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Yorkshire grocer revives ‘Passion peas’ tradition

22 March 2013


A PASSION Sunday gastronomic tradition has been successfully revived by a Yorkshire grocer.

Carlin peas were eaten in northern England on the Sunday before Palm Sunday - often known as Carlin Sunday - but the tradition which, some say, dates from the 14th century died out in the 1950s.

The dark-brown dried peas Pisum sativum are soaked overnight before being fried in beef dripping, liberally dosed with salt and vinegar, and served either in a white soup-cup or a cone of paper.

Gary Jefferson, who runs a family food business in Richmond, North Yorkshire, recalled his grandparents talking about Carlin Sunday, and decided to reintroduce the peas. "Traditions like these die out because people today don't have time to remember them, or other ideas come along, but they should be saved," he said.

"It was a great success. We cooked ours in ham stock, and added a dash of Henderson's Relish. It was mainly older people who could remember them from their childhood. We sold about four kilos dried weight of Carlins, and I shall certainly do it again next year."

Traditionally, children in the North-East and Yorkshire ate them after a special church service, when they would recite the rhyme: "Tid, Mid, Miserai, Carlin, Palm, Paste Egg Day, We shall have a holiday, Bonny frocks on Easter Day."

There are two versions of the dish's origin. One dates from 1327, when Robert the Bruce laid siege to Newcastle upon Tyne. The starving citizens were saved on Passion Sunday when a ship arrived from Norway with a cargo of Carlins. Fortified by the peas, the defenders fought on, forcing the Scots to turn their attention on Durham.

The alternative version dates from 1644, when Royalist Newcastle was besieged by Scots during the Civil War. This time, their saviour was a cargo of peas on a French vessel.

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