Peas

April 12, 2011

Yep, you read right: This is a post about peas… It all begins, really, with our friend [k] going on about one of her favourite topics, the ecological footprint. One of the things she mentioned when we talked to her a little while ago was how extremely bad deep-frozen products are for the environment. I must admit I’d never been aware of this, but it’s quite self-evident once you actually start thinking about all the energy that is needed to flash freeze something and then keep it frozen until it reaches the consumer. Well, I guess it’s a good thing [m] and I hardly ever buy deep-frozen stuff, anyway ;-)

The one thing that you’ll (almost) always find in our freezer, however, is a pack of peas. We wouldn’t dream of buying any other vegetable deep-frozen rather than fresh, but with peas, you know, it’s just so much handier when you don’t have to buy them in pods and painstakingly take them out of the pods yourself. Besides, I always figured, it’s rather hard to get fresh peas in Vienna, anyway…

But just a few days after our discussion with [k] I found a batch of them in our local supermarket, so maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough. The problem is, though, that according to the label those “fresh” peas were grown in the South of Italy, so with transport and everything I’m afraid they’ll have a rather large ecological footprint of their own. I bought them anyway, mostly because it’d been ages since I’d last eaten peas fresh out of the pod and I suddenly realized how much I’d missed that.

When I was a kid, even when I was a teenager, we always used to have fresh peas in our garden. There were so many of them that we’d harvest them in huge bowls and then, in the evening, my mum, my sister and me would sit down in front of the TV to take them out of the pods. This was a slow and painstaking job and I always found it rather annoying. On the other hand, it had a certain ritual quality to it, so in some strange way I liked it. And somehow, I realize, I miss that, too…

So yes, this was a post about peas. They may not seem too exciting to you, but in some weird way I’m really fond of them. Isn’t it strange how even vegetables assume meaning once you attach memories to them?

Exile on Zen St.

December 22, 2010

Traditionally, around the beginning of December, [m] and I put up some Christmas decorations around the apartment*, start listening to Christmas-y music**, and spend every free minute doing loads and loads of Christmas baking. Well, not this year…

This year, for a number of reasons, we simply didn’t have any free minutes for most of December. Which means: No Christmas decorations, no Christmas music, and no Christmas baking. While this is certainly a pity it wouldn’t actually be a problem, unless, of course…

The problem is that both [m] and I come from regions and from families with a strong tradition of Christmas baking, and as our families will receive many visits from friends and relatives over the holidays there is indeed a need for cookies and pastries to offer to all the guests. But while [m]’s mum is a prolific baker herself, my mum isn’t. In my family all the Christmas baking has always been done by my grandma who comes from the “more than anyone could possibly eat”-school of baking. However, she’s not getting any younger and her age is beginning to show, so her output of Christmas cookies has drastically decreased over the past few years. And that’s why my mum has come to rely upon me (and [m]) to cover our family’s Christmas baking.

So, feeling a certain sense of obligation, these past few days I squeezed in what is best described as a last minute baking marathon. I was hoping that as soon as I’d made myself comfortable in the kitchen and put on some Christmas music, the spirit of the season would come over me and I’d be all jolly, ho-ho, baking along like Santa and his elves or something like that.

Unfortunately, that plan didn’t quite work out. In retrospect, it might have had to do with my choice of music: Perhaps, the Stones’ Exile on Main St. isn’t such a perfect Christmas album after all…

Fortunately, though, something even better happened: Once I’d began weighing flour, beating egg-whites, adding sugar, etc. etc., my mind switched to a Zen-like baking mode where I became so immersed in the baking that everything else became marginal and unimportant except for me and the dough my hands were kneading that very moment. So, in the end, what had looked like a dire and stressful obligation, turned into a joyful and relaxing experience. Ah, Edward Espe Brown would be so proud of me…

* No, nothing fancy, just some fir branches and some old fashioned “straw stars”, i.e. star ornaments made of thatch…

** No, nothing corny… Usually, we settle for Long Ago & Far Away by Charlie Watts which isn’t even a proper “Christmas album” but just a collection of old jazz standards that somehow emanates a cozy feel we find suitable for the season. Also, in my opinion, it’s the best solo album any of the Rolling Stones has ever done. Oh, and don’t worry, Charlie doesn’t do the vocals himself… But I’m digressing…