I grew up eating pea soup. My mom and aunts made it all the time, and my Grandma Verkaik made it best. I am pretty sure that her mom made it and that this recipe came across the ocean from the Netherlands, memorized by the minds of my great grandmas. I like to think that they sailed into New York Harbor, gazing at the statue of Liberty thinking of freedom, new opportunities and Pea Soup. I’m sure this isn’t the case, but it’s my story and I can tell it how I want to.
Yesterday I made my family’s pea soup. It starts by boiling a leftover ham bone, so right away you feel resourceful. This is the sort of recipe that takes time, you keep the pot simmering and add to it all afternoon, so that it thickens, but doesn’t burn. If you haven’t had dutch grandma pea soup, you probably think it looks sort of gross. I know it’s thick and greenish yellow and trust me, I didn’t love it when I was younger. In fact I remember a story book my Mom read me about a pair of hippos and split pea soup. The girl hippo, Martha made a ton of pea soup and the boy hippo, George, hated it and tried to hide it all over the house so she’d think he was eating it. I sat on my mom’s lap and empathized with George, pea soup wasn’t really all that great.
But now that I’m a mom, I make pea soup, and the other three Pennys indulge me. Kel is even coming to like it, I think, unless like George the hippo is hiding it in his shoes. When I make this soup I feel connected to my past in a really positive way. When I grate peeled potatoes into the simmering pot I think of all the women I come from who stood over countless pots of soup, thinking about life, love, God, husbands and kids. In good years and bad, my family made this soup. After it was just right they gathered around the table to fill their stomachs and souls with fellowship and warm, green goodness. And probably a side of warm homemade bread.
We all have pea soup type things that bring us back to who we are and where we come from, these are the touchstones that remind us of our rich heritage and history. When you do these things, you can almost touch the roots of connection with your ancestors. Pea-soup type things strengthen and ground us and they give us pride, in a good way. They remind us that generations of people lived life on this earth, they loved and lost and struggled to connect and find God, just like we do every day.
And so even though I get most of my recipes off the internet these days, I always return to my roots and my old school wooden 3×5 card box for this pea soup recipe. This soup is thick and rich and it sustains me and my family in countless ways. I hope you have pea-soup type things in your life and if you do, I hope you go make a big metaphorical pot of green goodness to remind yourself of who are, whatever that looks like for you. Go out and tell the stories of where you comes from to your children so that one day they will have pea soup moments when they remember your faithful strength over simmering pots. Right now they make be more inclined to dislike it and hide it in their shoes, but I assure you someday they will be infinitely thankful that you did.