green pea soup

Pea soup

Pea soup is soup made, typically, from dried peas. It is, with variations, a part of the cuisine of many cultures. It is greyish-green or yellow in color depending on the regional variety of peas used; all are cultivars of Pisum sativum.

Pea soup has been eaten since antiquity; it is mentioned in Aristophanes' The Birds, and according to one source "the Greeks and Romans were cultivating this legume about 500 to 400 BC. During that era, vendors in the streets of Athens were selling hot pea soup.

Pea soup around the world


In Adelaide, a traditional food is the Pie floater, a meat pie floating in a bowl of pea soup.


Soupe aux pois jaunes (yellow pea soup) is a national dish in French Canadian cooking. One source says "The most authentic version of Quebec's soupe aux pois use whole yellow peas, with salt pork and herbs for flavour. After cooking, the pork is usually chopped and returned to the soup, or sometimes removed to slice thinly and served separately... Newfoundland Pea Soup is very similar, but usually includes more vegetables such as diced turnips and carrots, and is often topped with small dumplings."

A novel about nineteenth-century Canadian farmers by Louis Hemon, entitled Maria Chapdelaine, depicts pea soup as common farmhouse fare:

Already the pea-soup smoked in the plates. The five men set themselves at table without haste, as if sensation were somewhat dulled by the heavy work...

"...Most of you farmers, know how it is too. All the morning you have worked hard, and go to your house for dinner and a little rest. Then, before you are well seated at table, a child is yelling:—'The cows are over the fence;' or 'The sheep are in the crop,' and everyone jumps up and runs... And when you have managed to drive the cows or the sheep into their paddock and put up the rails, you get back to the house nicely 'rested' to find the pea-soup cold and full of flies, the pork under the table gnawed by dogs and cats, and you eat what you can lay your hands on, watching for the next trick the wretched animals are getting ready to play on you."

In Newfoundland, split peas are cooked in a bag as part of a Jigg's dinner.


Pea soup is a common dish throughout Germany. It often contains meat such as bacon, sausage or Kassler (pickled and smoked pork) depending on regional preferences. Very often, several Würste will accompany a serving of pea soup as well as some dark bread. Ready-made soup in cans is sometimes used to prepare the dish.

One of the very first instant products was a pea soup product, which mainly consisted of pea meal and beef fat ("Erbswurst"). It was invented in 1867 by Johann Heinrich Grüneberg, who sold the recipe to the Prussian state. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out, the war ministry, which had previously tested the possibility of feeding soldiers solely on instant pea soup and bread, built a large manufacturing plant and produced between 4,000 and 5,000 tons of Erbswurst for the army during the war. In 1889, the Knorr instant-food company bought the license. Knorr, which is today a Unilever brand, continues the production of Erbswurst to the present day.


Erwtensoep, also called "snert" is a form of green split-pea soup emblematic of Dutch cuisine. Traditionally eaten in winter, erwtensoep has a very thick consistency, often includes pork and sausage, and is almost a stew rather than a soup. One source says "You should be able to stand a spoon upright in a good pea soup.

It is customarily served with rye bread (roggebrood) and cheese or butter. The meat may be put on the rye bread and eaten with mustard.

It is not uncommon to be sold in small cups at the so called 'Koek en zopie' outlets on frozen canals as a hearty snack to iceskaters.

See also: Erwtensoep

Nordic countries

As Finland was until 1809 part of the Swedish Realm, Sweden and Finland share many cultural traditions, including that of the pea soup (Swedish ärtsoppa; Finnish hernekeitto ; Danish gule ærter), usually eaten on Thursdays, served with pork and mustard and accompanied by pancakes for dessert. However, in Finland it is made of green peas, in Sweden yellow. The tradition of eating pea soup and pancakes on Thursdays is said to originate in the pre-Reformation era, as preparation for fasting on Friday.

Scandinavian pea soup normally includes pieces of pork – although it may sometimes be served on the side – and a typical recipe would also include some onion and herbs such as thyme and marjoram. It is usually eaten with some mustard, often accompanied by crisp bread and sometimes the sweet liquor punsch (served hot). Mustard is an important part of the dish, but the soup is served without it so that diners can stir it in to taste. The soup is then normally followed by pancakes with jam (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry, or similar) which are regarded more as part of the meal than as a dessert.

Thursday pea soup is common in restaurants and households, and is an unpretentious but well-liked part of social life. Swedish Prime Minister Per Albin Hansson (1885-1946) had a circle of friends, jokingly referred to as the "peralbinians" (peralbinerna), who for a number of years came to his home every Thursday to eat pea soup, drink hot punsch and play bridge. Also, with few exceptions, pea soup with pancakes are served every Thursday (either for lunch or dinner) in the Swedish Armed Forces.

The death of the deposed and imprisoned king Eric XIV in 1577 is usually said to have come from eating a bowl of poisoned pea soup; a 20th century investigation of his remains indeed found traces of arsenic, and there is historical evidence that his brother John intended to poison him, but the tradition about the pea soup as a vessel for the poison has not been possible to confirm.

