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Shelling Purple Peas and a Cross-Cultural Potato Salad

My favorite gardening chore is shelling peas. There’s something so peaceful about sitting with a huge bowl of peas, rhythmically stringing, shelling, tossing. When I was a little girl in Alberta, Canada, my Mum would plant 20 or more rows of peas every year. Some were sugar snaps that we could eat right away, but others, buckets and buckets of them, needed to be shelled and frozen for the long, cold winter ahead.

We used to sit on the back veranda that was shaded by huge trees, each with a big bucket overflowing with bright green peas. It was fun for a little while, but long before the chore was done, us kids would be restless and fidgety. At this point Mum would make the time go faster by telling us stories about her childhood on the Alberta prairies, or get us started on round-robin story telling. One person would start a story and when they ran out of ideas, the next person would pick up the thread, weaving their own tale until it was time to pass it on to the next person.

Our fingers flew as our minds were distracted by the stories, and before long our buckets would be full of little green pea jewels and the veranda littered with hundreds of empty pea pods.

With only Bear and I to plan for, I don’t plant 20+ rows of peas. Five rows suit us fine. But I still love the ritual of shelling peas, letting my mind wander to the stories I’m now writing as an adult. Instead of adventures on the Alberta prairies, my current stories are set in the wild bush country of Australia in the 1800’s.

Although the places are vastly different, it’s amazing to me how many of the stories are similar. European immigrants toiling to make a life off a strange land, battling wild animals and wicked weather, coming up with creative ways to clothe, feed, and medicate their families when the nearest shop or doctor took an entire day to reach. They learned what native fruits and plants were good to eat, planned ways to connect with distant neighbors through dances, church services, and work parties. They even came from the same countries: Denmark, Germany, England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland.

I find it quite lovely to see how, even though we’re on opposite sides of the world, we are more alike than some would think. We all want to be safe, happy, and loved, close to those we adore, with freedom to grow and learn and thrive. As I see the new waves of immigrants arriving in Australia, Canada, USA, and Europe, I can’t help but think of the other immigrants, the people who made the civilizations we love today. And I hope that we will support and encourage this new wave as much as we can. I can’t wait to see the contributions they make to our food, culture, medicine, faith, technology, all of it. As an immigrant myself, I’m so thankful for the Australians who have welcomed me, made me feel valued and wanted, and given me freedom to be myself.

With the last of my purple peas, I made a Spring potato salad with a hodgepodge of ingredients from around the world: Dutch purple peas, parsley and capers from the Mediterranean, paprika from Hungary, nasturtiums from the Americas, and potatoes from South America. If it wasn’t for immigrants, we wouldn’t have access to any of these ingredients. Eating it makes me smile, makes me purpose to give everyone a chance, especially the cultures I don’t understand or that scare me, for we all have something good and worthy to offer.

What is your favorite food from your family heritage? xo

Caper Pea Potato Salad


10 medium-size potatoes (white, red, or gold)
1/2 – 3/4 cup whole egg mayonnaise
1 tsp paprika
handful fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp salt
pepper to taste
1/4 cup capers, lightly drained
1/2 – 1 cup freshly shelled peas

Cut potatoes in half and place in large pot. Cover with water, salt well, bring to the boil and boil about 15-20 minutes until potatoes are easily pierced with a fork. Drain well. Spread on cookie sheet and set aside (or put in fridge) to cool.
While potatoes are cooling, whisk together mayonnaise, paprika, parsley, salt, and pepper until well mixed. Stir in capers and fresh peas.
When potatoes are cool, slice them into a large serving bowl. Pour dressing over and stir gently to coat. Serve immediately or chill until ready to serve.

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Sosae - I love it so much when you revisit the Canadian prairies! Your stories always fill me with wonder – it’s such a vast and lovely part of the world.

