Food Friday: Peas


We visited Charleston, South Carolina over Easter. It was a long drive, punctuated by torrents of rain, license plate games, podcasts, a glimpse of King Kong grabbing an airplane in Myrtle Beach, and diverting detours along some country roads as the WAZE app tried to zip us around traffic jams. We saw lots of farm stands, sweet grass basket huts and tiny little barbecue joints with packed parking lots.

Charleston has become a foodie destination. Traditional Southern foods have been rediscovered by the young who are hankering for “authentic” fried chicken, mac and cheese, barbecue, shrimp and grits and delectable biscuits. On another trip to Charleston a few years ago we sought out Martha Lou’s Kitchen on Morrison St. to try the fried chicken of which the New York Times had rhapsodized poetic. A couple of generations of Charlestonians would be horrified to be discovered by the New York Times because they have been lining up for the chicken, collards and corn bread at the tiny establishment for years. It was not a place for crowds, so we were happy that there was room enough for us.

On this Easter road trip, which was a mini-family reunion, we tried someplace new that the Tall One had heard about. We wandered into the Butcher and Bee (also on Morrison St.) expecting conventional Southern cuisine, but found instead a Mediterranean/American eatery with a local food aesthetic that was fairly hip, very friendly and creative. We by-passed the pleasant dining room, and sat outside under budding trees, so the youngest of us could expend some energy in the clever minimalist-designed wooden play area, with restaurant-supplied trucks and toys. There were seven of us, all very particular, and we each tried something different. Among our choices were a pickle plate, hummus (with schug which sent us all scurrying for Google info: Yeminite chile relish), a rice bowl, an Israeli breakfast for two, and even a burger!

I had an early spring salad with snap peas, radishes, fennel, strawberries and lemon buttermilk vinaigrette. (And a side order of fries, because we can only be so healthy.) The addition of the snap peas was a revelation! I have never thought of adding peas to a salad. I have tossed snow peas into stir fry, and English peas into Fettucini Alfredo, but sugar snap peas cold and in a salad, lightly bathed in buttermilk dressing? Genius. They were better than croutons! It was almost as pleasant as memories of childhood, eating peas from the garden.

Tiny little snap pea pods are sweet and crunchy, unlike English peas, which need to be shelled. And snow peas, while you can eat them from stem to stern, have thinner shells and are flaccid, yet are quite deelish in their modest way.

It’s probably too late this year to plant your own peas, but it is worth putting a note on your calendar to start a snap pea farm of your own next March. You can even grow them in containers, so you have more to enjoy than just grocery store basil plants.

Here are some other pea recipe ideas:

If you feel you must cook them:

Buttered Green Sugar Snap Peas

1 pound sugar snap peas
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon shredded fresh mint

Pluck off and discard the string from each pea pod.

Bring salted water to boil; there should be enough to cover peas when added. Add peas. When water returns to a boil, cook about 3 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain.
Return peas to saucepan. Add pepper, salt, butter and mint. Stir to blend until the pieces are well coated and hot. Serve immediately.

If you will try their sweet deliciousness raw:

“If you don’t like peas, it is probably because you have not had them fresh. It is the difference between reading a great book and reading the summary on the back”
― Lemony Snicket

About Jean Sanders

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