Sunday, December 14, 2008

More pond sludge, please!

Published December 14, 2008
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Of all the holiday traditions in which I revel this time of year, my favorite will always be cooking the Thanksgiving leftovers. There’s just something magical about taking one meal and creatively reimagining its contents as another. It’s kind of like a jazz variation on a classical masterpiece. It just gets better.

Every year, I do something different with the leftovers from my Thanksgiving turkey, but I’m much less adventurous with the meat from my ham. The leftovers from my Thanksgiving hams go straight into a pot full of wonderful, delectable split peas. Split pea soup is the most tasty dish of my holiday fare, overflowing with ham, onions, carrots, spices, and the thick, green goodness of my favorite legume. Yup, split pea soup is a big pot of hearty comfort in a world full of strained broth.

Of course, split pea soup is not your most attractive soup in the soup family. It’s not even marginally attractive. It’s like homemade chicken noodle’s super ugly stepsister…the one they hide from Prince Charming because they know that even if the glass slipper fits, he’s probably not going to want to take her home. It’s harsh, but it’s honest.

I actually can’t think of a soup that looks worse than split pea. Far from images of love and comfort, the sight of a big bowl of split pea soup often evokes in most people thoughts of diseased pond sludge and three day old vomit. I apologize if I’m catching you in the middle of your Sunday brunch, but you were thinking sludge the minute you thought of the soup. I just put it into words. Don’t kill the sludge messenger, people.

It’s hard to reconcile the taste with the look sometimes. When I put out that stew pot and watch my kids’ faces contort around such articulations as , “Ewwwwww!” and, “Blech!” and, “Have we done something to displease you, Mother?” I can’t really blame them. No amount of raving about the excellent taste will get them to eat more than a few bites…the obligatory amount required before they’re allowed to make themselves a sandwich. I have high hopes that as they mature, they’ll realize this soup is actually quite delicious. Until then, well, MORE FOR ME!

Thinking about this makes me wonder about another holiday “treat” whose looks don’t exactly make my mouth water. The fact that manufacturers continue to make fruitcake leads me to believe that there are people out there who actually enjoy it. I just can’t see an entire industry surviving from sales of a product that every recipient gags over and then throws away, can you? I guess it’s possible that regifting occurs, but the fruitcake maker doesn’t see additional profits from that.

Okay. So, it looks like a bunch of shrunken, desiccated organs suspended in the gelatinous mass of a science experiment gone horribly wrong. If split pea soup is any indication, those looks could be deceiving me. And if I expect my kids to take a few bites of soup, despite what the sight does to their gag reflexes, I shouldn’t have a problem taking a few bites of fruitcake, right?

*Indistinct retching *

All kidding aside, I don’t think there’s a sandwich on earth good enough to make that happen.