‘Such a dish I’ve never heard of’

Published 12:02 am Saturday, May 18, 2013

“Such a dish as powdered wife I never heard of,” wrote Capt. John Smith in 1624 in his Generall Historie of Virginia, New England and the Summer Isles. (By powdered, he meant salted.) He told the story of digging up graves and eating the dead as well as a man who “did kill his wife, powdered her, and had eaten part of her before it was known, for which he was executed, as he well deserved; now whether she was better roasted, boiled or carbonado’d (barbequed), I know not.”

Garden greens bring good texture to the table.

Garden greens bring good texture to the table.

We recently visited Jamestown learning of the early history of English settlement in America and learning of the winter of 1609-1610 being known as the starving time. In the same week we visited, there were reports on TV and in the paper of archaeologists excavating a trash pit at the Jamestown site having found the first physical evidence of cannibalism among the desperate population, corroborating written accounts left behind by witnesses.

We went to Virginia to enjoy spring again with Historic Garden Week, its 80 its historic homes and gardens all across the state with visitors. The Garden Club of Virginia invited visitors to more than 200 of Virginia’s private homes and gardens this year, “America’s Largest Open House.” We visited Eyre Hall on the Eastern Shore, 1758, with its 200-year-old formal garden. The 13 generations living there was sharing their home for the 65th year with visitors. We visited Tuckahoe, the childhood home of my husband’s hero, Thomas Jefferson. The family there has owned the home since the 1930s, and it was opened for the first Garden Week in 1929. We stayed in Historic Williamsburg in a colonial inn and had several of our meals in the taverns. We were disappointed in the fare with one exception, a green salad with spring peas, said to be inspired by Thomas Jefferson. Most of Virginia is inspired by Thomas Jefferson.

We did visit Old Donation Episcopal Church in Virginia Beach, constructed in 1637, which is the second oldest Anglican congregation in America. We hoped to see Bob Randall, past Vicar of St. Mary’s of Andalusia. However, he was in England on sabbatical.

I did think the Jefferson inspired salad was worth repeating when I got home. We have fresh English peas in the garden right now and you should be able to find them in the grocery as well, but frozen peas can be used.

Spring Salad adapted from Christiana

Campbell’s Tavern,

Williamsburg, Va.

Serves 2

2 cups of lettuce (various kinds will do)

1 cup of peas (frozen or fresh); of course fresh is better

Ranch Dressing

1 cup of mayonnaise

½ cup sour cream

½ teaspoon dried chives

½ teaspoon dried parsley

½ teaspoon dried dill weed

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon onion powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


In a large bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, sour cream, chives, parsley, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.

To assemble: place a cup of lettuce on two plates. Boil the peas in boiling water for only a minute. Dress the peas with enough Ranch dressing to cover. Some will be left for another salad. Garnish with green onions, radishes and boiled eggs.


Your own ranch dressing will be better than the package or bottled. The following recipe is a favorite of ours using edible podded peas. It, however, is not an old Virginia recipe. “Most 18th century peas were consumed as shell peas, but the sugar, or edible podded, pea (P. sativum var. saccharatum) was also known. This pea was often called the sickle pea, for the crooked, sickle-shaped pods.” This I learned from a great new garden book I purchased in Williamsburg, Vegetable Gardening, The Colonial Williamsburg Way by Wesley Greene. I had thought edible podded peas to be a more modern invention.

I used this recipe in the May 16, 2009, issue of The Andalusia Star News. I do it several times in the spring when the sugar snap peas are at their best. It always gets rave reviews for it freshness and I have used it often at church picnics or church suppers.


Rice Salad with Sugar Snap Peas, Mint and Lime

6 servings

Bring to a boil in a small saucepan 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir in 1 ½ cups rice, reduce heat to low, cover 15 minutes. Let stand five minutes, fluff with fork and cool completely in a large bowl. Cook in boiling water, 2 cups sugar snap peas, for one minute. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Mix into rice:

½ cup fresh mint leaves

½ cup chopped green onions

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lime juice

2 tablespoons julienned peeled fresh ginger

1 teaspoon sugar

Cooked sugar snap peas

Salt and pepper to taste

Serve cold or at room temperature.