Friday, February 06, 2015

Decline of the humble pea

I was writing my weekly newspaper column. I was writing about Australia's changing food habits with a dash of my own memories. Then, suddenly, I realised something.

Next day I bailed someone up at work. When was the last time you ate peas, I said? I do so sometimes, she said. I put them in risotto. Frozen, I asked? Of course, she said.

Mmm. And when was the last time you bought fresh peas and shelled them? I don't remember, she said. Years ago.

I asked more people and got similar responses. That, you see, was my discovery. Growing up, we often had peas in the garden that we would shell. When we didn't, we bought them from the green grocer. We did grow and buy beans, but peas were our favourite. Then they started to vanish from supermarket shelves, banished by beans. Even their share of frozen space declined.

Now I wonder just how many Australians under thirty have even tasted a fresh pea. The pea has become another victim of a time poor world.

Go on, when was the last time you ate a fresh pea?


2 tanners said...

Obviously, you're excluding snowpeas, which I ate last year just before leaving Australia (can't get them in Dili, for some reason). But I've had fresh peas (uncooked) in the last three years, bought at the markets. For cooking, I'm not going to waste time and expense (frozen ones are cheaper) for something that is indistinguishable from fresh in a risotto. And as a family that consumes a lot of peas, there's very large amounts of the frozen item in the supermarkets.

Anonymous said...

All Jim is saying is give peas a chance.

Back in January, but I agree with 2t's 'time and expense' comment.


Evan said...

Last night - bought by a friend. But this is rare.

Snow peas seem to have become popular - not sure why.

Anonymous said...

Good to hear Evan. After all the political ructions of late, and the deathly silence from Tas, I thought you guys may have quietly rowed a bit closer to NZ, and joined up as the West Island :)


Jim Belshaw said...

The rise of the snow pea is another interesting phenomenon, 2T. In regard to Evan's comment, they are easy and go with certain types of cooking. From memory, always an unreliable beast, I came to snow peas via Asian food.

I do sometimes buy frozen peas, they are in the supermarket, but their share of shelf space is down in the supermarkets I visit.

Changes in food tastes are interesting because of the way they reflect changes in technology and society. The most commonly quoted example is the changes in diet associated with mass migration, but there have been many, many examples over Australia's short history.

Interestingly, you find diet changes in the archaeological record of Aboriginal Australia that appear to have nothing to do with changing availability of food stuffs, just fashion.

Anonymous said...

"The Decline of the Humble Pea": this is a political metaphor, right? Humble/arrogant, pea-brained, two peas in a pod, sort of stuff?

We are watching you, young Jim :)


Jim Belshaw said...

You are clever to have caught the inner meaning, kvd! This entire conversation has off course been in code and at multiple levels.

Frozen peas refers to the way we like out political ideas, picked from the freezer. We no longer have the time to unpod the ideas. And as for the snow pea, it can be eaten without thought, was new and became fashionable, but is now becoming a little tired.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your peas expain, Jim. It seems to me that the next election will be between the 'eat your greens' party, and the 'greens are good for you' party.

Just where that leaves young Malcolm I don't know; being a centrist sort of vegetable, I expect some sort of mash-up appealing to those who prefer least-worst - be it governments or greens, but definitely not rhubarb.

Meanwhile us mushrooms continue to grow restless here in the dark, and fed on the proverbial.


John Stitch said...

You have a good point Jim. When I was a youngster in the sixties I would sit at the kitchen table with my mother and shell peas out of a brown paper bag (they seem to be making a resurgence) for dinner. Every now and then I would eat one. They were very sweet. I never liked beans though. I still use frozen peas in cooking.

Jim Belshaw said...

Of course, kvd, in a centrist world, eat your greens and greens are good for you are (of course) the opposite side of the same pea. Today the words have somewhat different meanings.

And Malcolm's centrist vegetables would not include peas, they are not Sydney Eastern Suburbs fashionable, unless as a minor additive to a more fashionable mash-up.

This is one of MT's problems with the NBN. We may want peas, but a simple bean should be good enough for most.

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi JS. Very similar memories, although we had a biggish veg garden. I AM GOING TO GO OUT AND BUY SOME PEAS! My impression is that the taste fades quickly with age.

As a sometimes vegetable gardener, I do like fresh beans too. I need to say that or the beanists will accuse me of discrimination.

Anonymous said...

The unfortunate thing about peas is that they need to be shucked.

Shucking basically involves the removal of the outer protective covering, with the hope that something edible, hopefully worm-free, lies within. I've known several great shuckers in my life but, like all occupations, it must be acknowledged that there comes a point when simply shucking for a living is insufficient to justify one's continued employment.

Maybe this is why there appears to be so many under-employed shuckers around at the moment?


Rummuser said...

I live in India! While we can also buy frozen peas, we can get fresh ones in the season, which incidentally is currently the best for green peas. In the season, we have it in different combinations almost on a daily basis. In fact, just about all vegetables are still available from fresh vegetable sellers.

Jim Belshaw said...

kvd, do we replace leaners and lifters with shuckers and non-shuckers?

Hi Ramana. In a different context, I have been writing about the rise of the supermarket. Convenience vs variety. We need our green grocers and fresh food sellers! I really want to get to India.

Jim Belshaw said...

Ramana, it would be quite wonderful to meet you in Sydney. With enough notice and a bit of luck, I might be able to put some thing on at Astrolabe Rd that would give you a chance to meet some of your Australian co0nnections.

Rummuser said...

Will take you up on your invitation when I reach Sydney.