I know, my title today has been sooo overused, but … it’s coming up on the Fourth of July and this is the time of year when New Englanders get all giddy over the first fresh, locally grown, vegetables of the year – PEAS! If you’ve spent a long cold winter eating canned and frozen veggies – or even home preserved veggies from last summer – the thought of early peas is overwhelming, almost orgasmic (with no offense intended and in spite of our normally reserved nature). We start to see the signs on farm stands – “fresh peas.” We stop and run our hands through the bins of pods. We select a pound or two and cart them home almost furtively. The first sniff of summer comes when we start popping open the pods and use our thumbs to push the plump and precious peas from pod to catch bowl. Children are drawn to the ritual and can always be counted on to help – there’s something primal about it. There’s the baptism of rinsing away the bits of field debris and “bad peas” under the faucet. The peas are covered with cold water in the pot and a touch of salt added, along with just a smidgeon of olive oil. We step away to allow the pot to come to a full boil (a watched pot never boils, remember?) then hover nearby for a few moments, carefully watching the peas rolling in the boil, ready to take them off the heat the second we see the subtle transition from raw green to bright, not too hard, not too soft, just right GREEN. In haste now, barely restraining ourselves from digging in, we drain our perfect peas, toss ’em back in the pot to melt butter over them, shaking the pan to be sure each little globe is coated. Just a pinch of salt and pepper and the peas are ready to be dished out. The first batch is always eaten in appreciative silence and rarely as part of an actual meal – these are the reward for making it through another year.
Everett and I were ready to retire, but didn’t take off on our RV adventures until March – well after the worst snows and freezes of the winter. We earned our 2013 peas with hours of snow shoveling and slippery roads and bundling up with coats and scarves and gloves and boots. This year’s peas were shucked at the picnic table on our campsite instead of our own back porch, but there was something even sweeter than usual about them. THIS year, we don’t have to rush back to work after the holiday. We don’t expect to ever have to shovel snow again. Oh, I get butterflies in my belly thinking of that, but I do wonder – will we still appreciate the first peas of summer 2014 without the winter experience? I’m willing to give the peas a chance.