Friday, December 24, 2010

Clarissa's Split Pea Soup with Bacon: A Recipe

Recently, I have been sharing with people more and more often that cooking is my hobby.  Here and here I explained why I'm wary of confessing that I cook. This is not a hobby to feel good about when one receives e-mails from our university administration, saying: "It will be nice if female faculty members cook something for our Christmas party." Today, however, at the request of reader sarcozona, I am sharing my recipe for Canadian split pea soup with bacon (for lack of ham.) For me, cooking is a creative process and I change every recipe every single time because it's more fun that way.

1. Take one cup of yellow split peas and one cup of green split peas. Of course, you can take just one kind, but the soup looks a lot better and somehow more festive if two kinds are used.

2. Place the peas in 8-10 cups (according to how thick you like your soup) of bouillon. Lacking that, you can always use water (salted to taste). Using water instead of bouillon means you can be more generous with herbs and spices. Bring the peas in bouillon to a gentle boil, and let them simmer. They will stay simmering for 3-3,5 hours, so you will have time to prep all the other ingredients (and blog in the meanwhile) at leisure.

3. Take several rashers of bacon. Put them on a plate between two paper towels, and leave in the microwave for 4 minutes. Some people prefer to fry their bacon, but that leaves too much fat, whcih overpowers the taste of soup.
How come photos at professional cooking sites always
look so much better than the ones I make? Well,
at least I tried hard. :-)
Break up the cooked rashers into small pieces and add them to the simmering soup.

4. An hour into the whole process, it's time to think about herbs and spices. This is the place where experimenting and discovering new shades of taste is the most fun. Here are the spices I chose this time:

This is a hearty dish, meant to be eaten in winter. This is why I always choose sturdier herbs and spices to go with it. Feel free to experiment as much as you want, however. Peas and bacon are very strong, taste-wise, so there is quite a bit of freedom in how many herbs one uses in this recipe.I always keep tasting the soup and adding more herbs and spices as the time goes by.

5. Somewhere at the end of the second hour, is the time to add vegetables. Here are the ones I chose this time:
I dice the carrots first, then the turnip, and after that the potato, and add them to the cooking pot in that order. Vegetable can be cut in pretty large pieces, but all chunks should be of uniform size because otherwise
the texture will be too inconsistent.

6. As a huge lover of ginger and garlic, I then prepare a ginger garlic paste. It can be bought in a store but I don't really trust it because God knows what weird substances have been added to it. Making a ginger garlic paste is beyond easy. You just take equal amounts of gignger and garlic, add a little bit of olive oil, and throw it all into a blender. Blend until you are satisfied with the texture of the paste.
Cooking and blogging at the same time
is fun! I wonder why I never did it before.
If you are a vegetarian who left out bacon, I suggest you really consider adding ginger. Unless you hate it, of course. If making a paste is too much of a drag, it's perfectly OK to cut the gignger into tiny pieces and adding it to the soup.

7. It's up to you to decide when the soup has reached the desired consistency. If you like it chunkier, 2,5 hours will suffice. If you wish it smoother, leave it simmering for up to 3,5 hours. Some people, puree the soup after it's done, but I never do that. I lke experiencing the textures of all the ingredients, but that, of course, is a matter of personal taste.

8. I serve the soup with a salad because in winter I serve everything with a salad:

Some people add sour cream to the split pea soup but I find it a bit too much. Feel free to try it, though.

Here is a close up of the end result:

It could have been less chunky if I'd let it simmer a little longer.
But I was starving and couldn't wait to eat any longer.
I just tried it and it tastes delicious. ¡Buen provecho!


BoycottAmericanWomen said...


Why American men should boycott American women

I am an American man, and I have decided to boycott American women. In a nutshell, American women are the most likely to cheat on you, to divorce you, to get fat, to steal half of your money in the divorce courts, don't know how to cook or clean, don't want to have children, etc. Therefore, what intelligent man would want to get involved with American women?

American women are generally immature, selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste. The behavior of most American women is utterly disgusting, to say the least.

