Saturday, September 06, 2008

Chilled Pea Soup with Lemon Cream (Page 83)


  • Date: Sunday, August 31, 2008 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Fellow Chef: Matty
  • Dining Companions: Paul K, Lauren K, Beth, Mike M, and Teresa
  • Recipe Rating: C+

Tis the season for chilled soups, and there are plenty of chilled soups in The Book. The rest of the meal last Sunday was pretty rich, so I wanted something on the light side. I chose this very unusual pea soup because it met that criterion. It was pretty bad though. We started by cooking some onions and then adding chopped sugar snap peas and cooking just until crisp-tender. A touch of sugar got added to that, and cooked very briefly. The mixture was then pureed with water and strained through a fine mesh sieve. After seasoning with salt it got chilled in the fridge for 8 hours. In the meantime, I whisked together sour cream, lemon zest and a bit of water, and then put that through a fine mesh sieve. To serve, the pea broth was topped with a dab of the lemon cream. On the upside, it looked nice. The soup had a vibrant green color, which was appealing. The taste, however, left something to be desired. The flavor wasn't bad -- it tasted exactly like sugar snap peas. But what makes sugar snap peas so wonderful is not only their taste, but also their fantastic texture. That was, obviously, completely lost here. It was disconcerting eating a broth flavored like sugar snap peas. When I think "pea soup," I am really thinking, "split pea soup," which tastes nothing like this. The lemon cream helped matters a bit, but the lemon flavor was much too mild. The only lemon flavor came from the lemon zest, which was then immediately strained out when the lemon cream was put through the fine mesh sieve. The rationale in The Book for sieving it was to get the air bubbles out. That seems less crucial to me than having a good lemon flavor, which was totally lost because of the sieving. Another option would have been to let the zest sit in the lemon cream mixture for a couple hours before straining, so it could infuse it with some flavor. As written, though, the recipe produces watered down sour cream, not lemon cream. So what did people think about this recipe? One comment from the table was, "Well, it's not bad exactly." This is not a good sign. My friends in Indiana (unlike some of my friends from Boston!) are very polite. "Not bad" from them is a kiss of death. Paul actually went so far as to defend it though, commenting that it was unusual, but not in a bad way. Matty's opinion was most in line with my own. He didn't hate it, but he noted that he would much rather have a bowl of raw sugar snap peas in front of him than a bowl of this soup, and that would have been much less fuss. I agree completely.

Here is the recipe.

Ah, the weekend. Ok, true, I am in my office. And yes, I have been working most of the day. But, it is the weekend nonetheless, and I am feeling less stressed out than I have been.

My cousin is an elementary school teacher, and she once told me that most teachers try to live in a different town than where they teach. At the time it seemed like a strange thing to me -- why live further away from work than you have to? I am starting to understand though... According to Wikipedia, the population of Bloomington (as of the year 2000) is 69,291. It's not totally clear to me how many of the students at IU that includes -- Wikipedia tells me that IU has approximately 40,000 students. I think most of the graduate students are included in the population count, and probably a significant chuck of the undergraduates too. So let's guesstimate the total number of people living in Bloomington this weekend to be 88,000. If we include this current semester, I have taught about 350 students. Since I have been teaching introductory stuff, let's assume only a handful of them were seniors last year and have graduated and left. So of the 88,000 people in Bloomington, about 345 of them were my students. That's one out of every 255 people. It's not such a huge percentage, yet I run into my students everywhere. Granted I live near campus and I generally hang out near where I live, so that increases the odds. But still, a huge percentage of the times that I leave my house, I run into one of my students. And right now I probably wouldn't even recognize most of the 150 students I just started teaching this week, so I am probably running into them without even knowing it! Last night at dinner one of my former students was working as a waiter. Later I went to the grocery store and ran into a different former student in the beer aisle. I like my students, and I don't mind seeing them, but it does give a weird lack of anonymity. I am typically a person who worries not-so-much about what people think. Prior to moving here I wouldn't have given a second thought to going to the grocery store in my pajamas. Sure, why not! I don't care what strangers think, and the people who know me already know that I would do that. But now I am some sort of authority figure. I am an adult. The thought of running into my students in my PJs gives me a little more pause. Last night, before I noticed my former student in the aisle, my special gentleman and I were laughing really, really hard. When I noticed the student I had a sense that I was being unprofessional by laughing so hard. In reality, it won't stop me from joking around with my special gentleman. It may not even stop me from parading around town in my PJs. But it does make me understand why teachers sometimes choose to live away from where they teach. Living near your students definitely has the potential to be limiting...


The Mediocre Cook said...

Your commentary about living where you teach strikes a similar cord with me. My wife is an elementary teacher and numerous times we have ran into her students and their parents around town and most know who I am but I of course know almost none of them. I still live my way but I am a little more aware of who could be watching. That almost sounded paranoid.

Teena said...

That is unnerving when people know who you are even though you don't know them. I always feel that way at the beginning of the semester, when I don't yet know all my students. I am sure I run into them all the time and don't even realize it!