Canned Peas

by Janice Boland

Canned peas, canned carrots, canned peas and carrots. Canned green beans, canned asparagus, canned lima beans. Canned juice—pulpy and gagging. Yuk. My mother had taken a course in Health and Nutrition when she was at NYU and was taught that canned food was safe, nutritious, sterilized and sanitary, while fresh fruits and vegetables were unsanitary and dirty, harbored insects, and full of germs.

And so, she fed us canned vegetables, never allowing us to come in contact with a single unsanitary fresh vegetable—except for lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes and a washed, ultra-scrubbed and peeled apple.

Talk about logic. We even had to drink the undrinkable, bitter canned grapefruit juice and pineapple juice with its thick, gagging bottom pulp.

All of this canned stuff was salty, mushy, tinny- tasting, and horrid, but according to that course at NYU—SANITARY and SAFE for children. And so, we grew up hating vegetables, despising vegetables, loathing vegetables, and juice.

Then one day, when I was in high school, I saw an agricultural film about growing and harvesting vegetables. There, before my unbelieving eyes were crates of bright orange carrots, deep green spinach, beautiful heads of cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage, bunches of ruby red beets, boxes of green beans, and peas, some in and some out of their cute little pods.

Who knew this beautiful bounty of delicious vegetables existed?

As soon as I grew up and was on my own, I sought out these beautiful green and yellow, red and orange veggies, and through the years my family and I feasted on them, in salads, side dishes, and as main dishes, too. Steamed, braised, sautéed, roasted, and raw. My sons Robert and John grew up appreciating good food and became skilled in the culinary arts.

One Sunday, the family gathered together for dinner at my son Robert’s home. He had prepared a wonderful, all natural, farm fresh, organic feast of butternut squash soup, baby spinach and arugula salad, sauteed green beans with wild mushrooms, mashed potatoes, and homemade gravy to accompany the grass-fed prime rib roast.

At the end of this beautiful bountiful feast, as we sat around the table enjoying dessert— his wife’s homemade pies and fresh baked cookies—my son, who was at the head of the table, looked around at us and said,

“You know what would have made this the Perfect Dinner? — Grandma Lena’s canned peas.”

© 2023 Janice Boland  All rights reserved.

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