These words were penned by an unknown Englishman, probably around the 18th century. They refer to the habit of eating peas with a knife, which was considered proper at the time, when people were trying to figure out exactly how to deal with the development of a new invention: the rounded tip, single blade knife. We call it a butter knife today.
Knives of any variety are not the point however, though, coincidentally, it was a study of manners for another blog that led me to an interesting observation:
People have expended a great deal of time and energy into eating peas properly.
I kid you not. Peas, in polite company (at least in the U.S.), cannot be speared and eaten individually. Having tried this, there’s a good reason for it: it doesn’t work all that well. The inside of the pea shoots out of the covering and single peas are tasteless and disappointing when you do manage to pick them up.
Peas, it seems, must be scooped up with the fork and conveyed to the mouth without loosing any of them. Remember the game people subjected you to as a child where you put an egg on a spoon and forced you to run a marathon while balancing it? Imagine that with flat spoon and a bunch of marbles and you’ve nailed the real problem with forks and peas.
But using a spoon is considered too childish at a formal dinner and fingers are out of the question, so we must make do and pretend we care, at least as long as we’re eating with people we don’t know very well.
Why in the world are we eating peas anyway?
Simple reason really: they grow quickly. It was a rather unpleasant surprise for me to discover that, a week after I’d planted them, I had pea sprouts in my seed tray, since none of the other plants had even started to grow yet. Hindsight being 20-20, I should have checked the germination time on the packet before planting them in the middle of the tray. I’d like to say they are hard to kill as well, but the deer ate most of mine and the remaining ones seem to have caught some kind of fungus. I think. They aren’t looking healthy in any case and ‘fungus’ is more fun to say than ‘grubs’ or ‘mold’, which are more likely the cause.
It’s interesting, though – all the fuss that’s made over this little green vegetable. Don’t get me wrong, peas are one of my favorite green foods, second only to green beans (and possibly pears – I do like pears), but it is silly that people get upset over one or two rouge ones that escape being scooped up with the fork. It surprises me that no one has invented a utensil specifically for dealing with them (though I did hear rumors of some kind of little shovel like implement), but that still strikes me as excessive. All this nonsense just to enjoy peas.
By the way, I find covering them in wasabi or chocolate criminal and a waste of good peas. And good chocolate.