Pearly Peas & Frog Princes

Pearly Peas & Frog Princes

Aylin Öney Tan -
Pearly Peas & Frog Princes As a kid, one of the kitchen jobs I enjoyed thoroughly was shelling pea pods. The satin smooth surface of the peas reminded me of pearls and I particularly liked how they looked like a string of beads in the pod. I imagined my little pea beads to be as rare green pearls; I felt as if I was a princess playing with her pearl necklaces from her treasure chest while dreaming about her first encounter with a prince charming on a white horse.  

Of course, thanks to my mother (a half-German), I created an inevitable instant link in my mind connecting peas with princesses and princes. She kept feeding me dark, German children’s stories and Andersen’s fairy tales that either gave one very unrealistic expectations in later life (especially of men!) or afraid as hell, thanks to horror stories inappropriate for little children (for grownups, actually, cannibalistic tendencies of roasting and eating young tender children are definitely ill-advised). It was the story “Die Erbsenprinzessin,” known in English as “The Princess and the Pea,” as one of my mother’s relatively more peaceful stories, which she used as a tool to make me go to sleep. The other story options were like asking for a nightmare; little kids in threat of being devoured by a witch or a wolf or a hunter (or even the prince himself). So that comparatively passive story of a princess disturbed by the existence of a single pea under seven layers of mattresses sealed my instant connection with peas and princesses forever; even when I was a grownup, that story continuously popped up in my mind whenever I was in front of a bowl of peas to shell. It was the only story that evoked hope for the future of the Pea Princess. It also had a lighthearted spring feel to it, perhaps simply because there was a pea involved. I always tried to feel the disturbing pea, pretending that I was unable to sleep but, on the contrary, not matter how I struggled, I always fell into a deep sleep. That reality made me quite miserable; I suffered with the thought that I could never be that restless blue blood girl who would not sleep in imperfect conditions. The naked truth was that I was never going to be the princess; I was doomed to be the pea picker. 

The pea (and its verdant greenness) also reminds me of another very unrealistic story: “The Frog Prince.” The thought of kissing a frog seemed quite disgusting; as a young girl, I kept asking myself, “But, what if the frog is the prince?” One would never know the truth without kissing the frog in the first place! This dilemma kept me wondering, or better to say, wandering around for years to find the one and only real frog or prince charming. 

Later in life I learned that these tales are just tales. There is no such thing like a pea that keeps you from sleep, especially if you’re really tired after a hard day’s work or after picking loads of peas. And I also realized there is no such thing as a frog that turns into a prince. All princes are actually frogs anyway, and frogs remain frogs, no matter how fancy their initial appearance might be! 

So I stopped kissing frogs after a series of errors. My peas never turned into pearls either, but who needs pearls after all? Life can be very satisfying with a bowl of simple, plain peas, perhaps with a little pearl onion, cooked lovingly and tenderly, all alone without the company of a prince or a frog! 

Bite of the Week

Recipe of the Week:
Chop only the white parts of a bundle of spring onions (better if they are a little bulbous like pearl onions, the amount should be the equivalent of one big onion). Stir-fry briefly with a few tablespoons of olive oil. When translucent, add 500g of shelled peas, 1 tsp sugar and ½ tsp salt, stir and add enough water just to cover. Keep in a tender simmer, covered, for about 20-25 minutes. If using frozen, use half the amount of water and reduce cooking time to 10 minutes. When the cooking juices have reduced, add a handful of each finely chopped fresh dill & mint and turn off the heat. Let cool covered and transfer into a serving dish. Serve lukewarm or cold. Enjoy with a glass of bubbly. 

Cork of the Week: I was just going to write about cool dry white wines, when suddenly I thought why settle for less and not go for a luxurious bubbly? June is halfway through the year, why wait for the New Year to indulge in some bubbles. For my dear pea princesses, this one is for you; you may have missed the target when it comes to princes but go for a sparkly made with méthode champenoise and enjoy life, clinking your glass with the cheer “Yaşasın!” This is the name of Vinkara’s wonderful sparkling wine, made with the local grapes of Kalecik Karası in Kalecik, near Ankara. The indigenous red grape Kalecik Karası, like Pinot Noir, has the ability to be applied to white wines; in this case, the grapes worked beautifully in a wonderful sparkling wine made with méthode champenoise. I salute Ardıç Gürsel, the driving force behind this special bottle and say once again “Yaşasın Vinkara” or “Long live Vinkara!”

Fork of the Week: Canned peas just don’t work. The only way to avoid the toil of shelling peas while enjoying them too is to use deep-frozen peas. They have the bonus of being super fresh, a crucial point to have the sweetest peas possible. The natural sugar in the pea starts to turn starchy as soon as the pea is picked, so French chefs always say the peas must be from the kitchen garden directly into the pot, only traveling a couple of meters. One good brand in the pea business is Feast; your peas will be ready in an instant for a feast of spring.