[Sca-cooks] TI Article on Peas

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Fri Jul 20 12:43:13 PDT 2007

We finally got our TI and I've looked over the article.  Not bad, but not 
really accurate.

The garden pea, which the author was discussing is Pisum sativum ssp. 
sativum, but the peas that were common in Northern Europe prior to the 16th 
Century were field peas, P. sativum var. arvense.  Field peas are better 
suited to drying than to being eaten fresh, which may be why fresh pea 
recipes are few and far between.

The "smaller Italian pea" presumably introduced by Catherine de Medici is 
actually the garden pea and the reason it was smaller (as in piselli novelli 
(?) and petit pois) is because the pods that are eaten fresh are picked 
prior to maturity.  However, the fad of eating fresh, immature peas is more 
of an artifact of the 17th Century.

My biggest beef with the Apocrypha of Catherine is that the fabulous Italian 
cooks in her train made all these changes to French cuisine were most like 
just that, a fable.  Catherine's branch of the Medici had taken some hard 
financial hits from civil war before her Uncle, the Pope, pulled her from a 
convent to cement a political alliance with the French.  The Pope was paying 
the bills, so any great Italian chefs that arrived in France probably worked 
for the Pope and likely went home with him.  I sometimes think the tale of 
Catherine's cooks is a Victorian swipe at the French, but I haven't chased 
the sources.

>From her marriage in 1533 until 1560, was largely ignored at the French 
court.  On the death of her husband, she became Regent for her son and could 
no longer be ignored.  The changes she made in French society from 1560 to 
her death in 1589 are far more interesting than the fabulous cooks.


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