Split pea

rds jlh first split pea

For many years in my family the standard for good split pea soup was set by the folks down in Santa Nella in California’s great central valley at Pea Soup Andersen’s. That restaurant on Interstate 5 is not far from the original location in Buellton where Anton and Juliette Andersen set their first restaurant in 1924.

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The Andersens (Anton, Robert T. and Juliette) in the early days

According to their website, three months in, they added pea soup based on a recipe made by Juliette’s family, which became the main attraction at Anderson’s Electrical Cafe (named for the business’s new stove) and for the two restaurants eventually called Pea Soup Andersen’s.

My family members excel in many areas, but cooking is not generally one of them. My Grandma Haag made great Swedish meatballs and brownies but did not generally hand down great cuisine genes to her children or grandchildren. Fortunately, my sister married Eric, who has been an adventurous cook for years, and when he gets together with our cousin Robyn, a home arts teacher and her husband, Johnny, a catering professional, some pretty creative food gets served to our family. (Thanks, you guys!)

I have often said that I will eat anything that Dick’s sister Margery puts on a plate. She doesn’t consider herself a fancy cook, but she hosts most of their family gatherings, which no one leaves unsatisfied.

All this is to say that I’m no Juliette Andersen. I consider myself cooking impaired and, if I’m being honest, someone who hasn’t taken the time to dive into the kitchen with great interest and a willingness to experiment. I’d rather go write a poem or read a book or take a walk. My friend Georgann loves to cook, and my late husband Cliff was an adventurous cook. When he was alive, we hosted a number of Thanksgivings, something I haven’t tried since. (Well, there was one disaster, and I gave up after that.)

But since Dick came home after a month in Honolulu recovering from his cardiac arrest in January and a triple bypass, what he wanted was soup. Good homemade soup. That arrived in the form of Jewish penicillin from our good friend Hilary Abramson and Marge’s split pea soup. They kept telling me—along with my good friend Lisa Morgan who is a fine cook herself—”Soup is easy.”

So I had Marge and Lisa talk me through how they do split pea soup (after looking up way too many recipes online). “Make it as simple as you possibly can,” I said. “As if you were talking to someone who barely knows where the stove is.”

And they did. Each of their instructions occupies a single square sticky note.

“I’m gonna try this,” I told Dick when we went to the store one day. (Store runs and daily walks are big outings for a guy who isn’t allowed to drive yet.)

He looked dubious. Not because he doesn’t have faith in me. “You’re so busy,” he said, which is true. “You want to add this to your list of things to do?”

“Yes,” I said, thinking of the friends I admire (some of them men) who make their own soup. “How hard can it be?” And we laughed, of course, because usually that’s the sentence that spells the beginning of trouble.

We bought a package of split peas, wondering how they split them so perfectly down the middle. We bought low-sodium chicken stock and onion and carrots and celery. We bought a nice chunk of good ham from the deli section. And on the Sunday morning when we spring forward in California (after chopping the veggies the night before), I got up and put the veggies in the soup pot with some olive oil and sautéed ’em, as instructed, and then added all the chicken broth (as I wondered, “Are 32 oz. too many oz.s?”) and some water and left it all to simmer on the stove.

Then I went back to bed for a while. Dozed. Woke up realizing that it’s probably not smart to go back to bed with something cooking on the stove (though I do it when I’m baking Grandma’s brownies… of course, then I set a timer). Got up, flustered. Went back to the kitchen. Peeked at the soup. Stirred it, mostly for drill. Read the sticky notes again. “Crap,” I said to the cats who were sitting there watching me. (They’re not used to seeing me at the stove in the morning. Or at any time of day, really.) Lisa’s instructions said add fresh bay leaf. I forgot the bay leaf. Don’t have bay leaf. Decided not to go buy a bottle of ’em at 9-something a.m.—wait, no, 10-something a.m.—when I needed just one. Lisa said you just take it out before you eat the soup anyway.

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Bay leaves

“Bay leaves are stupid,” I said to the cats. Then I went to the computer and Googled “why put bay leaf in soup” and read for a while. Apparently they are not stupid. “The bay leaf adds a slightly sweet, sort of tea-like note,” according to one article. Best to get fresh ones anyway. That wasn’t going to happen, so I crossed “bay leaf” off my instructions.

