One of my earliest soup memories is of split pea soup. Split pea soup in a can from a place called Pea Soup Andersons in Buellton California.
Now if you've never heard of Buellton California, it's a little town off the 101 on the way from San Francisco to LA. It's familiar to every kid who ever rode in the back seat of their parent's car on the way from San Francisco to Disneyland. Oh, it was also made famous a few years back by Alexander Payne in his amazing film Sideways based on the equally amazing book of the same name by Rex Pickett. Buellton and its' gorgeous surroundings turned out to be the co star of the film. Buellton became known for where you don't drink Merlot, rather than where you do drink/eat split pea soup.
But back to pea soup and Pea Soup Andersons specifically. For years the closest I ever got to the fabled place was the cans of soup I loved. The actual restaurant was just a fleeting blip out the back window of my dad's Chevy as he zoomed toward LA during Summer trips to Disneyland trying to see how far he could get on one tank of gas.
"This is how we did it during the war!" as he flipped off the headlights."so the Nazis wouldn't see us"
Stopping was not an option.
Flash forward a few years (the '80s) I had a car of my own, stopping became an option, and pretty soon Pea Soup Andersons became a regular pit stop on my car trips between family in Northern California and home in LA. I always ordered the pea soup. Until The Event.
One stormy Christmas, driving back from San Francisco to LA in driving rain Alan and I decided to make our usual stop at Pea Soup Andersons. Shelter from the storm and all that, besides my car was making some very weird noises. So we pulled off the 101, tucked into a big bowl of split pea soup, and decided to wait out the weather for a bit.
As things started to clear, we paid the tab and hit the road once again. After Buelton, it's a haul over the rugged Gaviota Pass, and after that a straight shot down hill toward Santa Barbara and home in LA. So we cranked up the Devo (hey it was the '80s) and started out. It happened when he hit the fateful song Time Out For Fun.
The car started freaking out, followed shortly by me. Cold, dark, rain, strong winds and inclement weather makes me want to start building the ark. Alan, who grew up in New York and Connecticut was used to driving in snow. Me not so much. Skiing, yes, but someone else always drove to the mountains. I just slid down them. So I'm a weather wuss. Every time the little snowflake light on my Volvo's dashboard goes on indicating frost, I go all Donner Party on Alan. As the car failed in the mountains I started losing it. I'm not ashamed to say so. Well yes, I am ashamed, but it was a long time ago. The car gasped up the mountain heading for the summit as Devo chirped "Time Out For Fun!"
"Turn that fucking thing off!!!!!!!!" I screamed and yanked the cassette out, (yes, it was the 80's) I flipped it into the back seat.
All I wanted was for us to get to the top of that freaking hill so we could coast down the hill to Santa Barbara and help (the '80's. No cell phones remember?) I never played Devo again. In typical superstitious Italian fashion I also never ordered the split pea soup at Andersons again, though I stopped there many many times in my new car.
Well, I finally broke my split pea soup taboo. Once again bad weather was responsible. It's been cold in Sonoma, very, very, cold. We've had freeze warnings the last several nights and have been trying to stay warm in a house that can get very cold. Central heat does a good job in most of our place but the living room, dining room and kitchen have very high beamed ceilings and there we rely for warmth on a wood stove, and soup.
Last week I suddenly craved split pea soup. Somehow, it seemed the right thing to do as Wilfred Brimly always says. So I made some. Only with all the family stuff going on around here I knew I wouldn't be able to give it my full attention. I'd be running around doing errands and the last thing I wanted was to come home to a cold dark house and start making soup. So I got out the slow cooker. It took about 10 minutes to get the soup put together, and the aroma when I opened the door to the cold dark house 6 hours later made it all worth it. If you've got a slow cooker you can do this too.
Slow Cooker Split Pea Soup
Here's What You Need:
A 1lb bag of green split peas
1 large leek (just the white part) chopped
4 allspice berries
2 bay leaves
1 onion finely chopped
1 large shallot chopped
1 carrot peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery peeled and chopped
4 sprigs of thyme
10 stems of parsley
1 lb of ham hocks or smoked pork w/bone
7 cups of water
salt to taste
pepper to taste
Here's What To Do:
Put the split peas, onion, carrot, celery, shallot, leek, ham, and water into the slow cooker.
Tie the parsley stems and the sprigs of thyme together with some kitchen twine and drop them in also.
Place the allspice berries and the bay leaves into a bouquet garni bag (I use a muslin tea bag) and drop that in.
Put the lid on the slow cooker, and turn it on to the low setting.
Cook for about 6 hours.
When the split peas are softened and everything is cooked down. Take the pork out of the soup. Shred it and set it aside.
Remove the thyme tied to the parsley stems and toss them.
Remove the bouquet garni bag and throw it out.
With an immersion blender or food processor, puree the rest of the soup.
Add in the shredded pork and reheat everything.
Serve it up with croutons (I made some) or not.
It's hearty, filling, warm, and reminiscent of stormy nights at Pea Soup Andersons, without Devo or car trouble of course.
And now the Giveaway. I'd like to share my wonderful discovery of the wonderful Masala Dabba box from the nice people at GitaDini.
It's a great box with twelve stainless steel containers just made for holding whatever you need stashed.
I love this thing and I'd like to offer one to one of you. Even if you don't use it for spices it's great for snacks, candies or serving treats to guests. Plus I love the way it fits right on the counter. Perfect size.
So if you'd like the Gita Dini spice box,and live in the USA just follow them on Twitter at @GitaDiniUSA and me at @kathygori, and leave me a comment letting me know. I'll be drawing a winner on January 31st via @random.org.
Coming up next an Indian twist on party food for awards season, and sporting event weekends. Just follow along on Twitter @kathygori