a real mess of peas // the first messpin it!a real mess of peas // the first messpin it!a real mess of peas // the first messpin it!peonies + pea shoots // the first messpin it!

“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 :)

Big hugs,

dill for dressing // the first messpin it!mise en place // the first messpin it!a real mess of peas // the first messpin it!sprouts // the first messpin it!a real mess of peas // the first messpin it!
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

salad ingredients:
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.

  • Kathryn19/06/2013 - 4:58 am

    Big hugs to you Laura. I know that the thing I most value about you and this space here is your sense of perspective; you make me feel like I’m looking at the world in a totally different way. It challenges me for sure but it also helps me grow. Keep doing what you’re doing and embrace all the excitements in your life.ReplyCancel

  • Emma19/06/2013 - 7:14 am

    I love reading about your inspirations and how the first mess came to be. Those “messy situations” can be challenging but they’re so essential for personal growth.
    Thank you for this beautiful mess of peas, and to M.F.K.Fisher for inspiring you!ReplyCancel

  • thelittleloaf19/06/2013 - 8:13 am

    Congratulations on two years of blogging! Not everyone is going to love every recipe you post, but every recipe you post is YOURS, an expression of your personality and taste and place in the world. It’s a beautiful place. Here’s to the next two years and many more!
    ps I’ve made lots of your recipes and they’ve all tasted fab.ReplyCancel

  • Claire19/06/2013 - 9:10 am

    I’m glad “hot-messyness” is an official state of being, and that someone else appreciates the value of the cheap things in life as much as they do the fancy ones. Balance = happy.

    This post made me smile real hard.ReplyCancel

  • I love this artistic mess. I want to clean it by eating :)ReplyCancel

  • Christine19/06/2013 - 10:09 am

    This is so beautiful! It sounds like a wonderful summersalad, Laura! And the photography is just lovely! Can you tell me what wood specie you used in the first picture? :-)


    • Laura Wright19/06/2013 - 10:12 am

      Hey Christine,
      Thanks for your comment! And you mean like species/type of wood? I have no idea. It’s just scrap in my backyard :) Sorry I can’t be more specific.

  • Caitlin19/06/2013 - 10:33 am

    love this post. love this salad. and definitely relate on all levels. xo.ReplyCancel

  • elissa19/06/2013 - 10:53 am

    the mess of peas look delicious, and reminds me of how I’m hoping peas will finally be at the market this weekend.
    am making a move towards a new mess in life (a positive & challenging one) and found this post something to relate to.
    (for me, it is Miller High Life that soothes me in its regular old simplicity and refreshing comfort)ReplyCancel

  • Eileen19/06/2013 - 12:53 pm

    This has to be one of the prettiest salads ever made! Such a perfect mix of all the greens and delicate new potato. Quick-pickling the shallots is a great plan. And I definitely need to try this dressing–not least because I have half a bunch of dill waiting in our crisper! :)ReplyCancel

  • leslie19/06/2013 - 1:16 pm

    I love your first mess! I share your recipes from time to time via FB, and find new ways to mix and present fresh produce with each of your posts. my hands down fave is your summer panzanella – love the video! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve torn up kale and toasted my own croutons for that salad (it’s a meal in itself), and my friends and family look forward to me bringing it to picnics and potlucks. thanks for taking the time for this site, and I really think that buying a home is just another natural step along the way. salud!ReplyCancel

  • Ashley19/06/2013 - 2:34 pm

    I absolutely LOVE what you do here. You freaking rock. xoReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth19/06/2013 - 3:00 pm

    Currently feeling frazzled, but can always count on coming here for a little assurance. Assurance that messes are good, Coors Light has a place, ZZ Top rules, and salads can be unruly and delicious and beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Eva | Adventures in Cooking19/06/2013 - 3:07 pm

    Stunning photos in this post, really and truly. I love the way you write, too. Such warmth and honesty. I am saving for a house at the moment and I know I will feel the same way once we purchase one. It will be such a crazy feeling to actually own a piece of land and not have to rent anymore. Especially a kitchen of one’s very own to customize…ReplyCancel

  • Kankana19/06/2013 - 3:22 pm

    It’s a glorious mess, one I could stare and hang up my kitchen wall. Lovely summer meal and peas are my any time fav!ReplyCancel

  • Harriet19/06/2013 - 5:24 pm

    That dressing! Creamy dill sounds awesome. Peas/potatoes too.

    Thanks for such a lovely, honest post – blogging is a weird thing, and I can definitely relate to you sticking with it and pushing through.

    Now I need to make that dressing!ReplyCancel

  • Katie19/06/2013 - 5:55 pm

    I love this. And I love the quote about the peas – I’m still eagerly waiting our first mess (should be any day now, though)! I think your work here is beautiful and I’m glad you’re sticking with it. Also, although everyone is entitled to an opinion, sometimes people on the internet are just plain dumb, at least that’s what I’ve found. Congrats on two years!ReplyCancel

  • Jessica19/06/2013 - 10:42 pm

    Would love a Jimmy Kimmel Mean Tweet segment devoted to angry recipe haters from the street.ReplyCancel

  • sara forte19/06/2013 - 11:13 pm

    we are doing MORE than fine. I love this space and your writing and your food. Keep at it, lady. Also, acidulated? Ok yes.ReplyCancel

  • Kasey20/06/2013 - 12:51 am

    I love this so much. Amen to forgetting that something is under the broiler, swearing at the waffle iron, and choosing to drink something completely un-gourmet, at times. Love to you, love your voice, love your site. xoReplyCancel