This blog is my attempt to explain why I feel American women are inferior to foreign women (non-American women), and why American men should boycott American women, and date/marry only foreign (non-American) women.


Clarissa said...

As a foreign woman who is selfish, extremely arrogant and self-centered, mentally unstable, irresponsible, and highly unchaste to the extent you can't imagine in your craziest fantasies, I have breaking news for you, buddy: we, foreign women, do not want you. Because you are stupid. And ugly. And you probably stink.

To the rest of my readers: I normally don't let comments like this through, but this one is too hilarious to be thrown into the trash. I can just imagine this poor loser beseiged by throngs of highly unchaste American women, clamoring for his attentions, while he proudly turns away and boycotts them.

And I'm sure this jerk honestly has no idea why he hasn't been able to get a date in the past decade. Sad, indeed.

Clarissa said...

I hope that after this stupid comment I don't need to explain any further why I conceal my cooking skills from people to the extent where even close friends think I don't know how to boil water. Somehow, the word "cooking" attracts freaks. It just does. I went through nine years of a very active dating life without as much as making a sandwich for any guy precisely because I wanted to avoid attracting this kind of losers.

Rimi said...

Oh Clarissa! Since soup is not a big part of Bengali cuisine, I'm never too sure with soup, but I think I'm going to try this one. Thank you :D

There are two things about mainstream US culture that I don't get:
1. Tying masculinity up with inarticulateness and lack of emotional expressiveness. Indian men are usually deeply patriarchal, even if they do not deliberately/maliciously/acively propogate an oppressive agenda like the fool above. And this is not at odds with their innate chattiness and felicity for gossip (We see it as keeping up with the community ;-). They'll talk their hearts out and complain and whine, without feeling their gender identity is being compromised. I miss that SO MUCH in American men.

2. This idea that cooking signifies my genitalia, or vice versa. Again, this is odd because alhough men in our classics are frequently brilliant cooks, most contemporary Indian men burn water. And yet mentioning I'm a decent cook doesn't bring on the "OMG you're a REAL woman" bullshit. People instead go, "Share recipes!!!" or "Cook for us please please please!"

Why do you think this is? The latter anyway? Are traditional gender roles/attributes fetishised more in a society that outwardly strives towards politically equality between the sexes (all of them)?

Incidentally, what kind of self-denying fool woul want a 'chaste' woman?

Rimi said...

In fact, good food is such a large part of my life that I'm unlikely to have a relationship with anyone who doesn't appreciate good food AND doesn't cook it.

If you saw this, you'll realise how much of my last relationship was played out in the kitchen :D

Anonymous said...

Great soup! Goes well with vodka and pickles!

A completely satistfied husband.

Anonymous said...


One thing Mark is right about: there's a large market for the 3rd world brides streaming into the US, but no such thing for the 3rd world grooms. Can you explain why?

Clarissa said...

Anonymous: Because women are smarter. :-)

I love how a post with a soup recipe has turned into an ideological discussion. I will respond to everything tomorrow becaue it's 5 am here, and I am yet to sleep.

Clarissa said...

"Why do you think this is? The latter anyway? Are traditional gender roles/attributes fetishised more in a society that outwardly strives towards politically equality between the sexes (all of them)?"

-Different cultures construct gender in different ways. The important thing to remember, in my opinion, is that it IS always an artificial construct.

"Incidentally, what kind of self-denying fool woul want a 'chaste' woman?"

-On his weird website, this strange individual says that "American women only care about their next orgasm." This makes it obvious that he has severe issues with sex. Probably a medical condition. Of course, instead of going to a doctor for a simple prescription of Viagra he chooses to dump on women.

Rimi said...

I think it's far more complicated than cultural difference. I find this fetishisation process focuses on the constructed 'good old day' myths of the same culture, and doesn't often look beyond to another. Hence the disproportionate praise/critique of a contemporary American professional woman who likes to cook.

