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fell into a bucket or a drawer. So, yes, they could have paid to have them shelled, but why would they have done that? My brother, sister, and I were fantastic pea shellers, and we were free labor.

Shelling peas together was considered prime family bonding time. Our parents didn’t have to wonder if we were out with friends getting into trouble because we were sitting beside them shelling peas until our fingertips and fingernails were sore.

After a minute, I said, “There’s a lot of value in knowing how to do things. Just because you can pay someone to do something, doesn’t mean you should always go that route. I think that when you know how much time and effort go into preparing food to eat, it makes you more appreciative. Next time we are all down at Mom and Johnny’s house eating peas, pause and think about how much work those peas represent.”

I remember opening my family’s large freezer chest and seeing all the plastic bags filled with every kind of pea imaginable. It was a beautiful thing.

Just a few years ago, I was digging through my mother’s freezer only to find a bag of peas on the bottom with a label that read, “Cream 40, 7-23-92.” I froze understanding the significance of that bag — the last peas my father grew in his garden and shelled before he died in August that year. A wave of sadness rolled in.

So peas are important to me, and so is the tradition of growing them, shelling them, and preserving them. I recognize the historical significance of field peas — I’m sure they saved thousands of Southerners from starvation during and after the Great Depression. But it’s their flavor I love the most. There’s just nothing like fresh, farmto- fork peas simmered to perfection with a ham bone bobbing in the middle of the pot — a perfect complement to crispy cornbread.

Our nephew and I often joke that we are going to start a mail order business one day selling “those tiny green peas that are so delicious,” also known as Lady Cream Peas.

“We could make a fortune selling those little peas,” he has remarked through the years.

He’s probably right, but I cringe at the work involved. I think I should stick to writing.

During his visit to Lyons, my mother and stepfather gave our nephew some of their fresh peas to take home to North Carolina. He posted a photo of the peas on a plate on Facebook. I’m sure they were delicious, and most of all, I’m sure they tasted like home.

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