Split Peas Are Supposed To Be Green
When I was a teenager, the only thing I ever expected from my mother at dinner time was edible food upon arriving home from a tough day of high school.
I wasn’t looking to engage in mundane conversation like, “How was your day, dear? Let’s talk about what happened in school.” I didn’t need a forty five minute verbal advice-of-the-day column spoken by my mother. “I know adolescence isn’t easy. It’s important to keep the lines of communication open. I want you to feel like you can ask me anything.” In all honesty, I’d already gotten all of the information that I could have ever wanted or needed about teen life issues from time spent in homeroom and the girls’ locker room. In my mind, anything mom told me wasn’t going to be news. All I wanted was a meal. I didn’t care if it was baked, battered, or broiled. As long as it was cooked, I was happy. (For the record, my mom, who was a gourmet cook wannabe, was often known to combine these and other cooking methods on a single food item in the course of an evening which, much to the surprise of my taste intolerant peers, was okay with me, most of the time anyway.)
However, there was an instance when I wasn’t so accepting of one of my mom’s culinary creations.
I’ve always been a fan of color. Colorful clothing. Colorful hair. Colorful fingernails. And last but not least, colorful food items, especially on my dinner plate. Who wants to partake of a drab and colorless meal? Mom could experiment all she wanted with types and textures of food, but the day she intentionally changed the color of my favorite legume was the day I felt that she had messed with the natural order of the universe, and someone had to tell her. That someone was me.
I was raised to be unbiased in practically every area of life, even when it came to food. Most kids would have gagged at the mere sight of a lima bean or brussels sprout. My palate, on the other hand, welcomed any vegetable recognizable to humankind. And do you know why I was entirely veggie-tolerant by the age of six years old? It was because my parents taught me the importance of respecting each of the five basic food groups. That along with the knowledge that there would be the strict penalty of no evening television watching privileges if I didn’t eat every morsel on my plate was incentive for me to develop an appreciation for anything that even remotely resembled food.
What puzzled me on that fateful day was when I walked into the house after school and mom was wearing an apron over her blouse and slacks. In my sixteen years of life, I’d never seen her in an apron. I didn’t know she owned one. It was odd to witness my mom, a forty-something woman, wearing an apron over a long sleeved blouse and polyester slacks. I wondered if she was ill, angry, or had suffered some sort of trauma to her head. “You okay, mom?” I asked. “Sure sweetie. Why do you ask?” “Uh, it’s just that I’ve never seen you in an apron.” She claimed that she didn’t want to risk dirtying her work clothes that she could wear one more day later in the week. But I was suspicious. Something wasn’t right.
“Would you wash your hands and set the table, dear?” she asked. I put four table settings in place while she piled the used cooking utensils in the sink.
My father and brother staggered into the kitchen and sat down in their chairs at the table while mom served hearty portions of her latest concoction on four stoneware plates.
“Tell me what you think. The recipe for split pea croquettes just came to me this afternoon.”
When mom handed everyone else their plates, they looked at the contents tentatively but said nothing. And then she handed my plate to me. I looked at it, smelled it, looked at it again, and before I could stop myself, the words leaked out of my mouth like an overturned plastic water bottle. “Mom, split peas are supposed to be green, not brown, and not fried. This is the weirdest dish you’ve ever made.”
And that’s when my evening television watching privileges got revoked for the remainder of my teenage years.
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