I can say with irrefutable certainty that spring has arrived in San Francisco. I only have to keep my head up and my eyes open when I walk out my front door to witness the proof: plum blossoms everywhere! And while they delight my eye and perfume the air, it's the message of spring and its promise of fresh green produce that really captures my imagination.
The other day a friend gazed out the window at the pink plum blossoms shimmering in the grey morning fog and said, smacking his lips, "I have a craving for fresh peas." The visual signal of flowering trees stirs up in us the cravings of spring, just as surely as the deep reds and golds of autumn bring on a yearning for smoky bacon, butternut squash and hot apple pie.
I couldn't agree with my pea-loving friend more. I'm ready to leave behind my beloved but tired menu of winter squash and storage potatoes and venture, almost on tiptoe, into the vibrant realm of spring produce. I crave the sweetness and fresh snap of young peas, the tender shoots of asparagus, the mysterious and rewarding fava bean. I crave the green. It's time!
Ah, but not quite. While there have been (unconfirmed) sightings of asparagus at local markets, the truth is we're not there yet. It's close, very close, but the stalls are still full of hearty winter greens and piles of citrus. My fantasy of whipping up a nice omelette with fresh peas or some asparagus fades in the foggy morning air.
So what to do? The answer is simple and lives in the back of my freezer: a bag of peas.
If you are even an occasional visitor to these meditations, then you know that I'm a firm supporter of local, seasonal foods. It just make sense to me on so many levels and besides, I enjoy the challenge of eating seasonally which, contrary to popular belief, does occasionally become an issue in Northern California. But at the same time I'm also a realist and a walker of the middle path. My stash of frozen peas are a good example of a sort of kitchen pragmatism that I've come to cultivate lately.
So on a cold, foggy morning when the taste of spring is exactly the medicine needed, I reach into the freezer and pull out a handful of peas to defrost on the counter. I crack some eggs for an omelette and melt a square butter in a frying pan. As the kitchen fills with the scent of melting butter and frying scallions, I glance out the window at the plum tree. A gentle breeze stirs the branches and a few pink blossoms fall gently, silently to the ground.
(Images: Dana Velden)