Yes, here comes yet another family memory story about my grandmother, who shall be referred to usually as “granny”. I’m still working through the adaption to TapeWrite of her telling them recorded in 1994.

Another long ago memory came to me a few weeks ago, the taste of her thick split pea soup. As a kid (and a kid-like adult) I loved that soup. It was hearty, chunks of ham, and small dumplings she dropped in.

In 1987, that first year I had moved to Arizona, I bet I told her in a phone call or letter how much I missed her split pea soup. I imagine her laughing warmly. What I did not imagine at the time would be she would mail a box to me in Arizona. In that box was one of her soup pots, a bag of split peas, and an index card with her hand written recipe.

Now here is where my memory gets fuzzy, I must have tried the recipe, but I cannot remember making the soup. At 27 I was not thinking about being as old as I am now nor that she would ever not be around.

On one of my grocery expeditions a month ago I tossed a bag of split peas in the basket. With the weather turning much colder this week, the soup desire is on, and so was lit my plan to make some of that green soup.

Not only is my memory lost, so is her soup pot and recipe card. So I hope you don;t get mad Granny, is I turned to Betty Crocker’s Split Pea Crock Pot soup. At Safeway Sunday, I looked for ham hocks, but could not find them, and since they had a lot ham on sale for Thanksgiving, I just bought a half ham, cooked so I can a number of meals as well as the bone for the soup.

I fired it up at 8am, and it was a slow cook all day…

But by 7pm it had thickened nicely, and made for a nice soupy meal. It was pretty good (and will be for like 4 more left over servings), and have no means to compare to Granny’s but I will give her the nod in the comparison.

And then I find my memory is more faulty, searching for a reference in a blog post, my search turned up a PDF of her recipe! grandmas-pea-soup

I think my sister had a copy of it after all (and at the bottom a reference to the egg drop / dumplings I remember)

It’s similar to Betty Crocker, but like all recipes, there are differences. I do remember Granny’s having the sliced hotdogs (I tossed in some ham chunks).

Who cares if the soup is as good as I remember? The memory is even better.

And next time I am trying the egg drops.

Do yourself a favor, not only make an effort ASAP to get audio recordings of your family stories, get the recipes!

Top / Featured Image: That’s my photo of the soup I made tonight, taken after I uploaded today’s photos to flickr. This one will be there tomorrow and you can bet a bowl of soup that it will be licensed Creative Commons CC0.

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An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Alan,
    I examined your grandmother ‘s recipe with great interest as one of my geeky passions is familial recipes. Your Granny’s recipe has its roots firmly in the 1950s when food companies like Lipton’s Onion Soup were developing and disseminating recipes to the booming population of post war housewives.

    Split pea soup itself in all its many variations dates back to 500 BC and probably before that. Aristophanes famously mentions it in The Birds. Every culture that has dried peas claims a unique regional recipe as their own–like the seven moles of Oaxaca, they’re all good!

    I’ve enjoyed studying my grandmother’s recipe collection to see which recipes come out of the 1950s ad boom and which ones can be traced back to regional Normandy food ways.

    I recently tried to serve my Mom a change up on our family recipe of oxtails and she let me know in no uncertain terms that braising them in coconut milk was NOT an option!

    Your soup looks great, btw, exactly right by my all-American lights.

    1. Oh wow, Sandy, thanks for that history; I was certainly curious why the Lipton’s was in her recipe, when the one I found seemed to do fine with real onions, salt, and pepper. And Split Pea soup has a rich history! I wonder now why/how someone went from dried peas to split ones.

      I wonder when I am sifting through so many varieties of soup recipes (I looked at maybe 5 for the pea soup) where the core elements are common, but so many differences that I wonder about the precision, especially of soups. I nearly always end up tossing in a spice or something not in the original. The same night I made a corn bread from a recipe another friend shared– my attempts at cornbread form “simple” recipes came out dry and bland. The one from her Mom called for sour cream, which I forgot to get from the store (30 miles away), so I substituted plain yogurt. It came out quite good, but who knows what exactly makes it work? I like this mystery element of cooking.

  2. I must have sent you a copy of her recipe. I still like keeping paper copies of recipes in a binder since I always forget to look on my computer.
    I have a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream that I use in split pea soup. It must be 20 yrs old!

    1. 20 year old cream! And you made fun of the 1987 Cream of Tartar spice you found in my cabinet.

      Yes, I keep a folder of print recipes in my cabinet. Near the top is your pizza dough recipe, it has not failed to impress.

      Now if you had a copy of Grandma’s chopped liver recipe…

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