The mushy pea. Or, realistically, mushy peas. Once the mush has happened, it would be hard to find them in the singular.
Like marmite, they divide people.
I will never forget the day my mum took my French exchange and I for a day trip into the Dales. We stopped at a pub for lunch, and my adventurous Gallic chum insisted on having whatever was traditional. We deliberated and explained as best we could. In the end she selected the 'pork pie and peas'. Mum and I exchanged glances. In truth, whatever we might have been expecting, a cold, whole pork pie floating in a sea of mushy peas was not it. Nor was it anything that Sonia could have envisaged - marrowfat peas - green mature peas that have been allowed to dry out naturally in the field - soaked overnight then simmered with salt and pepper to make a thick green 'soup'. After 2 weeks in the south of France a year previously, introduced to the delights of steak fondue, merguez flavours, wonderful cheese, and this is how repay her in terms of English gastronomy? I cringed.
For the record, though, she ate it with gusto (for all its strangeness, it tasted pretty amazing) - it's no wonder the exchange was such a success and we are still in touch.
A few years later, I worked in a tiny rural pub in my own corner of Yorkshire to pay a bit of my way through law school. Fran in the kitchen would eat mushy peas mixed with vinegar and black pepper. Bowlsful. Nothing else (apart from the squirty cream for the desserts which she squirted onto a plate and ate with a spoon. Classy, she was - I squirted it onto my finger).
They seem to be a peculiarly Northern taste.
Sure, they can be purchased at establishments across the country, but they aren't taken seriously. Recently, with the gastro-pub revolution, mushy peas have become something of a retro curiosity, pimped up by our favourite celebrity chefs: Nigella likes hers made with petits pois and creme fraiche. Hugh's are tarted up with garlic and chives Jamie adds mint. That's all well and good, but I've never found them embraced in the the same way as in a decent Yorkshire chippy.
An almost smoky unctuousness; easy to eat; comforting. You can tell which camp I fall into.
On Thursday, Pink and I indulged ourselves. Haddock & chips. Bread & butter. A pot of tea (with cups & saucers and hot water to top up). And mushy peas. In a separate bowl. A portion each. Sigh.