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Hangry Pease Porridge Hot

The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy, 1774, describes the procedure for making pease pudding:

To Make a Pease-Pudding
Boil it til it is quite tender, then take it up, untie it, stir in a good piece of butter, a little salt, and a good deal of beaten pepper, then tie it up again, boil it an hour longer, and it will eat fine.

Actually, the full title is The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy: Which Far Exceeds Any Thing of the Kind yet Published, and it was written and published by Hannah Glasse.

To translate: Tie the peas up in a pudding bag, and boil until the peas are tender, then take the bag out of the pot, untie the bag, and add a fairly large piece of butter, a little salt, and a good deal of ground pepper, then tie the bag up and boil again for another hour.

The rhyme makes its first known appearance in Mother Goose’s Melody in 1760:
Pease Porridge hot,
Pease Porridge cold, Pease Porridge in the Pot
Nine days old
Some like it hot, some like it cold.
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.

In peasant cottages there was no kitchen, just one room with the fireplace where they cooked, ate, worked and slept. Their one kettle hung over the fire, or more likely, sat in the ashes.

They made use of every edible item they could find, and just about everything could go into the pot for the evening meal. This included beans, grains, vegetables and sometimes meat, often bacon.

Like split pea soup, pease porridge starts out as dried peas in a pot of water with spices.  If other vegetables or meat were on hand then those would go into the kettle, as well.

At night, the kettle would be left hanging over the dying fire.  In the morning, the pease porridge was breakfast . . . cold.  More water, vegetables — and meat if they were lucky — would be added to stretch it out for the next meal and then the next and so on and so forth.

I like to sing this little ditty to myself in my kitchen at times. I think I remember the clapping: slap knees, clap hands, high fives, clap hands, back to lap, but I would need a friend to practice with for the ending.

The times I sing this are as follows: when I put the delicious expensive nutritious leftover bones the Garbage Soup Bag in the freezer. When I take the GSB out, and put the bones and fat and onion skins and ends of carrots and so forth into my giant roaster, and simmer in water (with a bay leaf!) for an hour or two.

I know the bone broth is done when I tip a teaspoon in to taste and murmur, “Damn, that’s good.” You can feel the vitamins and minerals coursing throughout your bloodstream.

I now eschew water (not enough fat) and most store-bought stocks (too much sugar) when I start a roast or make a sauce. Here, you can be a food snob like me, too, and know that a sauce is thickened by reducing its water content, and a gravy is made by thickening with flour (poison!) or cornstarch (treason!).

The au jus or sauce is delicious, with layers and layers of flavour, including umami – that savory, meaty mmm-yum you can also get from mushrooms.

I cooked at my sister’s house this July in Winnipeg, and by the end of the week her family had been terrorized enough to say, “I know, I know. Don’t throw out the sauce!” Because it would re-appear a day or two later, making the hollandaise a béarnaise, or lending oomph to fresh pork-and-beef meatballs or livening leftovers.

Not nine days old, and not cold, but still.


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