100-Mile Food

Putting Up Peas: a.k.a. Food Preservation Brings Out My Inner Bear


Yesterday was probably the most unglamorous day thus far on our local food journey. For five hours, I shelled, stemmed, blanched and froze a half bushel of peas and a half bushel of beans. Mundane doesn’t even begin to describe the longest five hours of my life.

I get that I could have waited until Jeff came home to enlist his help but unfortunately I read somewhere that peas continue to ripen after they’ve been picked. Since I had purchased these peas 24 hours prior and realistically had no idea of when they’d actually been plucked from the vine, I figured that I was already behind the eight ball. I did not want my peas to turn starchy and bitter simply because I did the logical thing and waited until my helpful husband was home.

I also now know why 100 years ago families were much larger. Having 5+ children would likely have come in handy yesterday. (Although I really can’t complain about the girls too much. Zoe was fascinated with the concept of shelling peas so she plopped down beside me and gave me a solid hour and a half worth of effort. By the end she was snapping the tops off and “undoing the zipper” almost as fast as I was. Elsie, on the other hand, managed to shell about 7 peas and then proceeded with eating the rest.)

While I knew that the task before me was going to be a lot of work, nothing really prepared me for the “Mom Guilt” that set in. I was pretty much denying every request my girls made all in an effort to beat the clock against starchy peas.

“Do you want to play Barbies, Mom?”

No, Sweeties. I’ve gotta tackle the peas. We’re going to be really thankful in the wintertime when we have yummy peas and beans to eat.

“Do you want to paint with us, Mom?” 

No, Love Bug. I told you – I’m trying to do the peas.

“Mom, can you come jump on the trampoline with us?”

No. One word. PEAS.

On top of it all, I really had no concrete plans for supper. Looming over me was this thought of wrestling up some sort of local sustenance once I had come over the other side of the mountainous heap of peas and beans. Needless to say, the leftover situation in the fridge was looking pretty sparse and now that all our “convenient” options were quite literally off the table, there was no slamming a pot of Kraft Dinner down and calling it a night. I’d actually have the make something.

All the while in my head I kept asking, “How in the heck did they do this back in the day? Am I so incapable that I’m completely done in by not even a half day’s work? How did they meet the demands and needs of their children? How did they harvest their gardens, prepare for winter, sew their clothes, make everything from scratch and somehow ensure their children weren’t feral?!” 

Whether it’s a good thing or not, the girls finally asked me to stop playing with them and instead resorted to painting each other’s faces outside. (I did do a cursory check to make sure that the paint was non-toxic and washable. I may not have been able to supervise, but no one was going to be a permanently painted unicorn on my watch.) Thankfully the face painting kept them entertained for a good couple of hours. On the flip side, my bathroom looks like Picasso was let loose in it from when the girls would wash out their brushes and paint palettes. And despite the paint being non-toxic, Zoe’s skin reacted to the paint resulting in a lovely rash all over her chin. I guess I can’t have my cake and eat it too.

Finally, at dinner while we sat down to a whipped together meal of fried potatoes and eggs, I told Jeff about my harrowing, back-breaking foray into preserving. His bland reply of, “Oh, that’s nice” was met with an over-the-top vehement response from my end about how he had no idea how much work it was. To which he dutifully trotted over to the freezer and quite enthusiastically admired all 13 bags I had put away. (Turns out that a lot of work does not equal a lot of gain. Let me repeat – 13 paltry bags of frozen peas and beans. In five hours.) I then fumed in my head some more about how he doesn’t have to deal with Mom Guilt. He could come home to all the work being done and then he could turn around and be able to say “yes” to getting his face painted like a tiger. He swooped in during the final hour and rose to hero status in our girls’ eyes. Somehow I don’t think that I will be receiving those same accolades when we’re eating peas and beans in the dead of winter. But alas, I digress.

Safe to say, preserving food is exhausting. And obviously makes me grouchy. Unfortunately, I’m only 13 freezer bags into the whole process. There is a cornucopia of other fruits and veggies out there that still need to make it into our root cellar and freezer during our relatively short growing season. I’m assuming that the next few months are going to be filled with more days like these than I’m willing to admit. This summer is going to be about attempting to find balance between productivity, preparation and modern-day motherhood. Not to mention making time to not snap poor Jeff’s head off.

In the meantime, I’m taking today to read, colour and paint with my kiddos. And potentially pick up some local craft beer for Jeff in lieu of an apology. Just this once, the harvest can wait until tomorrow.


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