And in the culture/power hierarchies in a globalised world of bite-sized ideological feeds from every possible source, explicit or subtle, few cultures have maintained the bounded, unique gender identities of their recent past. This makes the acceptance or rejection of a dominant gender paradigm (dominant, say, because its culture of origin has immense pop cultural and political impact globally) even more interesting.

Anyway, I dare say you have better things to do over the weekend than hash a library's worth of gender theory. Enjoy the break :)

Stacy said...

Great photos thanks for sharing.. I really enjoy reading your blog

Clarissa said...

Thank you, Stacy!

Clarissa said...

I don't know, Rimi, I'm not seeing that at all. The gender paradigm in my Ukrainian culture came into existence over the centuries of very specific historic and cultural realities. A few years of American television that nobody takes seriously anyways cannot change the facts of reality. You can show me billions of American TV shows, yet that does nothing to change the fact that I will always be more, to give an example, assertive and loud than most American women. That happens because I have several generations of successful, strong, professional women behind me. My American peers often either have none in their family, or, in the best of cases, just one generation.

This is why I find any attempt to present the American gender relations model as ubiquitous to be useless and counter-productive. The American model only exists in the US (I wouldn't even extend it to a country such as Canada because I see dramatic differences.) It's a very particular model that I have never seen being exported with any degree of success anywhere.

Denny said...

After spending a good amount of my undergraduate career in chemistry labs, I've come to associate cooking, especially baking, with lab work. Through the processes of distillation, amalgamation, and transmutation you can create cool new riffs on the familiar. Or, there can be lots of utensils, flames, and smoke that result in a stinking mess.

Eating is so basic to being alive, I can't help feeling a certain amount of distain for anyone, male or female, who isn't able to cook. However, I suppose if a person eats solely to survive and doesn't care about taste, I'll give them a pass.

I love pea soup made with a great big ham shank so much I've never made it with bacon before. Most times I simply boil the peas in water with the ham shank; the resulting favor is surprisingly complex. Occasionally, I will cut a small portion of my vegetables (onion, carrots, celery) into a small dice, then brown them in butter/olive oil, along with any spices, to add to the soup early. Blooming spices in fat makes the house smell great early in the cooking process. The rest of the vegetables I save for a large dice to be added during the final 1/2 hour. Both ways are good, the later is a bit sweeter.

I'll have to try the bacon and 2 types of peas soup soon.

sarcozona said...

Thanks for posting this - I'm looking forward to making it.

I was raised with the expectation that I would become a good little housewife. For a long time, I associated cooking with those expectations and hated it. I still have to talk myself out of feeling guilty sometimes when I cook something that goes wrong.

But for the most part, cooking is a delightful hobby for me now. When I choose to cook for someone, I don't feel like I'm playing into the housewife role. Because I cook when I want to for people that I care about who don't expect me to cook for them. Now, it's just a fun way for me to decompress some days and to express my affection.

I think your point here about cooking for academic colleagues as a way to buy into the conversation is very, very true and am careful not to fall into that trap.

Canukistani said...

Nice to see someone who likes Canadian style pea soup. I usually put a dash of Harvey's Bristol cream sherry into it. I had a real French Canadian dish for Christmas Eve - tourtiere with spicy cranberry apple chutney. I got the cranberries from a cranberry marsh on an Indian reserve up north and the apples were local. I have always found the food bland in the states with chains like Dutch Pantry. Maybe you can suggest some good places. I ordered poutine at one palace and got fries with Kraft cheese slices. Not the fresh white cheese curds that I expected.

Clarissa said...

I also normally putt Bristol Cream in it. :-) But this day I was out and it was too snowy to go out and buy some more.

I miss poutine a lot. Maybe that should be my next recipe. Of course, I'd never profanate it with Kraft cheese. How can anybody do something so vile?? :-)

Clarissa said...

A little update on the weirdo boycottamericanwomen who wrote the first comment to this post: he is now trying to post the same stupid comment on several other threads (word for word, too), and I'm preventing him from doing that.

It's sad to know that such desperate, stupid freaks exist.