Peas in the summer


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Peas in the summer

By Bobby Neal Winters

You may know—if you are sufficiently civilized—that black-eyed peas are de rigueur for anybody who claims to be anybody on New Year’s Day. One could not possibly be prosperous without them. Lord knows prosperity is elusive enough even with them.

However, during that holiday, one must necessarily eat the dried variety. While they are wonderful enough prepared that way, there is no substitute for having them fresh. You have not tasted the full variety of pleasure that God has given us in this life if you have not eaten them fresh.

As with anything worth doing in this life, there is a right way to do the thing and many wrong ways to do it that are nevertheless pleasurable in spite of there being wrong. It is not my point to enumerate all of those wrong ways.

If experience tells me anything, you will discover those on your own. My point is to tell you the right way so that you can judge for yourself that it is right.

To do it the right way, you must arise while the sun is still low in the east.

This is the first step to the right way to do most anything, but I figured I might ought to tell you anyway so as to be complete in my description. It is particularly important for this, however, because this is the time for the picking of the peas. Theoretically, this can be done at any time of the day, but experience shows that people really hate dropping dead of sun stroke, even if there are fresh black eyed peas to be had.

Again, if this is to be done right, the proper wardrobe is required. When my grandmother did this when I was a lad, she wore long sleeves and a bonnet with a long brim. This was because the sun—even though it was low in the east—was still hotter than all blazes when peas were ready to be picked.

Though part of the reason for the long sleeves was that she gathered the okra at the same time as the peas, and okra will eat your arms alive if they are not protected. If you aren’t gathering okra, you might not need the long sleeves, but I’d wear them if I were you anyway, just to be on the safe side.

After the peas are gathered, they must be shelled. This is where having a large family or living near the extended family comes in handy. You can have the entire family sit in the shade on the west side of the house and shell peas. I think there would be less money spent on psychiatrists if we spent more time shelling peas. There is something strangely therapeutic about zipping open pea shells and dumping their contents into a bowl. Nobody ever went postal while shelling peas—they might have dumped the bowl on the ground and had it all to do over.

Once they are shelled, you cook them like you cook anything which is to say you boil them with a nice fatty piece of salt pork, and you serve them over cornbread. Now, since it is the summer, I would recommend a nice fried cornbread so as not to heat up the house anymore that you have to, but if you’ve been eating your black eyed peas at New Year’s, you might be prosperous enough to afford air-conditioning, so I will leave that choice to you.

If you’ve not had them before, you might want to be careful because they are likely better than anything you’ve eaten before, and you might over indulge.

Other than that, I can’t think of anything to add, so have at them. Your life is about to change for the better.

(Bobby Winters is a professor of mathematics, writer, and speaker. You can contact him at or visit his website at He also has a couple of books he’d like to try to sell you.)
Hi Bobby--

Missed the last couple of articles--I'll manage to read them hopefully this weekend. But I really enjoyed this one--never picked peas, but I sure know about that okra! (Too hot for long-sleeved shirts where I am, but I certainly do wear some long gloves when I harvest the okra. And the choice of shoes is of ultimate importance, as one needs some coverage, but not so much that the footwear cannot be suddenly flung away in the event one is attacked by an army of ants on the defense!)

Anyway--I particularly liked the following line:

I think there would be less money spent on psychiatrists if we spent more time shelling peas.
Thanks for the great writing--:)

okieinexile said:
Nobody ever went postal while shelling peas—they might have dumped the bowl on the ground and had it all to do over.
Thanks for the article- made me smile. I especially liked this line. :p

Aside from shelling peas, chopping wood goes a long way toward cheap therapy too. If you're angry- go chop wood. After a little while, you'll be so tired you'll have calmed down, and chances are good that you'll forget what you were angry about to begin with.

Hmmm... maybe we don't need psychologists, we just need more physical labor?

Puts a new spin on how grandma and grandpa were able to stay married for 60 years but folks nowadays have problems with much more than five years.

I myself have found shoveling horse manure to be an excellent exercise. Great therapy- LOL- and then you have a fantastic upper body physique. People will ask- Pilates? Yoga? Weight training? What gym do you go to? And you have the joy of replying- try shoveling horse manure. To which you get many excellent and amusing looks.
Thanks, guys. For my money, it was too hot to wear long sleeves when grandma did it, but she still did.
snapping green beans with Grandma on the porch swing, shucking corn with dad, sweet peas popping to the crisp heat..freeze a little extra for winter.

the best of times:)