Food News

Dried Beef and Peas: Supper Unfit for a Queen

I know this sounds a little weird, but every time I go to the supermarket I try to pick up some food item that I've never tried before. The "hit" versus "miss" ratio is about 50/50 thus far, so I keep at it. And when I passed by the ethnic food section today, I couldn't help scooping up two cans of curious-looking goods: Kirby's Dried Beef in Sauce and Batchelors Mushy Original Cooked Dry Peas.

Now my ex is a Scot so I should know well enough that British eats, like mushy pea, can be downright disgusting. Surprisingly, I liked the taste of haggis and even downed more than a reasonable amount of Cock-a-Leekie soup with a smile on my face (yeah, yeah--I know what you're thinking, dirty birds) when we visited his mum in Edinburgh, but the spotted dick with custard and blood pudding I tried in London was enough to make me dry heave.

Yet I just couldn't resist picking up the mushy, maybe for no reason other than its packaging and silly name. The green slime on the wrapper reminded me of my cousin's favorite new Nickelodeon game, Snot Splatter, and I must've just overlooked the fact that this product was 1) dried, then cooked, and would have to be reheated, therefore probably providing zero nutrition and 2) artificially colored.

The can delivered on its promise of intrigue, though. When I opened it I was confronted with a color that could never occur naturally and truly the mushiest texture I've ever come across. Too bad it didn't offer cool sound effects when I dumped it into the pot. I half expected it to cry out like the ones I watched on the YouTube commercial. In the end, it was me who did the crying, as they were lacking any semblance to the actual vegetable. Peas without skins? Too odd for words.

As for the beef stuff, it just seemed to make sense since it was the only protein nearby on the shelf. What better to serve with peas than beef? But when I returned home and pulled back the lid on the can, my cats came running. And why shouldn't they? It looked like food for felines, after all. Yet once they got a sniff, they turned away faster than a Kawasaki rider at the Harley rally.

I stuck my fork inside and nearly teared up after taking a bite. Sure I expected a vinegary taste, but my tongue wasn't prepared for a full-on salt lick. Gasping for water, I turned the can and read the alarming news: Sodium 1450mg for the 5-ounce can. Just as a point of reference, the experts say close to 500mg is considered high sodium, and an entire Hormel Compleats meatloaf dinner with mashed potatoes and gravy weighs in at only 940mg. But in the interest of science, I proceeded. The serving suggestions recommended that I use the meaty mixture either as a pizza or omelet topping, but I threw a spoonful over some scrambled eggs to see if it would possibly dilute the taste. No such luck.

Together, the beef and peas made a disastrous meal. I tossed them both and reheated my leftover pad Thai, thankful for an ethnic meal without the crazy colors and briny flavor. The next stop on my culinary tour of the supermarket will undoubtedly take me away from the U.K. and closer to Asia, just as soon as my tastebuds return to normal.

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Riki Altman