Whoever heard of the tiniest, sweetest little peas…in August? Normans, that’s who. In our region, as in much of France and much of the world it seems, weather is haywire. Haywire here means more wet and clouds than we’ve seen in a summer for many years. Accompanying the “flotte,” as the French call abundant rain, are thunder storms which roll in late morning with attendant lightening and drama.. They are the good part – or at least one of the livelier parts – of what many are calling a lousy summer.
Another good part is the peas. I got them at the market, straight from Baptiste’s greenhouse. He’s a smart farmer. He knows the vagaries of weather which is why before he ever paid himself a salary, he invested in three large greenhouses. Not only do they afford him producer earlier than most of his colleagues – thus more valuable to his clients – but during summers like this he’s got something to harvest and sell.
And he’s got peas in August. “I know, it’s abnormal,” he said. “But taste them, Susan, you won’t believe how sweet they are,” and he proffered me an open pod. They looked tender, and when I bit into a couple of them sweet pea flavor flooded my mouth. As the wind whipped grey clouds over the market and the town, those peas would bring light brightness to the table!
Cooking peas begins with shucking, something Fiona and I love to do together. It replaces those intimate parent-child moments in the car that American soccer moms know so well. So, I guess it makes me a “pea mom.” In any case, once shucked, the peas went into boiling, salted water for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, Fiona and I prepared a tomato salad that consisted of fat slices of beef heart tomatoes showered with minced basil and garlic, then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil . A big sprinkle of fleur de sel, a quick slicing of our favorite baguette, and dinner was ready.
Because the peas were so richly flavored we ate them neat. The juices from the tomatoes, placed next to the peas on the plate, moistened them perfectly, providing an herbal counterpart.
Unconventional as a dinner, you might say. Indeed, but when there are simply beautiful offerings from the market, like peas and the season’s first tomatoes, unconventional is best!