“And then on May fifteenth, a balmy sweet day if ever I saw one, my seeds went into the warm, welcoming earth, and I could agree with an old gardening manual which said understandingly, “Perhaps no vegetable is set out in greater expectancy…for the early planting fever is impatient.”
A week later I put in another row, and so on for a month, and they did as they were meant to, which is one of the most satisfying things that can possibly happen to a gardener, whether greenhorn and eager or professional and weatherworn.
Then came the day with stars on it: time for what my grandmother would have called “the first mess of peas.””
When I settled on the title of this site, I had been poking around some works by M.F.K. Fisher quite a bit when I hit on that little passage in An Alphabet for Gourmets. It was perfect. Tracing that little slice from her life that would come every year. It said everything that I needed it to. Sure, it nods to the embrace of change in the fields, bringing that shift into your home and being grateful for what you can grow right where you find yourself in this world (total freedom, in other words). It says a lot more about how I find myself here, traipsing along with all of you too.
I generally eschew the designation of “expert” in any context, including food and food preparations. I screw things up a lot: not getting a recipe concept nailed in the initial trials, adding too much salt, forgetting that something is under the broiler, swearing at the waffle iron in a predominantly chill brunch setting. I post things here that people straight up tell me they do not like. First attempts, first forays, first fuck-ups, first harsh criticisms, first rationalizations… They all have their place here and in life.
Any instance of mess means having your feet on the ground, and your hands in the work. That one was obvious, but hey.
It addresses this weird spot I’m finding myself in, worrying that buying and owning a home to make many future meals in will change my brain on a cellular level. Those rooms and floors that can hold us up, the land that we’ll find ourselves on… they might force a protective response. I worry that my scattered idealism will fade and stretch towards obsessive safeguarding of what will become undoubtedly 100% ours, that any ideas on what can be in a future sense will be scratched out.
It weirdly highlights my preference for a Coors Light in some casual drinking situations. Sometimes I want to slowly drift into hot-messyness over the course of an afternoon with marginally hydrating refreshment, rather than volunteer tasting notes on some Mercenary Vortex Triple IPA that’s been exposed to wild yeasts in upstate New York. I’ll take a relaxed sinking-in over instances of who’s-drank-what when it comes to beer-hangs. Read also: french fries, iceberg lettuce, Nescafé, ZZ Top and Jim Beam. All of those things are great in context and you know it.
It also points to creative engagement for me. I started this project after much deliberation, all with high intention because, seriously, if people are going to let you into their lives in some tiny sense you better make it good. I seek other channels to fuel inspiration for this space often, and it helps tremendously. A real-life scheduled job, music, books about alternate realities, films about wars, travel, extreme landscapes; there’s always something there. Right now, I’m certain that if I abandoned the site, I would be a person without dreams (is that corny/dramatic? Whatever.). When you push yourself to live and die by the project, the approach feels new and refreshingly frenzied every time. It’s helped me grow a lot.
Anyway, all of this is just to say thanks for sticking with me. Two years of many kinds of messes later, and it feels like we’re doing just fine :)
A REAL MESS OF PEAS
Print the recipe here!
NOTES: The dressing is your friend here. It’s so good. Tangy, lightly sweet, flecked with dill, creamy but not in a ew-it’s-still-coating-my-tongue kind of way. Make it for this salad or make it for other stuff, seriously. I also “acidulate” the shallots to soften their bite a bit–just covering them in vinegar while the rest of the salad happens. Super simple technique, super delicious results.
acidulated shallots ingredients:
1 small shallot, cut into thin half moons
1/4-1/3 cup red wine vinegar
creamy dill dressing ingredients:
1/3 cup mixed raw cashews + sunflower seeds (I’d say 3/4 of that should be cashews), soaked in water for at least 2 hours
juice of 1/2 a lemon
splash of the vinegar from the shallots
1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp – 1tbsp raw agave nectar/honey
splash of water (enough to get the motor of your blender moving–like 3 tbsp-ish)
fat pinch of salt
lots of black pepper
3-4 sprigs of dill, leaves removed and chopped
8 small new potatoes
4-5 big handfuls of pea shoots
1 cup shelled fresh peas
1-2 cups snap peas, cut in half down the center
handful of snow peas, chopped
additional sprouts if you feel it (I added some radish sprouts)
extra dill to garnish
more salt + pepper
the acidulated shallots and dressing
Place the sliced shallots in a small bowl and cover them with the red wine vinegar. Let the shallots soften up in this until you’re ready to serve the salad.
Make the dressing: throw all of the ingredients except for the dill into a blender and blend on high until you have a creamy, homogenous mixture. Thin out with additional water until you get an appropriate dressing consistency. Pour the dressing into a jar and stir in the chopped dill. Set aside.
Place the potatoes in a small saucepan and cover with cold water. Place them on the stove over medium heat and bring to a boil. Simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain the potatoes, run some cold water over them and set aside to cool.
Arrange the pea shoots on the base of your serving platter. Scatter the acidulated shallots, shelled peas, snap peas, and chopped snow peas on top of the shoots. Cut the cooled potatoes into quarters and arrange them on top. Season the whole thing from up high with salt and pepper. Drizzle the dressing over top. Garnish with additional sprouts and extra dill sprigs and serve it up.