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Grey Peas (and Bacon)


(Pronounced, and often written, 'Peys') Dried peas, (most traditionally Maple Peas, but now sometimes green or yellow dried peas) re-hydrated and boiled with chopped onion and, usually but not invariably, barley and shreds of bacon. A supper dish or an accompaniment for faggots.

Grey Peas and Bacon
Image: www.flowersinthekitchen.co.uk

'Good cheer, the romance of food and feasting' (1911) by Frederick Hackwood, has; "A soup made of grey peas and bacon was formerly given away to their customers by all Black Country innkeepers on the Shrove Tuesday, or Fasten's E'en as it was sometimes called."

Our correspondent Fiona Daly tells us (2020) that; "Our family never put anything in other than the brown peas and then diced bacon crisped up under the grill and the rendered fat, but Iím sure every family has their own recipe and itís interesting to read the old recipes. I would though take issue with the statement that sometimes yellow or green peas are used. No only ever brown pigeon peas. Yellow split peas served with pigs tails or sometimes pigs trotters, green split peas served with ham."

Original Receipt in the verse cookery book 'Liber Cure Cocorum', 1430 (Liber Cure 1430);

For gray pese.
Fyrst stepe thy pese over the nyet,
And trendel hom clene, and fayre hom dyet.
Sethe hom in water; and brothe thou take
Of bacun, and fresshe bre thou nowt forsake;
Summe men hom lofe alyed wyle
With floure and summe with never a dele;
these pese with bacun eten may be
As tho whyet pese were, so mot I the.
But tho white with powder of peper tho
Moun be forsyd with ale there to.

Although Grey Peas and Bacon now has a strong association with the Midlands and there with Bonfire Night and, to some extent, with Ash Wednesday, several 18th and 19th Century writings point to it having being more widespread. 'The Entertaining Magazine' of 1815, for instance, reports the French traveller Sorbiere visiting London in 1698 and saying that; "The common people feed very much on grey peas ... to be had ready-boiled ... for every night there goes by a woman crying 'Hot Grey Peas and Bacon'", to which he added his French opinion that; "peas be too windy for supper meat."

Original Receipt in Marjorie Cashmore's 'A Feast of Memories: Black Country Food and Life at the Turn of the Nineteenth Century', published in 1986 by Westwood Press;

Grey Peas and Bacon
1 lb dried grey peas
1 large sliced onion
3 oz Pearl Barley
Salt and Pepper
1 lb bacon

Soak the peas and pearl barley overnight and then place in a saucepan with the onion, previously browned bacon and salt and pepper. Cook slowly for three hours. (In our experience the bacon is chopped into small pieces before browning).

Grey Peas and Bacon is the traditional Christmas meal in Latvia.

For information on the accompaniment, see:

For another pea tradition, see:
Parched Peas

For other Shrove Tuesday traditions, see:
Doughnuts - Ring form
Grey Peas (and Bacon)
Pancakes for Shrove Tuesday
Monday Collop

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