Fresh Pea season has arrived, the long anticipated and celebrated sign that spring has sprung. They already have a strong foothold on our menu. Prep cooks, line cooks, servers, dishwashers, managers and children of all the above are assuming the familiar position, that of a whittler on a stoop, stripping the adorable little quadruplets, quintuplets and sextuplets from their cozy little hammocks. They will soon receive the praise they well deserve on the plates of our finest restaurants and home kitchens. So they don’t need me to sing their praises. Instead I’d like to give a shout out to their humble supermarket bumpkin cousins, the frozen peas.
I just LOVE the little suckers. I can safely say that there is NO other frozen vegetable that I have eaten voluntarily (we’ll explore my unnatural and sacrilegious love of canned vegetables another time), but I always have a bag of frozen peas in my home freezer. And I have served them with pride, and a little trepidation, in my restaurant for years. The trepidation comes from knowing that there will be at least a few customers that believe without doubt I am doing this because I am frugal, or because I have no respect for fresh vegetables in a city that worships at the altar of the farmers’ market.
Aside from telling you that it’s rude to judge others, I will also offer my defense of the green giant and his colleagues in this matter alone.
Who of us, when shucking the hours away, has not treasured the particularly small peas, the ones we come across in maybe one of ten pods, for their uncommon subtle sweetness. These little treasures only hint at the sublime juicy pop of the frozen pea; little miracles of our modern obsession with convenience that defy all logic. No other preserved vegetable or fruit even comes close to competing with its own fresh counterpart. These little guys are somehow magically transformed, as if being gently encased in a magic ice chrysalis, their little starchy insides going through some supernatural liquidizing metamorphosis. They emerge from the microwaves, or in our case from a gently warmed salty, buttery bath, with a sweetness…a tenderness that no mortal vegetable can ever hope to attain.
Perhaps we can all agree to allow the frozen pea to be its own entity, separate from the noble plant from which it is derived; like the caper, or the Swedish fish. And I’ll continue to serve them proudly in my restaurant, just not during pea season. Let’s give the fresh guys a month or so to feel like they’re the best peas in town.