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pea soup


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In these days of the tinned processed pea and the frozen pea we have become accustomed to pea soup being green, but until comparatively recently it was made from dried peas, usually yellow ones, and consequently had a characteristic yellowish-grey colour which inspired the application of pea soup and pea-souper to a thick sulphurous fog, particularly of the sort that regularly choked Londoners in the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth century. The term is first recorded around the middle of the nineteenth century: ‘Upon sallying out this morning encountered the old-fashioned pea soup London fog’ (Herman Melville, Journal of a Visit to London and the Continent, 1849). In American English, pea soup is applied colloquially to a French-Canadian person, or to the French language as spoken in Canada.

Formerly, pea soup was called pease pottage or pease porridge: ‘this house being famous for good meat, and particularly pease-porridge’ (Samuel Pepys, Diary, 1 April 1669). In their thicker, less watered-down forms these were little different from pease pudding. Pease Pottage, a village in Sussex, was originally Peasepottage Gate. Legend associates it with the guards who preceded George IV on his journey from London to Brighton, who supposedly stopped off there for a bowl of the pottage; but in fact the name existed a hundred years before George IV's time, and it probably referred to the village's role as a halting-place for prisoners, who had a meal there on their way to Horsham jail.

Subjects: Cookery, Food, and Drink.


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