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Rachel Friesen - Nope, those purple-podded peas just aren’t getting old. I’m tickled everytime you post another shot of them. My favourite food from my heritage are potato-cheddar perogies, preferably fried in butter with lots of onions and smothered in mushroom sauce. Or with sour cream. Someday, I’m going to have to learn to make them myself; my grandma kept such secrets to herself in the spirit of assimilation, so I grew up with the perogies my mom could find at bake sales or home-made gifts from our adopted Galician baba (though she called them “pedeheh”). And now I’m hungry 😉

Bethany Bassett - I love your take on all of this… especially as I am an immigrant too. It sounds funny to say that. “Expat” is a much more culturally acceptable term, but I have adopted a new country as home, and my gratitude at being received with friendship here makes me hope all the more that newcomers to North America (which all of my ancestors were at one point) can be met with open arms.

Anna Johnston - Oh I love this Krista, I have so many fond memories of working at a Summer Camp in the States a decade ago, we’d all sit on milk crates out the back of the kitchen sharing stories about our lives, it was wonderful. We have a spaghetti bowl recipe (Mom’s Spaghetti) that has been passed down through the family for ever. Every generation adds their little spin on it. Cant wait to share the recipe with the bros newest addition. 🙂 Happy weekend lovely one. xox

Maureen | OrgasmicChef - I think I could live on fresh peas. I would plant the 5 rows and stand in the garden and eat them. 🙂

Gourmet Getaways - Wow, Krista, I love the contrasting vibrance of the purple peas inside and out! They look so good! You all are a family of garden and farm experts!

Gourmet Getaways

Joanne (eats well with others) - Haha I totally agree…there is something MAJORLY cathartic and calming about shelling a bowl of peas. Especially when they are so pretty in purple!

Hotly Spiced - What lovely memories from your childhood. I also enjoy shelling peas as it’s relaxing and therapeutic and you feel it’s okay to not have to rush around. I don’t think I’ve ever had to pod anything like 20 rows of peas though – that sounds like quite the challenge. I also don’t think I’ve seen purple pods before either. They’re very pretty. Lovely salad too xx

budgetjan - What beautiful fat peas those are and what a contrast the colours would make when shelling them. 🙂

Liz Posmyk - This is a beautiful post, Krista… the words, the photos, the memories… I used to shell peas with my mother too. Love the salad as well xox

My Kitchen Stories - I havent seen those purple peas before. purple is my favourite colour and that makes them even more attractive to me. Agreed we all need to be mindful of sharing our planet. I can’t wait to read your book

katyabroad - That is such a pretty, springtime salad, and what a great way to pass the time of shelling peas by telling stories and exploring heritage! My favourite family comfort food is Bread and Butter Pudding, made to my grandma’s recipe. As a child it was my favourite pud and I can remember making it under my grandma’s watchful eye, then racing my grandad to finish my bowlful first and get seconds!

mlleparadis - mmmmm capers in potato salad….must try! it all looks so delicious. i couldn’t agree with you more about our multi-cultural world. we have so much to learn and gain from each other.


TuulaR - What beautiful peas Krista! Totally making this salad, have all the right ingredients… minus the purple peas 🙂 thanks for sharing, and your photos are always so breathtaking!

Tandy Sinclair - I was surprised to see the colour of the peas inside the purple pods! I must plant peas this summer 🙂

Sherry Kay Dyck - I don’t know if you’d classify this as part of my family heritage, but as kids we’ve always had fond memories of Friday nights in Waskaganish QC as they were our “family nights”. Dad & Mom were very poor and food was very expensive up north (30 years ago a 2L of pop was $5 – so you can imagine we didn’t get it very often…but my oh my when we did it was a very special treat!! We’d also splurge & buy vanilla ice cream and make orange or rootbeer floats! 🙂 )…so we didn’t get too many store-bought treats but my Gloria mom was amazing at creating something out of nothing. One of our favourites was her “cake-icecream-and-sauce”…in our little world it was one long word…cakeicecreamandsauce: Chocolate cake, vanilla ice cream and a home-made caramel sauce served warm…yummmmmm!!

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