March 21st – Pea Day

Whilst modern Buentoille is prosperous and relatively self-sufficient in terms of food production (for variety, much food is traded into and out of the City, but there is the capacity to feed most of the population using the surrounding farmlands without trade if needed), there were certainly periods of its history when this was not the case, and famine reared its ugly head. In these dark times, Buentoilliants turned time and time again to their saviour; the humble pea.

The pea is an early crop that can be ‘overwintered’ (i.e. planted in late autumn/early winter), the first shoots starting to show in early February. By March, the first tender pods have flourished, and some of the shoots can be harvested without worry of killing the plant. The plant is hardy enough to take a good deal of snow, and is usually not large enough to be damaged by the Gale of the Dead or any other high winds that visit the City. With care, it is possible to take three harvests from a pea crop; in March, June and September, the peas getting larger and tougher in each instance. Whilst early pea growth is used for light, tender dishes, the later harvest is dried and used for hearty winter soup or ‘potage’.

The versatility of peas had been known about for a very long time before the Great Grain Crisis that ebbed and flowed through the eighteenth century. Due to short-sighted Parliamentarians and political corruption, Buentoille had become dependant on the Seven Cities Trading Company for its food supplies, a monopoly which allowed the Company to essentially charge whatever it wished. Poor folks who had access to land, back gardens or even window boxes began to grow peas once again in response to the crisis, remembering wisdom of old that had seen Buentoille through scarcer times. After the Revolution, when the Trading Company broke ties with the City, this wisdom was taken up by the population as a whole, and large swathes of public land were given over to pea production.

Today peas are not quite so dominant, but they still hold a special place in the hearts of Buentoillitants, especially those who can remember the hard times of the Communal Reconstruction. Peas are still grown in back gardens and window boxes, as they were then, and they are a common feature in the City’s allotments. Today that fondness will be celebrated, and the traditions that came out of the Communal Reconstruction will be kept alive; all across the City communal halls and libraries will be taken over by long benches where folk will sit and eat a pea-based banquet together.

Central to the feasts are the peas that have been picked today; sweet pods that can be eaten whole, the first tiny tender peas themselves and the shoots are mixed with other early-growing spring leaves in salads and garlicky steamed dishes. Everyone is encouraged to bring the peas they’ve grown, and this tends to be a high proportion (roughly 70%, though nobody is really counting) of the attendees. Frozen mid-season peas are turned into pea fritters, light pea soups and curries, puréed and eaten with fresh-baked bread and oil, stir fried with rice or simply eaten raw with mint leaves. Late-season marrowfat and dried peas are turned into mushy peas, made into potages, stews and other such delights.

During the Communal Reconstruction, these large communal meals were commonplace, a way of ensuring that everyone had enough varied nutrition, and therefore they did not focus solely on one food as today’s banquet does. Peas were, however, a constant, especially in these early spring months when little else grows and the winter stores are looking empty. The meals often included a variety of foraged plants such as wild garlic, mushrooms, and many plants most consider weeds such as fat hen, nettles, dandelions and chickweed. These were foods that many of the resistance fighters had to rely on during the rule of the Traitor King, when they were forced to flee the City into the surrounding woodland. When they returned as part of the Revolution, they brought the survival knowledge they had gained back with them, helping to sustain the City. Everyone would bring whatever they could to their local hall, church or library, and there, in improvised kitchens (many of which remain to this day) their sundries would be turned into delicious meals.

These meals morphed into the modern festival when people began eating with their families more often due to more abundant food supplies, but people still wanted to keep the traditions they’d created alive. The early pea harvest is usually this week, and it was decided to coincide the two events as these early peas taste best when they are truly fresh. Obviously, today is not a good day for those who dislike peas, and as such other small dishes are usually made at the feasts, so that these people can still join in the festivities. It’s called the Day of the Pea, but really today is about community and solidarity, and everyone is welcome.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Festival of the Green Diamond
  • Psoriasis Awareness Day
  • The Day of Walk Planning