It being cool here at present - ‘cool’ that is, for the sub-tropics - I made pea soup with ham the other day. I made an industrial quantity of it, it being impossible for me to make soup (or anything else for that matter) in small quantities. I thought hard and deeply about the association of pig with peas(e) as I cooked.
The association is very old – it has been common at least since medieval times, it seems. This is presumably because both bacon (or ham) and peas(e) were easily-grown, home-grown, and kept well, so were the meat and veg staples per excellence, for all but the poorest folk.
A dish of ‘bakoñ served with pesoñ’ was listed as suitable for the first course of a feast for a ‘franklin’ (a non-noble landholder) in the mid-sixteenth century Boke of Nurture by John Russell. Staying in the sixteenth century, the nutrition-aware monk and writer Andrew Boorde had clear opinions on both pease/beans and bacon. The pulses, he felt, caused great windiness (‘venostyte’), and the bacon was fit for the hard-working labourers:
“Bacon is good for Carters, and plowe men, the which be euer labouryng in the earth or dunge; but & yf they haue the stone, and vse to eate it, they shall synge 'wo be to the pye!' Wherefore I do say that coloppes and egges is as holsome for them as a talowe candell is good for a horse mouth, or a peece of powdred Beefe is good for a blere eyed mare. Yet sensuall appetyde must haue a swynge at all these thynges, notwithstandynge.”
For the higher classes, bacon was liable to be used in more fancy dishes, for added flavour or fat – or both, as in the following instructions for baked venison, from A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye (c 1545)
To bake Veneson.
Take nothynge but pepper and salte, but lette it haue ynoughe, and yf the Veneson be
leane, larde it throughe wyth bacon.
Quotation for the Day
I had rather be shut up in a very modest cottage with my books, my family and a few old friends, dining on simple bacon, and letting the world roll on as it liked, than to occupy the most splendid post, which any human power can give.