Shelling Peas


Just say the word, and we’re flooded with images from our lives. For some, it means days on sandy beaches and ice cream that melted away practically before it could be eaten. Others remember family cabins in cool, green woods, where long, dusty roads led to a small local grocery, and allowances were spent on cokes and candy that were consumed on the walk back.

Like everyone else, I have my own set of memories to associate with summer: the deafening din of cicadas. The annual road-trip to visit the Grandparents – with the obligatory stops at Stuckey’s along the way! And bowls overflowing with fat-podded peas.

At the first ‘plink’ of the peas hitting the bottom of the bowl, I am ten years old again, sitting on the back of an old, brown sofa that served as the grandkids’ barstool in my Gram’s big, open kitchen. The bowl in front of me transforms; no longer full of Northeastern English peas, but sturdy Southern purple-hulls or blackeyes. As my thumbs split the pods, I flash back to my grandmother’s deft, strong hands doing the same…

Other times, I remember sultry August nights on the back porch with my own parents. My mother with a bowl balanced on her lap, working away on them as we sat around in those old nylon-webbed lawn chairs, talking, well into the deepening dusk…

My childhood was the South, but I’ve now spent more than a third of my life in New England. Blackeyed peas don’t grow in the short summers here, and no one’s even heard of purple hulls. The traditions here are as different as the landscape. On many picnic tables tonight, there will be salmon, instead of steak. Once upon a long-ago, this would have been peak fishing for it along the Atlantic coast. And, to go with it, bowls of fresh garden peas…

Happy 4th of July, no matter how you celebrate it…

And, Happy Birthday, Dad!


8 thoughts on “Shelling Peas

  1. I also remember shelling peas and snapping beans….freshly cooked veggies, cornbread and new tomatoes and ice-tea (not sweetened)…who needed meat with all those wonderful veggies. Your veggies look wonderful–enjoy them while they last. 🙂

  2. I’m so glad that we had Grams in our lives. Megan and I typed about her not long ago. We both miss her. She taught you to shell peas before you were 3 years old. I think I have a picture.

    Happy 4th to everyone!!

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