My chef father wasn't the only male in the family who prepared food for a living. Narcisse Laurin, one of my maternal great-grandfathers, also cooked for crowds.
Pepére left Joliet in the Province of Quebec in the late 19th century during Upper Michigan'’s lumber boom. His first job was as a lumber camp cook, preparing meals for hundreds of rough-hewn loggers. Perhaps my appetite for hearty stews, soups and baked beans comes from him. (Or, maybe it is a byproduct of life on the tundra.)
Doesn't matter. When the weather grows cold, I want something that warms the innards. Split pea soup is a French Canadian staple, and I am certain Pepére knew how to make it.
Easy Split Pea Soup
10 cups water
24 ounces dried split peas
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely chopped
1 ham bone, with some meat still on it
3 bay leaves
1 tablespoon peppercorns
1 teaspoon allspice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups chopped ham
1/3 cup skim milk
salt and black pepper, to taste
Wash the peas and drain. Place all soup ingredients except the (chopped ham, milk, salt and pepper) in a medium stock pot; bring to a slight boil and reduce heat. Simmer 3-4 hours on very low heat until the peas have completely disintegrated and the soup is smooth; you may want to scoop out some of the peas and place them in a blender for extra smoothness. Remove the bay leaves. Add the milk and season. Allow the flavors to marry overnight before serving.
My mother served pea soup for lunch on cold winter days, probably with a sandwich. Bolonga, maybe? I associate it with Lent, for some reason. We used to walk back to school atop three-foot high snow banks.
In our high school hot lunch program, pea soup was always served with peanut-butter sandwiches.
Today, I like my pea soup with some sort of salad with a hint of sweetness, or cole slaw made with apples and walnuts, and a hunk of nutty, whole-grain bread.