Slice of Life Story - The Art of Shelling Peas

Whilst browsing our recipe book collection searching for culinary inspiration, I stumbled across an entry in Bill Grainger’s foodies book ‘Holidays’ Below the recipe for Tagliatelle with fresh peas and lemon, Bill extols the value of fresh peas.

‘Fresh peas are so wonderfully evocative of spring and another ingredient we seem to bypass in our modern lives. In an ideal world, we’d all spend half an hour a week on the back doorstep, shelling peas.’

This simple observation set me to thinking of a simpler time before frozen and processed foods made us lazy. I vividly recall as a boy watching my mother sit with a generous pile of peas in her lap and patiently work through the process of shelling them into a saucepan. She would split open the pod before running her thumb along the length of the pod and directing the firm, green contents into the nearby container.

Whenever my Nana visited, it never took long before she was drafted into the pea shelling process as well. There was something calm and contemplative about sitting around shelling peas. Whenever I was allowed to participate in the task, a significant number of peas never made it into the saucepan. Fresh, uncooked peas tasted delicious. I could never understand why so many kids disliked them. Cooked with fresh mint and a pinch of butter, they remain a favourite.

Those days of shelling peas have passed it seems. We now reach into the freezer for the frozen variety. We have substituted flavour and freshness for convenience. We have also lost the therapeutic value of sitting down and exchanging pleasantries as we casually shell peas.

Growing up, peas were a staple in my father’s large vegetable patch. I grew to understand the power of the humble pea to facilitate conversation. Bill Grainger’s reference to them has taken me back to a slower style of living.

Half an hour sitting on the veranda steps shelling peas sounds like the perfect antidote to the sometimes mad rush of our daily lives. I should try it as a de-stressor and memoir connection. Pass the peas please!


  1. We were sixteen year old girls wanting so bad to go the lake and meet boys. Unfortunately, my best friend's mom ALWAYS had a couple of bushels of peas that had to be shelled right then!

  2. Ahh, memories of a past that as kids, we took for granted.
    I remember what food was like...
    And what will life be like for you Alan, after the last slice tomorrow?

  3. A few days following and reading your blog have decided me: I put it among my favourites (if you don´t care).

    It's amazing: you speak about shelling peas as a kind of ancient familiar rite, and that is exactly how I remember it. The only thing is that you are just in the other side of the world (for me). This is one of the points of your blog that makes it so attractive to me: so far but not so far (if I make me understand)

    P.S. Sorry for my English, but it is not one of my own languages.


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