About Beth

Beth, along with her husband, Mike, is co-owner of two Italian Deli/Markets in St. Louis - Viviano’s Festa Italiano. When not creating yummy new menu items for the deli, she’s the pediatric research lab supervisor at Washington University School of Medicine. Read more out about Viviano’s Festa Italiano.

About Irene

Irene loves to think, read and dream about food. She enjoys cooking & eating in general. Although she demures about her talents, Irene has a finely-tuned palate that her friends envy. She bakes on occasion. The rest of the time she's creating memories with her family and friends. . . or she's learning a new needlecraft technique.

About Deborah

Deborah is a wife, mother, grandmother, traveler, bootlegger, and a very poor speller! As Victor Hazan so eloquently puts it, Deborah has chosen Umbria to be the home of her soul. When she can’t be there in body, she spends her free time cooking & reading about Italy. She blogs mostly about food and about trips – past and future – here: Old Shoes New Trip.

About Doug

Doug lives in Eastern Ontario in a farmhouse built in 1903. He is a retired teacher with four adult children, a wife, a son-in-law, two Irish step-grandchildren and one grandson who he is lucky to hang with a lot. He has way too many books. Doug also blogs at To Slow Time Down.

About Cindy

Cindy lives in Eagle River, Alaska where her freezer is always full of salmon, halibut & shrimp. Cindy participates in several regular cooking challenges. You can read more about her cooking and life in the last frontier on her blog, Baked Alaska.

About Sandi

Sandi is a true Southerner, but a traveler & Italian cook at heart. She lives in Alabama and knows more about fried green tomatoes than fricassees. Her family owned the WhistleStop Café for many years. Sandi also blogs at Whistlestop Cafe Cooking.

About Jan

Jan, a serious home cook, has owned “Essentials” since 1992. She is passionate about all things Italian, especially the cuisine & the language. Jan blogs about her travels (next trip Italy May/June of 2010) at: Keep your Feet in the Street.

About Jerry

Jerry is a food obsessed Canadian. He learned to love Italian food as a child while eating the meals prepared by his Napolitano uncle. He learned to cook Italian foods by watching his uncle cook these feasts for the family. This love of Italian food has been honed through serious personal experimentation in eating and cooking. Willing to try most anything once, Jerry isn't so sure about tripe! Jerry also blogs at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants!

About Palma

Palma is a Marriage & Family Therapist in Palm Desert, CA. She’s an Italian-American with a passion for cooking, entertaining, & travel to Italy. She’s always planning her next culinary adventure to Italia on her blog, Palmabella's Passions

About Kim

Kim is our permanent sub and the image above gives you a good idea of the look on her face when she realized she was drafted. Kim loves to eat, drink, travel and cook - probably in that order. When she's not here, you can find her organizing and leading food, wine and beer tours in Europe as co-owner and operator of GrapeHops or blogging at What I Really Think.

« Sweet and Sour Onions | Main | Mashed Potatoes with Milk and Parmesan Cheese, Bolognese Style »

Sauteed Early Peas with Olive Oil and Proscuitto Florentine Style


To this day, fresh peas have the power to evoke one of my most cherished childhood memories.

At least a month of each of my grammer school-aged summers was spent at "Grandma's Biggie House". That is what I named the place when I was a very small child. It is easy to see why, since it consisted of two, three-story buildings. My aunt and grandmother operated a faith based charitable retirement home called El Nathan Home in a little rural town in southeast Missouri. The home was established in the years before there was Medicare or Medicaid or SSI or Section 8 or any other government aide for the destitute elderly. If you had the great misfortune of having no family to support you, and no private retirement income, your only hope was that some non-profit religious or fraternal organization would take you in.

Almost all of the women at El Nathan had been missionaries or teachers or nurses. They had taken care of people all their lives, but had noone to take care of them.

Everyone living at El Nathan pitched in according to their abilities. Nobody could dust with the precision of Miss Julia Post. Miss Mildred Horsey washed all the dishes. Miss Irene Hill helped with the laundry. Miss Harriett Prentiss set & cleared the tables. And my great-grandmother, Minnie James (who also lived there) prepped vegetables. She is the one who taught me to shell peas. I have a vivid mental picture of her sitting on the porch, using her aproned lap like a shallow bowl as her hands flew through the pods of early peas.

See, you knew I'd get back around to the subject eventually, didn't you?

We ate those peas prepared in a country-American style. Instead of garlic (which was unheard of in rural 1950's Missouri) my grandmother used chives. Instead of proscuitto it was hickory cured bacon. Butter or lard replaced olive oil which was also unheard of. And parsley would have been considered to be an unnecessary affection.


But for all those differences, this dish of Marcella's isn't that far removed, is it?

After the garlic is cooked in the oil to a golden brown the diced proscuitto is added. Then the peas (and if using fresh, some of the most tender of the pea pods) are added. After turning over in the oil to coat, parsley and pepper are added along with a little water. The heat is turned down to medium and the pan is covered. Cooking time for thawed peas is about 5 minutes. For fresh peas and their pods it may be 15 to 30 minutes depending on their original tenderness.


I'm happy to have drawn this recipe in the rotation. And I thank you for indulging my little trip down memory lane as I wrote my report.

Comments (3)

Deborah, I must say you are the descendant of some pretty spectacular women! I enjoyed your story as much as I enjoyed the photos of those lovely peas.

I can't wait for pea season!

Deborah responds:
I don't know about spectacular, but I do come from a long line of independent hard-working women, that's for sure. My grandmother was the very first woman to own and drive her own car in Springfield, MO. My aunt was an avowed (and proud) spinster. She had many suiters, but didn't have time for the responsibility of being a wife. She once turned down a marriage proposal because: "He had ungly feet." It was the best excuse she could muster.
My Mom was a career woman when all my friends' moms were housewives.

Ray Anne:

I don't know which is better - the recipe or the story of the El Nathan Home. I will think of your story and those glorious women whenever I eat peas. Fresh or otherwise.

Marcella Hazan:

I have just shelled 2 pounds of English peas that Victor brought home from Whole Foods, where he always makes a stop on the way back from a session with his trainer. Why they are called "English" I don't know. Mine would have been called senatori in Venice because of their large circumference, and they would be the peas to use for risi e bisi. The tiny early ones you get in Tuscany at the beginning of spring are called simply pisellini. I am going to cook my senatori in butter and onions and shredded romaine lettuce.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 15, 2011 6:24 AM.

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