Part way through my novel, The Snow Child, a neighbor named Esther brings the main character a jar of pickled peas. We have some friends who make pickled peas, and they are delicious. But this fall, for the first time ever, I decided to make them myself.
My 4-year-old daughter and I went down to the garden and filled a gallon bucket with peas from the vines. Then, over the weekend, I convinced everyone in the family to help with the pickling process.
We gathered at our counter. Aurora picked the stems and leaves off the peas, I lined them up in the jars, Grace sprinkled in the dill, pepper flakes and cayenne (easy does it, per Mr. Baer), and Sam poured in the boiling apple cider and salt water. Then we put on the lids, lowered the jars into a giant pot and set them to boiling.
Half an hour later, we were forking steaming, spicy hot peas into our mouths. They were delicious, and potent. More of an appetizer to have along with some good bread or wheat crackers. Aurora turned them down with a wrinkle of her nose — she’s more of a meat-and-potatoes girl.
Last week, I tweeted about how I was going to make them:
Just harvested peas from the garden. Going to make my first batch of spicy pickled peas. Wish Esther was here to help. Life Imitating Art.
To which Chicago bookseller Nathan Dunbar, who has read an advanced reader copy of my novel, replied:
you could watch while Esther whizzed through it.
And I tweeted back:
Ha! She’d take over the kitchen! Imagining is actually making me feel a little dizzy, like when I look at an optical illusion.
It was such a wonderful, strange experience to be talking about this character, and her cooking, as if she were a real person instead of a creation of my imagination. And it made me wonder what Esther would think of our pickled peas.