“We will imagine that there is bay leaf in the soup,” I told the cats, who looked unimpressed.

I stirred the soup a bit and watched it steam. I felt slightly more accomplished in the cooking arena and went to take a shower. In the shower I realized that I’d forgotten the ham at Dick’s house, even though the night before I said, “Please make me a sticky note that says ‘HAM’ on it in big letters, and put it on the door so I don’t forget to take it home with me.” I walked right out that door without HAM and this morning got an email from Dick saying, “You forgot the ham.”

Craaaaaaap.

Decided not to drive over to Dick’s to get it. It could be vegetarian split pea soup. Or I could add the ham when I got to Dick’s house later in the day. It would be an afterthought. Like the virtual bay leaf in the soup.

I was having trouble finding agreement between my on-the-ground experts and online sources about how long to simmer the soup. “A long time,” Marge had said.

“The longer it simmers, the mushier the peas get,” Lisa had said. That sounded good. No one wants hard peas in their soup. I went to the kitchen, lifted the lid and stirred. Yep, gettin’ good and mushy.

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Jan’s First Split Pea Soup

Crap. Seasonings. Was it too late for seasonings? And what seasonings should I use? Fresh ones, the sticky notes said, which, of course, I didn’t have. All the online sources had different suggestions. I opened my spice cupboard, surveyed the little bottles, proud of myself for having bought new dried spices oh, when was it? Maybe three months ago? Couldn’t have been last summer, was it? Nah… three months ago tops. Cinnamon didn’t seem right. I settled on Seasoning Salute that had a bunch of stuff in it. Sprinkled with abandon and let the steam carry the good smells into my nostrils.

Went back to the computer and Googled “seasonings for split pea soup.” Read for a while. Googled Pea Soup Andersen’s and read about their history. I learned that in a book called “On the Back Roads: Discovering Small Towns of America,” author Bill Graves noted that the restaurant sold 500 to 600 gallons of pea soup in a day.  250px-Andersens_restaurant,_Buellton,_CaliforniaI looked at Andersen’s recipe: crumbled bay leaves. And a teeny bit of cayenne pepper. Huh. Other than that, pretty much everything I’d used. But oh, crap. That recipe advises you to wash the split peas first to “remove any stones or impurities.” Stones? There are stones in peas? And they don’t simmer their soup for hours. Maybe an hour and then use something called a “food mill” to “create the smoothest, creamiest texture.”

A food mill? Craaaaaaaap.

But I took heart and looked at my sticky notes again. Neither Lisa nor Marge has said anything about cayenne pepper or a food mill. Probably my soup would come out just fine. Wouldn’t it? It would, I decided, when I turned off the heat and left it on the stove to cool. It would be just fine.

And it was just fine. Better than I thought. Creamier. Thicker. Especially after I put it in plastic in the fridge. When Dick scooped it cold into the saucepan for dinner, it was the texture of mashed potatoes. Green mashed potatoes with orange bits of carrot peeking out here and there. We heated it up, added the ham and more seasonings out of Dick’s cabinet, and it went back to its soft, soup-like state.

And, as you can see from Dick’s smile in the photo at the top, we very happily each ate a bowl of Jan’s First Split Pea Soup. We think it is as good as Andersen’s, but we may be a wee bit biased. There is more to eat tomorrow and tomorrow, too. We may get sick of split pea soup, but right now, I am basking in the glow of a small accomplishment.

I made soup for my sweetie, and I can live on that smile for a long time to come.

 

 

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Bonus time

Daylight Saving Time 10mar2019

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Pesketti

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“Clang clang clang went the trolley…” 🚃 Dick’s not quite old enough to remember riding the trolleys in Sacramento when they used to run all over Sacramento (they were in use from 1895–1947, according to William Burg’s good book, “Sacramento Streetcars”). But he loves sitting in a reproduction of one at the Old Spaghetti Factory on a fiercely rainy night.

We well know that a little bit of pasta and minestrone soup helps with the healing!

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This makes me smile… how old-fashioned/old folkish/plain old corny to eat at a chain restaurant that Dick loves and go home bearing containers with our initials on them. Our foodie friends no doubt would point us to other pasta places. And yet… what a bit of sweetness to see those containers with the familiar logo snuggled together in the fridge, the angel hair topped with meat and Mizithra sauces inside portents of meals to come.

