork will be falling off the bone, and it will be exactly as thick as you like your pea soup.


The Hotel Harbour Grace (formerly Archibald Hotel), as
seen from our window.
Harbour Grace, the semi-rural town where we live, is famous to aviation nerds as the originating airstrip for Amelia Earhart's solo flight across the Atlantic.  (Harbour Grace was the origin of a few important flights in aviation history, briefly described on Plane Crash Girl's blog.)  For us, of course, the most intriguing part of that 1932 flight has very little to do with flying at all.

Before departing, Amelia Earhart took an afternoon nap at Archibald's Hotel.  Archibald's Hotel, now known as the Hotel Harbour Grace, is so close to us, we can see it from the upstairs windows.  As the story goes,  Amelia Earhart left the hotel with a can of tomato juice and a thermos of Rose Archibald's soup to sustain her on the trip. 
The commemorative Amelia Earhart statue in Harbour Grace, Newfoundland.  With our thermos of soup, naturally.


We have yet to find a version of the story which elaborates on that part.  Was Rose Archibald famous for her turkey soup?  Her seal soup?  Her pea soup?  (If anyone reading this can shed some light, we would LOVE to hear from you... caribougrrl is losing sleep over Rose Archibald and her soup.)

Top: The airfield is located very close to Lady Lake, the site
of the second-oldest competitive regatta in North America.
Bottom: Welcome to the airfield, please leave your golf clubs,
horses, and ATVs at the gate.
We don't know what kind of soup Rose Archibald made for Earhart, but in 1932, Newfoundland was generally in pretty rough shape: the Great Depression was in full force and conditions were so poor that, a little more than a month before the famous flight, the un- and under-employed of Newfoundland held a demonstration which escalated into a riot.  The hotel kitchen likely had access to some foods that ordinary Newfoundlanders didn't, but what we do know about food in Newfoundland at the time, is that it definitely included split peas.  So when we made this fancy-ish split pea soup it seemed natural we should take a thermos-full out to the airfield to eat it.  

Top left: A view of the famous airstrip.  Bottom left: A few hobby pilots still use the airstrip on occasion; whether planes are ever stored in these hangars, we don't know.  Right: How long has this outhouse been here?  Is it possible Ms. Earhart had a nervous pee here before her flight?  Surely she'd have had to start with an empty bladder... it's a long way to Derry, Ireland.
Sure, it wasn't May, but Newfoundland weather in May is not so different than Newfoundland weather in early December... a bit of snow on the ground, gale-force winds.  Strangely, as you can see from the photos, despite the significance of the place, there were very few tourists milling about.  (There was a car full of teenagers parked near the airfield, but they never got out.  It occurred to us they might have been there for a flight of a different kind... )

Okay, maybe not quite gale-force, but it was really, really windy.
In the interest of full disclosure, we underestimated the wind chill factor, and were completely under-dressed for the excursion.  After hopping up and down for a few minutes, we realized it would be difficult to eat soup with our hands tucked into our armpits, so we bailed and sat in the car to eat. (The teenagers already gone from the parking lot, presumably frightened off by a pair of middle-aged ladies and a couple of vicious dogs...)  Staring through the windscreen, imagining the ridiculous danger inherent in that trip across the ocean, we were glad of a warm home to go to and especially glad we lived close enough to hop back home before we needed use of the outhouse.


What a handsome dog that lady-pilot has!


Update 7 December 2013:  caribougrrl's obsession with Amelia Earhart's soup finally led to this discovery.  It seems Rose Archibald made a chicken soup that day.  So there we have it.

historical newspaper story about amelia earhart flying across the atlantic
Picture of article found on The British Newspaper Archive http://blog.britishnewspaperarchive.co.uk

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