In Finland, pea soup (hernekeitto) is a very common food, and as already mentioned traditionally eaten on Thursdays and accompanied by pancakes. During World War II, the Finnish army was fed with hernekeitto. Finnish Defence Forces still retain the tradition, serving its conscripts pea soup, with pancakes for dessert, for lunch or dinner every Thursday. Pea soup is also often served to large crowds in gatherings, simply because it is easy to make in large amounts and most people like it to some extent. Finns learn to eat pea soup as children, as it is a popular school food, being very cheap and easy to prepare.

Pork or carrots are often added, and the dish is given a piquant taste with Finnish mustard.

United Kingdom

A well-known nursery rhyme which first appeared in 1765 speaks of
Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old.

"Pease" is the archaic form of the word "pea". Also see pease pudding.

In 19th century English literature, pea soup is referred to as a simple food and eating it as a sign of poverty. In a Thackeray novel, when a character asks his wife "Why don't you ask some of our old friends? Old Mrs. Portman has asked us twenty times, I am sure, within the last two years," she replies, with "a look of ineffable scorn," that when "the last time we went there, there was pea-soup for dinner!" In Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles, Tess remarks that "we have several proofs that we are d'Urbervilles... we have a very old silver spoon, round in the bowl like a little ladle, and marked with the same castle. But it is so worn that mother uses it to stir the pea-soup."

United States

In the United States, pea soup is merely one of many familiar kinds of soup. "Pea soup" without qualification usually means a perfectly smooth puree. "Split Pea Soup" is a slightly thinner soup with visible peas, pieces of ham or other pork, and vegetables (most commonly carrots) and is usually made from dried, green split peas.

Many cookbooks contain a recipe or two, but pea soup has no particular cultural resonance in the United States. It does however play a role in the light-hearted tradition of serving green-colored foods on St. Patrick's Day. For example, a 1919 Boston Globe article suggests a suitable menu for "A St. Patrick's Day Dinner" leading off with "Cream of Green Pea Soup (American Style)," and continuing with codfish croquettes with green pea sauce, lettuce salad, pistachio ice cream, and "green decorated cake.

Pea soup in literature and popular culture

The 1881 Household Cyclopedia noted that "Children are mostly fond of pea soup, and it seldom disagrees with them."

In the 1973 film The Exorcist, Linda Blair's 12-year-old character memorably vomits pea soup as a result of demonic possession.

In the popular children's book Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, which depicts what the world would be like if we had food in place of weather elements, the air is literally made of a Pea Soup Fog. (You could even eat it!)

Old Vermonters said, "Pea soup and Jonnycake/Make a Frenchman's belly ache."

In the Michael Moore film "Canadian Bacon," Dan Aykroyd plays an Ontario Provincial Police officer who pulls over a van "invading" Canada and covered in anti-Canadian slogans. He asks the Americans in the van what is wrong with the picture and mentions the "sensibilities of a certain element, Le Québécois." "You know. Wine drinkers. Pea soup eaters. French Canadians!" He then proceeds to fine them and make them spray-paint the van with the French translations of the slogans. 'Pease Porrige' is a song from De La Soul is Dead; De La Soul's second album.

In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode The Outcast, Commander Riker comments that his father's homemade split pea soup used to keep him warm on cold Alaska nights.

The original Game Boy's screen color is sometimes described as having the color of pea soup.

Pea soup fog

Pea Soup, or Pea Souper is an idiom for fog. Although it is sometimes used for any thick fog, it refers particularly to a yellowish smog caused by the burning of soft coal. Such fogs were prevalent in UK cities (particularly London) prior to passage of the Clean Air Act 1956. An 1871 New York Times article refers to "London, particularly, where the population are periodically submerged in a fog of the consistency of pea soup..."

Contrary to popular impression, the Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories contain only a handful of references to London fogs, and the phrase "pea-soup" is not used. A Study in Scarlet (1887) mentions that "a dun-coloured veil hung over the house-tops."

In the phrase "pea-soup fog," the implied comparison may have been to yellow pea soup: "...the yellow fog hung so thick and heavy in the streets of London that the lamps were lighted" (Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Little Princess, 1892); "The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes," (T. S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, 1917; "London had been reeking in a green-yellow fog" (Winston Churchill, A Traveller in War-Time, 1918); "the brown fog of a winter dawn" (T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land (1922); "a faint yellow fog" (Stella Benson, This is the End). Inez Haynes Irwin writing in 1921 in The Californiacs praises what was then the superior quality of California fog, saying it is "Not distilled from pea soup like the London fogs; moist air-gauzes rather, pearl-touched and glimmering."


  • Baring-Gould, William. S. and Ceil Baring-Gould (1962) The Annotated Mother Goose. (Bramhall House) [Pease porridge rhyme: dates from 1765, refers to a "thin pudding."]
  • New York Times, April 2, 1871, pg. 3: "London... fog the consistency of pea-soup..."

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