Romancing the Pea in Any Given Soup

The very sweetness of the carrot  seemed to reach out and grasp her throat from the inside in much the same way her neck had been grasped from the outside no more than an hour before. And with the same manner the man had of lifting her by her neck while slamming her head against the marble front of the fireplace it left her unable to breathe the single tiniest gasp of air. The sweetness had punctured her in some unguarded place – and though she sat very still, as still as a statue, and made not a single sound, the tears rolled from her eyes in waves, silently drenching the other carrot on the lifted spoon as she bent her head further over the soup so no one would notice.

There are many reasons for not having one recipe for any given thing. Cultural preferences, religion, health, variety, history and emotion all come into play when we think of how to cook what we want to eat, or what we wish to cook for others to eat. The act of creating a ‘personal’ cuisine, no matter how simple or unadorned or stylish it may be, is one of the most satisfying things a person can do in life – that is, if one likes to be in the kitchen at all (and some do not).

My own finished split pea soup (pictured above) is quite simple. There are no carrots in my recipe – but this does not mean that the recipe can not be adapted, fitted to any other number of varieties of tastes! Here then, is the Periodic Table of Split Pea Elements. It is not complete – no list of adaptations of any recipe ever really could be! But it’s a start.

Parts of the Soup and other Elements Interchangable


Ham Stock

Chicken Stock

Vegetable Stock


Split Peas:

Not going to go there today

Flavorings and Definings (Groups):

(Onion or other Allium, Bay Leaf, Celery, Dill, Nutmeg)

(Onion, Thyme, Potato, Carrot)

(Garlic, Cumin, Hot Peppers, Green Tomatoes)

(Onion, Garlic, Dried Mushrooms, Barley, Celeriac, Parnsips)

(Onion, Garlic, Garam Masala, Coconut Milk, Tomatoes, Potatoes, Spinach)

Here are five. It’s a start.

In later years she found that carrots in split pea soup, even with all the sweetness they held in opposition to the strong muskiness of the split peas so much themselves like fog on a narrow London street on a quiet morning when only the sparrows and she were out and about, held the solidly bitter taste of a sea of tears. The memory of the place she had escaped to that day soon after her fourteenth birthday was to be forever clear to her – the very blandness of its exterior, the feel of the awkward pottery bowl, the place where she’d found someone she knew, someone who made homemade soup.


5 thoughts on “Romancing the Pea in Any Given Soup

  1. Leo, I hadn’t heard of Mr. Wong. I appreciate your bookmarking the post. 🙂

    We just finished up the split pea soup last night – I’d frozen half of it . . . thank goodness for freezers and zip-loc bags during busy times.

    Looking forward to your next postcard post!

  2. Upon rereading this post last evening (08/26/2010), I realized more fully the poignancy and powerfulness of your short-short story. You are a gifted writer! — Leo of postcardiness

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