For a moment last month I thought we might never be an “us” again. Yet here we are. So much sweetness on these cold, wet winter days. So much warmth.

#gratefulforsecondlifetimes

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Walk a mile in his shoes… or two

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Every day since returning from our recent Hawaiian adventure, Dick and I set out on foot across Woodside, the former walnut orchard-turned-condo-complex where he has lived since the 1970s. Long ago he developed a roughly two-mile walking path through his neighborhood, which still has the feel of a lovely park, complete with duck pond and old walnut trees mixed in with many varieties of newer ones.

Every spring the man whose niece and nephew dubbed Uncle Duck many years ago goes walking to look at the mallards that land on the duck pond, some of whom lay eggs there. It’s always a treat to find the baby ducks waddling behind their mamas, bobbing like little yellow fluff balls on the pond.

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Uncle Duck with empty duck pond: “Where have all my buddies gone?”

Right now the pond is pau, as they say in Hawaii—kaput, done—though it’s really resting  as so many things do in winter. There is clearly extensive repair work being done on the duck pond, but that didn’t stop Uncle Duck from taking a moment to pose in it on a special day.

Today is the month-a-versary of Dick’s bypass surgery: His reborn heart is a month old. And with that recharged heart, he walked a slow but steady 1.9 miles throughout Woodside today.

We continue to be grateful (and write thank you notes) to the many people on Oahu who were so kind to us during our extended stay there. We wouldn’t be here, walking around smiling at the most ordinary things, without them.

Here’s to many more miles logged around his ‘hood as our Duck continues to grow stronger!

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Walkin’ man

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Welcome home, Dick Schmidt!

Dick is home and spent the holiday weekend taking walks in between naps and eating a bit more, including Hilary Abramson’s chicken noodle soup (i.e., Jewish penicillin!). We are big fans of homemade soup!

He’s spending more time up reading and communicating with people, and he’s so happy to be back in his regular life… as am I. Never have we felt so lucky to have more time on the planet, together and with other loved ones.

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Walking Woodside… about a half a mile now, which will increase with time.

Here’s to many more walks and time in the sun for us—and we are thankful for all of you who’ve been so supportive and kind on our journey.

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Not likely to exceed the speed limit… yet! 

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Cora and Connie

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Cora, Dick and Connie

There cannot be enough mahalo in the world to properly thank these two women for caring for Dick for 16 days, bringing their warmth, good care and good food in a chilly house in the clouds in Pearl City, Hawaii.

Their love and warmth and long friendships with Dick have made all the difference in his recovery, and we wish Connie Raub safe travels as she wings her way home today to Colorado Springs. We hope for clearing weather over the summit so Cora Johnson can return home to Minden, Nevada, soon, but we are selfishly glad to have a bit more time with her in Sacramento, too.

It has taken a village, in every sense of that phrase, and we are grateful to all of you who have read and supported Dick’s journey from afar. We love you all.

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He’s baaaack!

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Dick and Salesi

He’s home, AND he’s a media star on TV and in the Honolulu newspaper he worked for in the ’70s, now called the Star-Advertiser.

We are so grateful to Pamela Foster and the AED Institute for organizing the Celebration of Life that honored Dick today before boarding his Hawaiian Airlines flight home to Sacramento… exactly one month after he collapsed with a cardiac arrest in the Honolulu airport.

Dick got to meet, among others, Salesi Maumau, the Honolulu firefighter who administered chest compressions. (Salesi’s parents live in Elk Grove… it IS a small world after all.)

You can read the story and watch the video here:

https://www.staradvertiser.com/2019/02/15/breaking-news/visitor-saved-by-aed-machine-meets-honolulu-firefighter-who-helped-him/

And here’s the video of the TV coverage from KHON2:

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Love, ascending

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for Jenna Tanigawa

At 9,375 feet, winging away from Hawaii,
I opened the little plastic bag,
its green closure yielding easily, and,
glancing at the traveler next to me in 14B
absorbed in a movie on his phone,
I took a bite of love.

