On the 5th of November the British remember the thwarting of gunpowder plot with fireworks and bonfires topped with scarecrow-type effigies called guys. The air is soon scented with fireworks and burning wood that linger into the next day.
I don’t like bangers going off and know all about trying to soothe terrified dogs, but I still find Bonfire Night magical. In normal years, it’s a time for getting together and having a jolly good time. This year we can’t celebrate with a town bonfire, and the fireworks that are going off are almost completely obscured by heavy mist. Still, hearing the giggles of children when I was out walking, I can tell that many families are doing their best to keep the tradition alive.
The foods I associate with Bonfire Night are atmospheric. Jacket potatoes, singed by the fire. Treacle toffee. Parkin, a type of heavy-grained gingerbread. And parched peas or black peas.
I imagine many British people will be unsure about this Lancashire delicacy. The peas they are made from are listed by Slow Food UK as an (almost) forgotten food, one of their Ark of Taste products.
I’ve only ever eaten parched peas on Bonfire Night. Mama, my maternal grandmother, would cook them for us. Any time I think of black peas, I see them held by mittened hands, steaming in a mug outside on a dark night.
Black peas are not easy to come by these days as their Slow Food status suggests. I got mine a couple of years ago in Booths, a northern supermarket I mentioned in an earlier post. I’ve been meaning to cook them, and as England enters our second shutdown today, the impulse to have a comforting treat of the simplest of kinds did the trick.
I never asked Mama the recipe or if I did, I’ve forgotten it. Mama was not a fancy cook, but had some specialities she made simply and well. Foods that linger in my memory.
I remember there was nothing Mama’s parched peas except peas, served with salt and pepper in their own gravy with lots of vinegar. That ruled out recipes I found online that included carrots and onions. In essence, I followed this recipe.
I know I haven’t made them as well as Mama did, but they do smell good! They don’t smell like normal peas, but darker. They smell like Bonfire Night.
Wishing you a very happy November 5th. x