He wanted to lick the inside of the Igloo cooler!

Someone gave us a fully cooked ham that had not been frozen, so I decided to make split pea and ham soup for last week. We always have a large turkey roasting pan with a vegetarian alternative and a pot of spaghetti with meat sauce, so there would be options for those who do not eat pork. The soup I made was not their grandma’s split pea & ham. Ask my wife. I never do any thing the simple way. I’ll write the recipe, then I will get back to the rest of the story.

Ingredients:

  • 4 quarts home made chicken broth
  • 2 pounds dried black eyed peas
  • 5-20 ounce bags green split peas
  • 2 pounds yellow split peas
  • 1 head garlic, peeled
  • ~ 5 or 6 medium sized, sweet onions, diced
  • 2 pounds carrots
  • 1/2 head of celery
  • 2 Tablespoons ground turmeric
  • 2 Tablespoons powdered sage
  • 3 quarts water
  • ~ 2 cubic inches grated, fresh ginger root
  • ~ 8 pounds of fully cooked, reduced sodium ham
  • 35 twists of medium grind fresh black pepper

Directions:

Rinse the black eyed peas. Dump into a large sauce pan with 3 quarts of boiling water and boil for a few minutes. Then turn off the heat, cover and let sit for an hour. Heat up the chicken broth in a 22 quart stock pot. Rinse the split peas in a colander and add to the stock pot. Press the garlic into the pot. Stir frequently. Add water. Grate ginger into the pot. Whisk the peas vigorously.  Add the turmeric and sage and whisk in. As soon as the peas are cooked, mushy and thoroughly blended, transfer the stock pot into the double boiler, canner set up. Wash and cut up the carrots and throw them into a food processor on chop.  They should be finely chopped. Add to the pot. Do the same for the celery. Rinse the black eyed peas in a colander and add them to the pot, stirring them in. Cut the ham into bite sized pieces and add to the pot. Grind the pepper into the pot. Stir everything together.  It should by just about 1″ shy of the top of the stock pot and very thick. Make sure the canner does not run out of water. Keep it bubbling for hours until you are ready to transfer it to the Igloo cooler or Cambro to take it to the street or fellowship hall.

Plantains1OK. I started the black eyed peas about 7:30am. About 9:30am, Kevin Paige arrived to help chop for the soup. About 3:30, April and the grandsons arrived with the Vegetarian Mofongo to put in the oven. About 4:30pm, I went to Giant to get iced tea, including  some unsweetened for the diabetics. Then I made sure the TKJ-mobile was stocked and ready.  About 6pm, we had dinner. About 6:30pm, I recorded the temperature of the soup at 168º & transferred it into the Igloo cooler. We made sure I had a serving spoon and ladle and put those in the vehicle. About 6:45pm Brian Simpson  arrived and another car with sandwiches arrived. We finished loading the TKJ-mobile; did a final check: “two sets of keys, Alex’s mail, any phones for Alex, ladle, spoon, hot sauce, hand washing station, brain: optional.” “We’re good.”

By 7pm, we headed off to Philadelphia with 22 quarts of soup, a huge roaster pan of mofongo, a couple hundred meat and cheese sandwiches, 9-1/2 gallons of iced tea, hot sauce, salt, pepper, assorted clothes, etc. Folks from Holy Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, Elkins Park, PA, Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, Wilmington, DE,  Holy Ascension Antiochian Orthodox Church, Downingtown, PA, St. Philip Antiochian Orthodox Church, Souderton, PA, and Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, Phila., PA, were there set up, ready to serve with spaghetti with meat sauce, more sandwiches, oranges, bananas, apples, hard boiled eggs, pastries, toiletries, Greek Easter cookies, candy bars, bags, etc.

We finished setting up. Everyone who needed to washed their hands and got their gloves on. People were in their positions. Fr. Chris gave the blessing and we started serving.

I loaded up a bag with a bunch of oranges to go to the back of the line to give them away from the back to the front. I didn’t get very far before I saw Morris. It was like seeing a ghost! I still have his number on my cellphone, but I have several dead people’s names and numbers on my cellphone. Soon they will outnumber the living I was just telling myself on Tuesday of last week. We used to talk regularly. I would check in with Morris on a regular basis. Then there was no answer. Then the phone was cut off. I did search the obituaries, but that is not always foolproof. I have kept praying for Morris regardless. We keep praying for our loved ones whether in this world or the next. Death does not stop love. Morris is a survivor of Desert Storm and has some serious cancers from the chemical warfare that the US used there that the VA doesn’t want to admit to or deal with. The last time we spoke in person we talked about that and he was really down.

On Thursday, I told him I was so glad to see him and that I thought he was dead. He shouldn’t disappear like that. He told me that he finally got help for his PTSD and was hospitalized for depression and finally got the right meds and got things straightened out. He said, “Do you see me? I’m smiling!” I said, “Yes! You look beautiful!” This isn’t the kind of response this macho veteran would usually tolerate. From me, though … he gave me a big sheepish grin, with a tear in his eye.

Morris asked me how I was doing. (He knew all about my health problems. We’re friends.) I told him that I was finally getting treatment for my PTSD. It was a step in the right direction. Two other men were listening and they joined in. They, too, had PTSD. One was a veteran and one was not. The one who was not was a bit apologetic about it and the two veterans were quick to say, “You don’t have to be a veteran to have PTSD!” We ended up having a little support group right there in the line until we got up to the bench where the food was being served. Then I went back and gave away the rest of the oranges.

bollards
bollards

I then took up my usual position as a bollard, informing the folks of what was in the food. We ran out of spaghetti. Then we ran out of mofongo. Then we were almost out of soup. One man came back, raving over the soup. He wanted more. Sean told him it was all gone. The man asked who made it. I confessed. He said, “You sure put some love into it!” I told him to give me his spoon and hold his cup under the corner of the Igloo container as we prop it up. I scraped and scraped the last little bits of it into his cup. He said that he would lick the bottom of that cooler if he could! It was that good.

We finished serving. Everyone had plenty. We had more conversations with people. I ribbed Fr. Chris as usual. (I mean, it’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it.) You have to love Fr. Christos and Presvy. Joanna! We packed up the TKJ-mobile, including three full grown men and their gear into the back seat to drop them off at their homes. We headed up N. Broad St. to drop off Mark, Anthony & Gregory. Then Brian deposited me and the TKJ-mobile at home a little after 10pm. Then he proceeded home to Perkasie.

I should also mention that we experienced a record number of crazy drivers on the road:  people who were texting who were trying to swerve into our lane;  a lady who pulled out and immediately tried to cross two lanes into the side of our car;  a truck who drove like a sportscar; people not stopping for emergency vehicles, etc. Pray for us as we travel.