Los Angeles has been experiencing an uncharacteristic cold snap. The temperature in my canyon has dropped precipitously into the 30s at night. (It actually happens every year and every year we insist on calling the idea of cold temperatures in the winter "uncharacteristic." It's an L.A. thing.)
It's also about this same time each year that I get the urge to make some soul-warming, comforting pea soup. The urge struck last Sunday, a day with no soccer games (something that is genuinely uncharacteristic) and only two holiday events and one kid who needed a lift anywhere. Cold weather, available time, and the fact that pea soup is easy to make if you have the ingredients in the house is kind of like winning the Trifecta. And I had everything in the house but the dried peas, which is about as close as life gets to perfect.
My Dear Husband volunteered to go to the market after dropping our daughter off.
The only problem is, my DH -- a wonderful man with many fine qualities -- is genetically incapable of finding dried peas. You can put him in any market in any part of the world and he will not be able to find dried peas. It's a proven fact. He will ask for help, have dried peas placed in his hand, and then when the clerk turns his back, DH will inexplicably experience a wave of self-doubt and return them to the shelf and come home with frozen peas. It's just how it is. Once, when we were in Amman, Jordan, he spotted what he thought were dried peas at an open-air souk and bought them just to show me that he knew what they were. They turned out to be some kind of weird green spice that people grind up as a seasoning, not peas. But I don't need to be right all the time; really, I don't.
So before unleashing him on Sunday's dried peas hunt, we reviewed the mission instructions: Dried peas are near the uncooked rice, near where we buy barley. Dried peas are not fresh. Dried peas are not frozen. Dried peas do not come in a can. A bag of dried peas is a bag of dried peas and is not the same thing as a 15-bean soup mix that merely includes some dried peas. And the final caution before going boldly into the dark night: Do not improvise. Do not go rogue. Call with all questions and I promise not to laugh (into the phone).
This year's hunt for dried peas turned out to be a five-phone-call effort. "Ralph's is out of them, should I go to Von's?" was call one. Unable to fathom a massive run on dried peas that wiped out an entire market's supply of them, I suggested he ask a clerk. I realize this is akin to telling him to ask for driving directions, but I suggested it anyway.
Call two: "Do you want pea snaps?" I think this referred to a kind of faux vegetable chip made by Lay's.
Call three: "Do we need rice? I'm in the rice aisle." No, but if we were playing that game where you clap as you get closer to the hidden object, I would be applauding wildly.
Call four: "Do you want green peas or yellow peas?" Now we are playing Stump The Wife, right? Get both.
Call five: "Do you need carrots too?" Only if you found the peas.
The thing about pea soup is that it's an acquired taste -- one that my DH hasn't actually acquired. So the news that pea soup was our intended dinner spurred a little passive-aggressive behavior in the man. If there are no dried peas, there will be no pea soup for dinner -- if you follow his logic.
I'm not sure from where his aversion to pea soup comes from. He grew up in one of those states that has real weather and is the only person I know in southern California who keeps a snow parka in the trunk of the car "just in case." I periodically catch him sneaking in a lobster bisque (now, that's one weird soup) when he thinks his cardiologist and I aren't looking. And whenever we pass an Andersen's Pea Soup from the freeway, it reminds him that he's hungry and he suggests there must be a Subway sandwich place just ahead where we could stop.
It's a game we play, this hunt for dried peas in the market.
It prompted me to consult with my favorite food blogger, Dorothy Reinhold who blogs at Shockingly Delicious. "Is the number of calls one spouse makes to the other from the market in direct correlation to the disdain for the meal being prepared?" I asked her.
"What are you making?" she asked, making me suspect the answer was yes. But what I didn't suspect was her pea soup-making tip. Since we are Jewish, I don't add ham to mine. "Try some cooked chicken sausage instead," she volunteered.
I immediately texted DH, still at the market, to buy some chicken sausage. His text back: "Oh good, no pea soup?!"
Life is never that simple, now is it? But it does get easier when you make compromises.
For purists, here's Dorothy's Andersen Pea Soup recipe.