The life of pea

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There is a hidden war happening on your dinner plate. A desperate battle for supremacy and survival in the midst of your meat and two veg.

The pea wars.

You might not know that this war is going on. It’s a subtle war. A conflict fought in the shadows. A battle between master ninjas.

What’s that – you don’t believe me? Then come with me, my friend, into the murky world of spherification …

Over on the Goodreads “Apocalypse Whenever” forum, I started a discussion about global domination. If you ruled the world, what would you do with all that power?

You have probably spotted my cunning plan. I wanted to entice people to read my new book Global Domination for Beginners. Give them a free sample and then hook them into the full priced book. Mwhahaha.

Then this conversation happened:

Papaphilly: “I am banning peas because they are all little clones planning to take over the world.”

Jennifer: “Oh my pretties…”

David: “I’m with Jennifer – Green Peas Rule!”

Papaphilly: “ANOTHER PEA SYMPATHIZER, OFF TO THE SUCCOTASH FACTORY FOR YOU… and you thought the salt mines were bad.”

David: “Boy do you have a lot on your plate – bet it’ll be harder than you thought to round them up and corral them all! Especially with us green peas sympathizers aiding and abetting them :-)”

The more I thought about this, the more I realised that Papaphilly is right. Green peas are evil … and we have been fighting a war against them for centuries.

Everyone has seen what a unrestricted pea can do. At the merest provocation it will hurl itself from your plate and onto the floor. In our household we call them “escapeas”. The Harry Houdinis of the vegetable kingdom.

Once on the floor, a pea will adopt one of two standard tactics.

The espionage pea will immediately go to ground. It will find any hiding place it can, burrow itself into a corner, snuggle into a foxhole. And there it will lurk – the ultimate pea sleeper agent. It will think dark peapod thoughts and gather dust around itself for camouflage.

The kamikaze pea will stand brazenly in full view. It doesn’t want to be seen. Oh no. It wants to be squished underfoot. Giving up its life for the greater glory of peakind. Pea martyrdom.

And the most noble and glorious end for a pea is to be squished by a naked human foot. Especially if it can insinuate its green gooeyness between your toes. And double points if it can leave an indelible stain on the carpet.

Of course, mankind has fought back. One unknown soldier wrote this:

I eat my peas with honey.

I’ve done it all my life.

It makes them taste quite funny,

But it sticks them to my knife

This has mistakenly been thought to be a humorous ditty, sometimes attributed to Ogden Nash or AA Milne. In fact, it is a haunting war poem which speaks of a lifelong conflict against a pitiless enemy. Contrast the aching endless pain of “I’ve done it all my life” with the anger and brutality of “it sticks them to my knife”.

This conflict between man and pea has helped to drive the development of human civilization.

Neolithic man tamed the wolf – our first domesticated animal – solely so that he would lie under the supper table and hoover up any scraps of food which fell there. The domestic dog was trained, first and foremost, to be a pea hound.

The agricultural revolution was driven by the urgent need to invent cooking sauces in order to trap peas on the plate. Honey, gravy, ketchup, mayonnaise, béarnaise, sauce tartar – all these were invented to keep the pea menace in check.

From that came the need to explore, to find new sauce ingredients. The lead to the discovery of Asia and from there to America. Christopher Columbus wasn’t searching for a new continent. He was looking for a shortcut to get the spices he needed for anti-pea cooking sauces.

The industrial revolution brought new weapons against the round green foe. Food processors blitzed peas into soup. The grimy north of England invented mushy peas to eat on t’way home from t’dark satanic mills. The effete south did the same thing but called it pea puree. And charged the equivalent cost of a row of terraced houses oop North for the pleasure.

There was a time when every single cookery programme on the television featured the same dish. Pan-seared scallops on black pudding served with pea puree. We all thought that it was a tried and tested dish that could be knocked up in less than five minutes with the minimum of skills. Actually it was just the latest salvo in the pea wars.

You can’t roll now, you little so-and-so’s, can you?

Then peas fought back. It was inevitable, I suppose. Their own side of the arms race. Just when we thought we had the measure of common or garden .. ahem … garden peas, along came the French resistance.

Les petit pois.

Do you see their cunning plan? Hiding behind the exotic foreign name are dwarf peas. Pygmy peas. Ickle baby waby peas. Aw, they’re so cute.

And deadly. What you don’t realise is that petit pois have double the quantity of pea by unit for a given mass of pea-age. In other words, more peas on the plate. More escapeas.

You see, they are only pretending to speak French so that they can escape. And this time they want to organise a mass break-out. This is the Great Escape on your dinner plate, only without Steve McQueen trying to jump over a barbed wire fence on a motorcycle.

I have saved the worst til last. There are rumours of a super-pea. Very advanced. Very tough. A cyberdine model T-800 terminator.

Or maybe that should be a peaminator?

This latest horror comes from clever chefs with too much time on their hands and in need of something new for their next television series. It goes by the name of spherification. In some hidden lab, they take a batch of ordinary peas …

… blitz them into a goo …

… then drop them into a vat of some top secret liquid …

… so that they form tiny balls of pea material. Pea-shaped balls of pea. They look like peas. They taste like peas. They are shaped like peas. But they are not peas.

And the mad scientist who invented this? He goes by the name of Heston Blumenthal …

heston

… who you have to admit looks a bit like a pea himself.

Be afraid, my friends, be very afraid.

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