  • Cyndi20/06/2013 - 9:17 am

    Stumbled upon your Blog recently & fell Madly in Love! It feels like I’m my kitchen. Your photos and preparation details are Fabulous. Thank You for Providing us Foodies with your Inspiring Recipes and Photos. Cheers!ReplyCancel

  • Lindsey20/06/2013 - 9:41 am

    This is so beautiful. I know from experience, it’s not easy making messes this pretty. Bravo!ReplyCancel

  • Nourish Your Roots20/06/2013 - 4:52 pm

    I absolutely love what you wrote here. So real and honest. And I just wanted to say thank-you for this space. Your work is beautiful and inspiring. Keep it up, girl. You rock.ReplyCancel

  • Anjali20/06/2013 - 9:58 pm

    I really really love this post. YES to messes and being real and Trader Joe’s brand beer and Nescafe. (Thanks for the shout-out!)ReplyCancel

  • Hannah21/06/2013 - 12:16 am

    Acidulated! Yes. Laura congratulations on two years – drink a Coors Light, or maybe a nice chai, and toast yourself and all your hard work in making this blog such a deeply thoughtful, beautiful, and welcoming place. (And congrats on a new home, maybe, too? Exciting.) Keep on with it – we’re all glad to be here with you.ReplyCancel

  • […] A Salad with All of the Peas, Potatoes, Acidulated Shallots + Creamy Dill Dressing – The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

  • Shira21/06/2013 - 5:29 pm

    Fabulous post Laura…in all its glorious messiness! Congrats to you. Your blog is easily one of my very faves.ReplyCancel

  • Kiran @ KiranTarun.com23/06/2013 - 4:11 pm

    If this is mess, it’s definitely a beautiful one :)ReplyCancel

  • hungryandfrozen24/06/2013 - 2:56 pm


    – I enjoyed what you said about home ownership. I guess the one thing about having your own piece of land and property is that you can up and leave any time you like, and you’ll still have a nest to fly back to. A nest that’s all yours. Which is rather lovely.
    – I love how beer-hang can describe both the act of hanging out and drinking beer with people and also the morning after.
    – This salad is utterly beautiful, the most gorgeous mess of peas ever!
    – Two years?! Time for me to trawl your archives. Well done you, and I’ll look forward to reading this (or whatever you may be writing) for years to come.ReplyCancel

  • SouthernSpoonBelle24/06/2013 - 6:15 pm

    Don’t abandon the site! I would be so sad– really look forward to your creative, fresh recipes and honest prose (you are an excellent writer). Glad that you’ve found it a rewarding creative outlet, & this reader appreciates the energy you pour into it!ReplyCancel

  • Kelly25/06/2013 - 2:20 pm

    Gosh lady pea,
    You are amazing and I am glad you are here, even if I only recently found you. Plus, thank you so much for this cashew-dill dressing. I recently moved and a beloved restaurant I left behind had a salad with a cashew-dill dressing. I’ve tried to recreate it several times and I’ve come close… but this looks spot on.ReplyCancel

  • Ashlae26/06/2013 - 12:17 am

    Lady. D A M N. Love this post + your humble nook of the web, and I CANNOT wait to drink a Coors with you and your man when you’re out here this winter.

    BIG <3ReplyCancel

  • Irina @ wandercrush26/06/2013 - 1:48 pm

    Ah this is beautiful, Laura. Those peas are so delicate! A few of ours sprouted accidentally in the refrigerator, my flatmate ended up planting them and nurturing them all the way through a new life cycle! This definitely inspires me to use them in a recipe soon…
    It’s always encouraging to hear more about your blogging journey :) Thanks again for that kind email you sent me a few weeks back.ReplyCancel

  • Courtney West01/07/2013 - 12:15 pm

    Congrats on 2 years! Your blog is always such an inspiration of delicious veggie goodness. The lead photo for this post is stunning! I’m going to have to seek out a mess of peas and maybe some M.F.K. Fisher to go with it :)ReplyCancel

  • Rosie03/07/2013 - 5:19 pm

    I just can’t get over how gorgeous your photos are. Seriously seriously beautiful. The dish sounds crazy delicious, too!

  • B-ron11/07/2013 - 11:24 pm

    I just pulled up a bunch of new potatoes from my garden for this recipe…I’ve never grown potatoes before and it was a total blast digging around to find these sweet little tubers hidden in the damp soil. I’ve been trying out your recipes for a while now and every single one has been ballin’. Fo reals. Thanks for sharing your awesome food thoughts!ReplyCancel

    • Laura Wright15/07/2013 - 9:30 pm

      Loved this comment, truly. I just dug our first potatoes today :) Thanks B-ron!ReplyCancel

  • […] Why “The First Mess”? Laura explains this in her latest post. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] serve these with are endless. How about: garlicky tahini, hummus, pesto, coriander cashew cream, creamy dill dressing, or a chunky tomato relish? There’s a lot you can do with them, and I think that’s a […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Rich + Creamy Dill Dressing by, The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

  • […] Here’s another simple and healthy recipe that only sounds fancy. Don’t be fooled by the big words, just put it in your mouth.Recipe source. […]ReplyCancel

  • […] A Real Mess of Peas.  A beautiful mess of green, and that creamy dill dressing.  Yes, please. […]ReplyCancel

  • Nikki13/03/2015 - 5:04 pm

    Insanely beautiful post – loved the writing, the photos are exquisite, and I will be making this next week and I am sure it will be as delicious as it looks! Thank you!!!ReplyCancel

  • […] A Real Mess of Peas […]ReplyCancel

  • […] A Real Mess of Peas with Creamy Dill Dressing by The First Mess […]ReplyCancel

  • […] a real mess of peas […]ReplyCancel

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