Monday, March 30, 2009

Carling and Fig Sunday

Hosanna to the Son of David,
the King of Israel.
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.
In the Traditional Calendar, the Fifth Sunday of Lent was known as Passion Sunday, and the following Sunday was Palm Sunday, the beginning of the Holy Week. In the current calendar the liturgy of these two Sundays are combined into Palm Sunday of Our Lord's Passion. And so I'm combining the foods associated with both Sundays into the one Palm Sunday.

Peas or carlings were traditionally consumed on Passion Sunday particularly in northern England and Scotland, so it became known as Carling Sunday (or Car-Sunday in Scotland). Recipes varied according to region, including Pease Porridge, or split pea soup. Liturgically there is no connection with the peas (or pease); it's just a traditional food served on this day.

And what fun to sing together:
Pease porridge hot,
Pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot
Nine days old.
Split Pea Soup is a traditional Southern dish, and growing up our house was no exception. My grandmother and great aunts used to use a pressure cooker to make a quick batch of split pea soup.

I use Who's Your Mama, Are You Catholic, and Can You Make a Roux? by Marcelle Bienvenu as a basis for my recipe. Some grocery stores sell a Mirepoix which saves that step of cutting and dicing the onions, carrots, and celery (the trinity in French cooking). It's a luxury I take when I need to save time. You could make this an abstinence recipe by removing the meat, but Sundays in Lent are not a fasting or abstaining day.
Split Pea Soup (serves 8-10)

1 pound dried split peas
1 ham bone, 2 ham hocks, or 2 cups diced ham (I didn't have a large ham bone or lots of ham, so in the last step of adding the wine I added chopped kielbasa into the soup.)
3 quarts chicken broth and water (I used 2 quarts broth, 1 quart water)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup coarsely chopped carrots
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 teaspoon ground thyme
2 bay leaves
salt and black pepper to taste
a few dashes Tabasco sauce
1 cup sherry or dry white wine

Put all ingredients (except wine/sherry) into a large soup pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. Add white wine or sherry (and sausage) and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove bay leaves and serve.

Serve with crusty French bread, Southern biscuits, or cornbread, perhaps a salad to round it all off.
The soup always seems to be better the next day, so great for leftovers. My son likes to help in the kitchen, but his question every time we make this is "What happened to the peas?"

Palm Sunday is also known as Fig Sunday because tradition maintains that Jesus ate figs after his entry into Jerusalem, and the withered fig tree that Jesus cursed is also associated for this day. I admit I don't have any recipes of my own that incorporate figs, but a quick search can find Fig or Figgy Pudding, Italian Fig Cookies, Fig Cake to name a few ideas. And when I'm planning this menu, the tunes keep rolling in my head for "Pease Porridge" and "Bring us some figgy pudding".

I remember eating fresh figs as a little girl from my grandmother's tree in her backyard. That taste and texture is so seared into my memory that I've always been disappointed when I have tasted any other fig that isn't freshly picked. For dessert, I'm going to serve some store-bought fig cookies. Pin It


  1. My favorite fig recipe is actually a grilled pizza with carmelized onions, figs and bleu cheese. So good!

  2. According to Burton & Ripperger's Feast Day Cookbook, according to legend, a famine in Newcastle, England, was relieved when on that Sunday, there came into the harbor a ship with a cargo of peas commonly known as carlings. Some authorities hazard the guess that the name came from the penitential lenten practice of wearing hard peas within the shoe.