trauma, triumph, and pea pesto

pea pesto2

When I was a little girl – my mother always bought season tickets for the symphony orchestra and took (dragged) me along. I had to get all dressed up in skirts or dresses and stockings and good shoes or boots. I had a little gold hair-band with pearls on it that dug in behind my ears and gave me a headache. And I had to behave which meant sitting absolutely still and listening. And not talking. Or coughing. Or sniffling. Or even yawning. It was painful.

I was usually the youngest person in the entire audience and in order to pass the time, I made up games. I used to count bald heads. Or count how many times the people around me coughed, or scratched, or yawned. Or see how many people were wearing spectacles or the colour green or fur coats. Or watch to see who was eating candies and then attempt to will them to make eye contact with me – in the hopes that someone would send something my way. (Once early on, a sweet old grey-haired gentleman smiled at me and sent a stick of chewing gum along the row for me – leaving me ever hopeful that it might happen again.)

Sometimes I watched the musicians – trying to figure out who was making what noises with their instruments – or wondering things about them like what they liked to eat or where they lived.

Then at intermission, my mother would ask me questions about what we had been listening to – to name the composer or the piece of music. And she would ask me if I’d heard the oboe, or the piccolo, or the French horn. I hated this line of questioning because outside of the obvious instruments like the harp or the piano, the violins or the drums – I really had no idea.

I know my mother was only trying to educate me. But I wished she would inflict this particular torment on my brothers – who never once had to attend a symphony concert.

So it surprises me now that I actually like classical music. And that I often tune my car radio in to classical stations to avoid all the talk and cacophony on other stations. Last week, I was driving along when the announcer introduced a piece by Gustav Mahler and I was transported back in time.

I remember Mahler because the conductor once told the audience that young Gustav Mahler composed his first real piece at age six. I was about seven at the time, and remember feeling hopelessly inadequate.

That early composition of Mahler’s was a funeral dirge combined with a polka. At that stage of his life, Mahler lived over a tavern next door to a funeral parlour. Though he could not have known at age six, that first piece, tragic and comic, basically foretold the story of Mahler’s life which was an endless series of traumas and triumphs.

I love that Mahler used the tragedy and trauma in his life to create some of the most beautiful, emotional music ever written. The elements of sorrow and joy juxtaposed, counterbalance each other to create harmony.

I know that none of this has anything to do with pea pesto. Except that, I recently made this to take to a potluck appetizer dinner. I knew there would be a lot of sinfully rich things and this healthy pea pesto was the counterbalance. I did also bring some stuffed dates and some champagne! But I like the simplicity of this pesto and how fresh it tastes. I like almost any kind of pesto – a concentrated way to eat greens.

Pea pesto works well as a dip (almost like pea hummus) with a sliced baguette but is also good served with pasta (or on crostini)- just add some grated pecorino or some other really tasty Italian cheese. Light the candles. Pour wine. Put on the Mahler. Enjoy.

Pea Pesto

1  1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 clove garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pinenuts – (can substitute walnuts)
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (easily omitted for a dairy-free, vegan version)

Dump all the ingredients into your food processor. Whiz until it reaches the desired consistency – should be along the lines of hummus.


19 thoughts on “trauma, triumph, and pea pesto

  1. Mahler is a delight, and so is your recipe. Perfect combination, as it happens! You might enjoy, if you’ve not already seen/heard them, Michael Tilson Thomas’s comments on Mahler’s life and music (and his performances of the music as conductor with various orchestras).

    I was privileged a few years ago to watch him rehearse the symphony in Stockholm for Mahler 6, and his comments to the players in rehearsal and then to the audience in his pre-concert lecture–not to mention his remarks when my husband and I got to go up to his dressing room for coffee during rehearsal break–were both enlightening and greatly entertaining. Made me appreciate the music all that much more!

  2. What a wonderful post! My parents also educated me listening to classical music and playing it; I often resented it, but now I am so grateful they “pushed” me, as I still love both listening and playing. But there is so much more to discover, like Mahler, who music I do not know (except for das Lied von der Erde). Thank you for this post, the memories, and the lovely pesto!

    1. It’s so funny isn’t it Darya – that ‘education’ felt like a form of undeserved torture! Wonderful that you still listen and play…a powerful tool for the brain and such a source of pleasure. I haven’t played the piano for years but I keep thinking longingly about taking up drumming.
      I’m going to go now and listen to das Lied von der Erde.
      Thank you for your comment – always love hearing from you.

  3. Oh wow, reading your post was like reading my own story. I also was dragged to the symphony every year. I dreaded it. Have to chuckle!! Your pea pesto is really nice, never thought of making a pesto with peas, what a wonderful idea and yes it would counterbalance the heavy rich foods nicely.

    1. Oh Suzanne – that’s so funny that we shared the symphony-torture experience as children! When I’m at a concert now – I have to fight with myself not to feel all disapproving towards the people talking and crackling their candy wrappers and crunching on hard candies. I sometimes book seats in the back of the second balcony so that I can be all alone with the music. I absolutely love that.

  4. But it kind of has everything to do with pea pesto. Counterbalance, in music, in grief, and in a potluck:) ESPECIALLY needed in a potluck!

  5. What a cool post. I’m actually grateful for my piano lessons and the fact the my parents and grandparents liked classical music. I remember listening to Bach when I was maybe 8 and my grandpa said to me….”that’s chamber music” and explained the components to me. There is something magical about music being passed down. Beautiful pea pesto!

  6. It’s so funny. I would’ve loved the chance of hearing any type of classical at an early age. it wasn’t until I was 11 that my music teacher loaned me an LP of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No 1. I’ve been hooked on music ever since. And pesto, now that I bother to make it at home. I’ll let others do the music, though. Haven’t played piano in that long!

    1. Oh Johnny – so glad you had a teacher who loaned you Tchaivkovsky’s piano concerto No 1. I have a beautiful version of that on CD and will get it out again now that you’ve mentioned it. And yes, I very likely should have been more grateful! I’m having a case of delayed gratitude. (better late than never?) I do love classical music now. But back then, I would rather have been in the kitchen baking. Or playing with my friends. Or running wild in the ravine near my house – catching salamanders and frogs in the creek. 😉

  7. Once again I commit to just reading the first few lines and I get sucked right into the story. So nice to come out the other end with a little insight and a really tasty looking dish. I am going to try this tomorrow!
    Thanks girl!!

  8. Your pea pesto will be a perfect dip for my Christmas party. I’ll place it right next to my Romesco sauce…green and red, just perfect. 🙂

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