Love tasted like turkey and cheese
wrapped in simple bread. Love tasted
like it had been assembled by a busy mom
that morning, early, as she got her
little girl ready for the day
before getting herself ready
for the day, as moms do.

Love tasted like the ride that young mother
gave me to the airport the morning
I had to leave my love in the care of good
friends—eight days after his triple bypass,
seventeen days after a cardiac arrest
felled him, seventeen days after
strangers pumped his chest and
applied the pads that shocked him
back to life.

Love tasted like nine days of care
in the hospital before his surgery,
like the talented, dedicated team
whose surgeon took photos for us
on his phone of the flabby heart
and then the repaired one.

Love tasted like the blessing of friends
who sent support from afar, the island ones
who brought warm clothes and blankets,
who came to sit with us, like the people
who took their house in the clouds
off the market to rent to us, a sweet place
of refuge when we so needed one.

Love tasted like the gift of a defibrillator
like the one that saved him
and the training that went with it—
from this mom who’d made the
sandwich and tucked it into a little bag
with a napkin and two energy bars
for my flight home.

Love tasted like deep breaths
when tears of gratitude came
at 12,400 feet, at 22,670 feet,
at 35,135 feet, our cruising altitude
into an approaching night,
aloha buoying me across the Pacific
to a careful descent and a landing
so gentle I barely felt the wheels
of the great craft kiss the ground,
safe.

—Jan Haag

 

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Hauoli la hanau

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Dick Schmidt, birthday celebration February 2016, The Sea Ranch, with his traditional Hostess cupcake.

I have to share this today, on his 76th birthday, though he asked me not to out him on his day… because so many friends and loved ones have been following his journey, and he’s overwhelmed by all the love. But not quite a month ago this man died in front of me and was brought back to life by a series of miracles administered by angels passing as strangers.

And though I am beyond grateful for Dick Schmidt every day, on this day, my own imperfect heart bursts with adoration for this kind, kind man, whose great heart has been repaired by talented and loving hands, to give him more time to share his generous self with so many who admire and love him.

Hauoli la hanau, Dickie. Happy birthday to you!

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Dickie Dean (master tour guide) at Manele Bay (actually named Hulopoe) beach, the island of Lana’i, Hawaii, with his favorite red Jeep. (January 2015)

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Doin’ what he does best, shooting photos in Hawaii. (January 2016)

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All systems are go

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Cardiac P.A. Tim Berkley examines Dick almost three weeks after his triple bypass. 

Almost three weeks after his triple bypass, Dick returned to Moanalua hospital in Honolulu today for a follow-up appointment with cardiac physician’s assistant Tim Berkley, one of the incredible team of caretakers who repaired Dick’s heart.

I got the full report from Dick and his on-the-ground carewomen, Cora Johnson and Connie Raub, and Dick is coming along very well. He has very little pain, is off the heavy-duty meds, is walking daily, and his blood sugar numbers are very good.

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The X-ray of Dick’s heart, pumping away stronger than ever almost three weeks after his triple bypass.

The upshot is: All systems are go. He’s been cleared for takeoff this Friday when he’ll be honored with a Celebration of Life at the Honolulu airport by some of the folks who revived him after his cardiac arrest Jan. 15. Dick will get to meet the people from Hawaiian Airlines who called 911 (Heather Tononaka) and fetched the AED (Chris Ohta), applied the pads and administered the shock. We hope he gets to meet the Honolulu firefighter, Salesi Maumau, who did chest compressions, too.
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Dick and Dr. Tim, as he calls him, one of the amazing team of professionals who cared for Dick before and after his CABG (bypass surgery) Jan. 24.

The women from the AED Institute will also be there, including Pam Foster, the former emergency room nurse who moved to Hawaii in 2004 to make the installation of AEDs in airports and in public places across the islands her life’s work. She and her colleague Jenna Tanigawa came to visit Dick the day after his cardiac arrest to tell him that he is the 50th survivor in a Hawaiian airport, a statistic of which he is very proud.

After all the fanfare, Dick and Cora and Connie will board Hawaiian Airlines flight 20 to Sacramento, and this time he’ll do just fine, returning home 76 years young and ready to stride into the rest of his remarkable life.

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Dick Schmidt, 76 years young as of Feb. 13, with his newly repaired heart, stronger than ever. 

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