At first, I didn’t know what to call this green mash – that is, until my husband called it “pesto-mole”, and I kinda liked the idea.
Before he dubbed it that, I was thinking, “smashed peas and avocado with basil, garlic, and parmesan”.
His name has a better ring to it.
I could call it, “Mom’s Quick Escape” dinner. . . .
Because that’s where the whole idea was born – my Grandma and the dinner she would lay out for her four kids, decades ago, as she hustled around the house readying herself for a night out dancing with Grandpa.
I’ve heard my mom talk about these dinners. It takes close to all the self control she can muster to keep herself from gagging as she recalls the most popular item on the quick-escape menu: smashed cream peas on toast, with a side of mac and cheese.
The main dish involved smashed canned peas and canned cream of something soup.
What didn’t involve canned things in those days? It was the Nineteen Fifties.
I can’t point any judging fingers at Grandma.
I can feel her desire to breeze out that front door on a Friday night to find herself, within minutes, being whisked across a dance floor, quick-stepping her slight little self into the world of grown-ups.
I totally get her willingness to smash brown-ish canned foods together to make a meatless edible-spreadable that counts as dinner.
I can feel her giddiness in the morning as she rolled her long glossy hair into tight curlers and wore them around in anticipation all day long.
I can feel her resolve as her kids might have bickered and complained and stomped around the house at the unfairness of having to do chores, or homework, or shovel snow.
I can imagine the aloof, “Go ahead and pout kiddos – I’m fine with that, because in a few short hours, I will be happily dancing my feet off with a beautiful bouncy coif.”
I can see the kids’ eyebrows raise as they admire their pretty Mamma when she emerges from her room that night in a straight little pencil skirt and a fancy top that only made it out on date-nights.
The table was set, and dinner was served.
Young Gram and Gramp sailed out the door.
My mom’s biggest brother sat smugly in Grandpa’s chair at the dining table, as biggest siblings often do when left in charge.
Her biggest sister sat equally as smug across from him – as second-older siblings often do when left second in charge.
The next younger brother and my mom sat sandwiched between smug older siblings, across from each other.
When that front door closed behind Grandma and Grandpa, the kids watched their parents through the picture window as they picked a safe way through the falling snow to their car. . . and something changed the smugness in big brother’s eyes to mischief.
He plopped a dab of smashed peas on his spoon, delicately balanced it perpendicular on his knife, counted down, and launched it across the room.
It splattered on the wall.
The siblings sat with wide deer-eyes, gaping at the assailed wall and the offending supposedly-in-charge brother.
And then, frantically, they all loaded their spoons and flung smooshed peas and cooked macaroni everywhere, EVERYWHERE, in a macaroni and split pea firing frenzy that left them breathless and ogling three walls, a picture window, and a whole ceiling blasted with brownish-green mash and sticky pasta.
Then, all at once, the barrage was over. The ammo was gone. Their dinner was spent and decorating the room. They giggled and sighed, wiping tears away from their laughing eyes and sat back to admire their work – all at once realizing they had to clean it.
They wiped and scrubbed and cleaned and scurried till it was all gone.
And settled in to sleep for the night.
Not a boo was said about it.
Gram and Gramp never noticed. . . until it was time for spring cleaning, that is.
My mom and her sister were on hands and knees in the kitchen, peeling wax off the linoleum floor. Grandma was on tiptoe on top of the dining room table, reaching up to clean the hanging light in the center of the room. If they tried, they could all see each other through a half-wall that separated the two rooms, but they weren’t trying.
They could hear each other. The sisters worked silently, eyes on the floor, building up a sweat and sore arms as they scraped at the wax.
Then they heard Grandma.
“What on earth?”
The girls stop and look at each other.
Grandma continued, “How did this get here?? Maccaroni in the light?!” not a bit of anger in her voice, just pure, baffled wondering.
Big sister silently motioned with wide eyes to Little Sis, “Not a word!!” she said with her sharp finger to her lips. My mom clamped her mouth shut and scrubbed harder.
All three ladies continued working – the months-old macaroni in the dining room light fixture forever a mystery to my grandma.
So this bright green fresh mash of peas and avocado is an ode to my mom. To give her a meal of toast and smashed peas that tempts growling tummies and whets taste buds instead of tripping the gag reflex.
It’s fresh and bright, sweet and salty, and there is no canned soup involved.
Have it as lunch, an appetizer, or add a salad and make it a light summertime dinner – but please, just don’t fling it on the wall.
Oh! And PS – I almost forgot – this is a fantastic way to store your pesto-mole, or guacamole so it doesn’t go brown. Seal it up tight by rolling it in plastic wrap, carefully eliminating air bubbles. When you’re ready to use it, just unfold one end, and squeeze it out – like toothpaste (except tastier).