WEDISH PEA SOUP, or ärtsoppa, first came to my attention a year ago, when I was hunting up a dish to pair with Let the Right One In for my Halloween dinner-and-a-movie series. I ended up going with Swedish meatballs, both because they’re delicious and because they gave me an excuse to make a vampire meatball. A week or two ago, having implemented austerity measures, I scanned the dried beans selection in what I like to call the Disappointment Aisle of my local Stop & Shop. I saw something that at least had novelty on its side: yellow split peas.
What does one make with yellow split peas? Ärtsoppa, it turns out. A cursory search of Wikipedia and Google Images reveals that Swedish pea soup is generally greenish-yellow, that it is traditionally eaten on Thursday, that it includes a lot of pig products (like smoked ham hocks, see below), and that Swedes are uniformly fond of it. Here’s what one website has to say about it:
Ärtsoppa “used to be eaten on a Thursday, because this used to be the day servants took off and the soup was easy to prepare. Peas also used to be connected to the legend of Thor and Thursday is named after him. Others believe that the tradition originates from the pre-Reformation days because it was the ideal food to eat before fasting commenced on the Friday. Indeed, the Swedish Army still serves its troops with pea soup every Thursday. The soup was mentioned in historical records as far back as 1577, when the imprisoned King Erik XIV was said to have died from eating a poisoned bowl of pea soup. . . . It is usually served with a little mustard on the side and is then followed by thin pancakes called Pannkakor and a sweet, hot liquor called Punsch.”
I chose this recipe for its simplicity, but I don’t think it was submitted by an authentic Swede. The giveaway is that reference to “Swedish punch.” Punsch is not the same thing as punch, though it seems there may be some etymological connections. In any case, this soup is a welcome remedy for the fast-approaching Winter Madness: meaty, delicious, and the same cheerful life-is-worth-living yellow of my old kitchen (Behr 310B-7 Saffron Thread, FYI).
It is after you skim it, anyway. The pork hocks generate some pretty gruesome jacuzzi mung.
Beneath that, a huge pot of chunky, pig-flavored sunshine. It’s like a HappyLite you can eat.