Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tule Fog Pea Soup

Growing up in the Sacramento Valley, I remember three seasons. Spring, Summer and Fog.
The fog was omnipresent from December through February, it was a part of what we called winter here in Northern California. It would settle in and stay for days, often weeks at a time. Sometimes it would burn off around noon, other days it would stick around all day and all night. We would drive up to Placerville or Auburn just to get out of it, just to see the sun. They call it "tule fog" here, which rhymes with "unruly dog."

The worst fog I ever experienced was on a nighttime drive back from my Mom's house in Sacramento. It was almost impossible to see, but we hoped that by following the car's lights in front, hoping they were also following another car and so forth, that we could make it back to Davis. We decided for the last bit of our trip to exit the freeway and take the frontage road. Big mistake. There were no cars to follow. It was just us on a pitch black road, surrounded with a trillion droplets of water. While I watched ahead for objects in the road, such as other drivers stupid enough to take the frontage road, my husband rolled down his window and stared at the center lane as he drove. He trusted that I would scream if I saw something up ahead. No worries on that count, I was in scream mode. We got home safely, but our shoulder muscles didn't untense for days.

We just don't get fog like that anymore. I'm not complaining, because it's dangerous and depressing, but I'm sure it has to do with urban sprawl and not enough rain, which is depressing in its own right. But it makes nighttime driving much safer.

We recently took a road trip to San Diego, leaving after work. We got there at 3:00 am, and didn't run into a bit of fog. On the way down, we passed Pea Soup Andersen's in Santa Nella. I was sure my husband was saying it wrong, and I kept calling it Andersen's Pea Soup. We stopped in after a fog-free trip back up to Sacramento, to enjoy some fog-free pea soup. He was right about the name, which I hate, but I'm not going to argue with an official restaurant sign and menu.

We entered through the extremely kitchy gift shop, that must be seen to be believed. There is so much over-the-top ugly stuff to buy, that when one comes across just a regularly ugly item, it's hard not to purchase it, just to prove you didn't buy the super ugly item. I slapped myself and came to my senses and walked out kitch-free. We asked if the pea soup was vegan, and then we happily sat down to order. It came. It was thick and creamy and smooth as a baby's bottom. The color looked like something that came out of a baby's bottom, but such is the reality of pea soup. You don't eat it because of the color.

It made me realize that maybe I was missing out on the whole purpose of split pea soup, that creamy-straight-out-of-a-diaper consistency. I vowed to come home and test out my suspicions, and turn my usual chunky version of split pea soup in a dreamy, creamy if not sort of disgusting-colored bowl of yumminess.

My first bump in the road was that my husband had not purchased split peas by the barrel-full, he had bought whole dried peas. I didn't even know peas grew like that, I thought split came with the territory. But in fact, in pea processing plants around the world, there are machines that split whole peas so we can make soup the color of newborn baby poop. I needed to adjust the time on my Instant Pot. I will be writing a post very soon about my new favorite kitchen appliance of all time, the Instant Pot, but for now back to the pea soup.

I used the recipe from Andersen's Pea Soup, or rather from Pea Soup Andersen's. It's very simple, and it has no meat, nor even a piece of ham bone or any other part of a pig in it. I will forgive the Andersen's for their really tacky gift shop for offering travelers a vegan soup.

Did I fiddle with the recipe a bit? Of course I did! Besides starting with the unsplit peas, which took about 40 minutes in the pressure cooker, I added more celery and carrots and I added some mushrooms for a reason that is no longer apparent. It doesn't need the mushrooms. I also omitted the salt but added a tiny amount of hickory liquid smoke to give it that oinky good richness. Here is the original recipe from the restaurant. Make it creamy, or make it chunky, however you prefer.

Pea Soup Andersen's Pea Soup Recipe

  • 2 cups green split peas
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 tsp thyme
  • 1 bay leaf, crumbled into very small pieces
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp seasoned salt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in a big soup pot, boil hard for 20 minutes, then turn heat down until peas are tender, about 50 minutes or so total cook time. After the mixture has cooled, and if you like your soup creamy, process in a blender. Whirl until it looks like it came from a diaper, and you're good to go.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Jessica and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad craft faire

Last week I decided to have a craft faire in my driveway. On a Friday. In Winter. On a windy day. I based this decision on the time I put some signs up on the corner and a woman came and bought three quilts off my porch. This was not that time. 

Didn't sell much. I'm going to take the high road and say I sold one thing. It wasn't even a quilt. But at least it paid for my little experiments testing out the new Square Register chip reader. Yes, I was that confident that people would stop by my driveway in the winter on a Friday in the wind and purchase quilts that they weren't really planning on buying. Sure I put an ad on Craigslist and Next Door and put up signs. If only it wasn't windy, not a Friday not winter, and at a real craft fair location. 

The good thing, back to that high road business, was that I got my inventory all figured out and accounted for. I found a little piggy hat I didn't know I had made, missing some eyeballs, but still oinking to go. I discovered some items that need to be removed from my Etsy shop, because they weren't in my craft closet. If they're not in the closet, they don't exist. And I found a quilt that's completely ready to be sewn together, it just needs some cream colored thread from Joann's Fabric.

So with my ego in the gutter, but with the garage all swept out during the un-fair event, I'm ready to move on. It's time I put some time into my Etsy shop, it's been a while since I took a look at it from a first time visitor's point of view. Maybe I'll do that on Friday, but only if it's windy.

My closet full of adorables.

I also got my gift tags all made.

Finding the piggy hat was my biggest accomplishment.
No worries, he's got eyes now. 

I went to a baby shower last night, and gave as gifts these crocheted items. The first was for the baby's big sister, it's a little blankie for her dolls. The second photo is the car or stroller blanket I made for the baby-on the-way. Crocheting takes my mind off quilts, so I'll be doing more projects in the near future.