Expat Cravings: Of Pearls and Peas

by Miss Footloose

My friend Olivia brought me two bags of green split peas from Dubai. Green pearls! It might seem odd that while visiting the most luxurious and decadent shopping emporiums in the world, one would buy green split peas and transport them across borders and time zones to make a present of them to a friend. But boy did she make me happy!

We were both living in Armenia at the time, both of us expats—trailing spouses some would call us. Others, I know, don’t like that term.

Olivia didn’t go to Dubai just to get me the peas, of course. She went there to have a reprieve from the (perceived) deprivations of her life in poor Armenia, to enjoy some sand, sun and sloth. And to buy a new batch of jewelry, since all hers had been stolen.

This happens. Her house had been burglarized when she’d been on another Rest and Relaxation jaunt out of the country. Paris, I think. She and her husband like Paris a lot, then who doesn’t. At any rate, her computer had been purloined, along with all her jewels and gems—all the beautiful sparkling precious adornments her doting Egyptian husband had bestowed on her over the years.

So, the husband decided to take her to Dubai and buy her some replacements. What good husband wouldn’t?

My man and I were robbed three times when we lived in Ghana the first time (way back in the dark ages). A small boy would be squeezed through a small broken window while we were sleeping. He’d then go open a door for his mentors who were lurking in the bushes outside, away from the snoring watchman engulfed by hash fumes. The sneak-thieves snatched my sewing machine (twice), various kitchen stuff, and my 10-dollar K-mart diaper (nappy) bag which was irreplaceable at the time. Also stolen was my disposable razor from the edge of the tub which goes to show what kind of thieves they were and what was important to them.

Am I digressing or what?

Anyway, between shopping for gold, pearls, diamonds and other precious gems in Dubai, Olivia purchased the green split peas. Not because I had asked for them, but because she is a generous, thoughtful person and she’d remembered my jerimiahing about the lack of these pulses in Armenia. At the time only yellow ones were available, but I didn’t want yellow ones. I wanted the green ones. So I could make snert, aka erwtensoep, aka split pea soup. Dutch split pea soup.

It’s Dutch soul food, or comfort food if you’re not into things holy and soul-y.

Why am I telling you this? Well, I live in France now, and it’s getting colder. When it gets cold I start craving snert. No problem here in France where green split peas are plenteous, as well as the other necessary ingredients. They even have their own version of green split soup. However, no matter what they say about French cuisine, and about Dutch cuisine, the French version is definitely inferior. (I mean, really, it doesn’t even have celery root in it!) The Dutch one is the best in the world. That I can tell you. Believe me.

Okay, so I have a craving now for snert, and that triggered the memory of my friend Olivia tucking into her suitcase two bags of green split peas amid the stash of pearls and gold and diamonds her adoring husband had bought for her. And I still remember how happy I was with peas.

Now off to the shop to get what I need for my snert. Oh, you want the recipe? It’s here: Echte Hollandse erwtensoep.

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What do you crave from your home country? What do you ask people to bring for you when they come to visit you or what do you have in your suitcase going back to your expat country?

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