We are back for a final visit to Gawthorpe House in the Elizabethan era, and today we are going to sample peasecods.
Peasecods (peas-in-pods, or pea-shucks, or pea-pods) are mentioned several times in the household manual of the Shuttleworth family. The idea of eating pea-pods seems to have been found, lost, and found again over the centuries. Certainly when I was growing up in the North of England in the 1950’s I have no recollection at all of anything resembling “snow peas”, although I do seem to remember hearing references to “pea pod wine”.
There are recipes for “pescoddes” in several medieval cookbookd, but they are actually for small marrow-filled pastries that resemble peas in a pod. The small hard field peas that provide us with the dried peas (or pease) that we use for pea soup would hardly have been appetising to eat whole and fresh. When “garden peas” were developed by clever horticulturalists in the seventeenth century, the well-to-do went wild for them, as we have seen in a previous story. The French seemed to have maintained an early monopoly on the idea of eating them whole, if we are to believe the fine scholar and author Peter Lund Simmonds, who wrote in 1862
“We do not cook our peas in the pod, or eat the pods as they do in France … supplied to milch-cows in the metropolis during the season … the pea-shells have been recommended as a paper material and they have been used for distilling from in France.”
And perhaps the French were even first to use them to make alcohol. The English Farmer’s Magazine of 1858 says:
“The French are even utilizing their pea-shucks: they have discovered, so it is said, that pea-pods yield alcohol as abundantly as the beet-root, or pumpkin.”
Meanwhile, as the wealthy nibbled at peas in the pod, the peasants continued to use the hard dry pease in a number of ways:
Oatmeal and Pease Bread.
To a peck of pease flour, and a like quantity of oatmeal, previously well mixed, by passing the two flours through a sieve, add three or four ounces of salt; knead into a stiff mass with warm water ; roll out into thin cakes ; and bake in an oven. In some parts of Lancashire and Scotland, this kind of bread is made into flattened rolls, and they are usually baked in an iron pot.
The complete confectioner, pastry-cook, and baker, by Eleanor Parkinson, 1844
And Pea soup is still a winner: if you want to value-add to your pea soup, add pea soup flavouring.
Pound together in a marble mortar half an ounce each of dried mint and sage, a dram of celery seed, and a quarter of a dram of cayenne, and rub them through a fine sieve. This gives a very savoury relish to pea soup and to water gruel. A dram of allspice, or black pepper, may be pounded with the above, as an addition, or instead of the cayenne.
The cook and housekeeper's complete and universal dictionary, by Mary Eaton, 1822
Quotation for the Day.
"To eat, to love, to sing, and to digest; in truth, these are the four acts in this opéra bouffe that we call life, and which vanishes like the bubbles in a bottle of champagne."
Gioacchino Rossini (1792-1868)