Sneaking Peas

As another back-to-school season begins, I’m reminded of one day during my elementary school years — a day when my pickiness nearly got the best of me.

I attended Catholic school. Nuns in full habit were our teachers, for the most part, and Mass was required a couple of times a week.

Lunch hour consisted of a hot meal. No brown bags.

The hair-netted lunch ladies would ladle out our food on trays, with separated portions for the veggies, fruit, main meat, etc.

Sometimes it was good. Other times, it was awful.

This one day was of the latter.

Peas were on the menu.

Now in my defense, I didn’t particularly care for peas, but at home, I managed to get them down okay.

Probably didn’t hurt that Mom bought the good, tiny peas, the ones cooked in rich butter.

The lunch ladies, obviously, had used a can of those huge peas, heated them up, and spooned them out.


As we kids ate, the nuns wandered past our long tables, watching to make sure we cleaned our plates.

So the “starving children in Biafra” would no longer starve.

(How American children eating icky food here was supposed to cure malnutrition there was beyond us!)

Anyway, I dutifully tasted the peas and found them beyond gross. Glancing around to make sure Sister wasn’t looking, I proceeded to scoop up every pea and systematically drop it into my mostly-finished milk carton — where, I was sure, I would pass muster in the empty tray line and join my friends on the playground.

That wasn’t to be.

Perhaps my guilty expression gave me away. Doggone it, I never was a good liar!

Another Sister, this one watching the empty tray line, spotted me, picked up the milk carton, gave it a gentle swish, and widened her eyes.

“What’s this, Deborah?” she asked, opening the carton and peeking inside.

“Nothing, Sister” died on my lips and I hung my head.

I’d been caught.

“Return to your table and finish your lunch,” Sister ordered.

Double-yuck. Now the peas had milk touching them, and I was a kid who thought her stomach was compartmentalized, just like our trays.

I sat sulking by myself the rest of the lunch hour, unable to make those milky peas go down.

And I missed recess with my friends.

When the bell rang, Sister sent me back to class. I’m pretty sure there was a lesson somewhere — something to do with honesty — but I’ve blanked it out.

To this day, I still can’t eat creamed peas!

23 thoughts on “Sneaking Peas

  1. That’s the good thing about being someone who copes through food… NOTHING tastes bad!
    Now I turn stuff down (Surely the peas would NOT be appreciated on my plate)
    ONLY bad cooks use the “Children are starving” Speech to guilt trip you into eating. Why don’t we say.. you should have treated these peas with more care there are people with out food out there and this is how you appreciate your ingredients?

  2. Debbie, this was STELLAR!

    And being someone who also attended Catholic school, I could so identify with you!

    “So the “starving children in Biafra” would no longer starve.”

    OMG…how many times did I hear THAT!

    “I proceeded to scoop up every pea and systematically drop it into my mostly-finished milk carton”


    Do you know what I used to do with the food I didn’t want to eat? I would shove into my pant pockets! However, I eventually got caught.

    Brussel sprouts.

    Great post, dear lady!!!! Have a marvi Monday!

    • HAHAHA, Ron, you crack me up! Brussels sprouts? Yuck, you must have attended a fancy school because I don’t EVER remember seeing those things on my plate. And you put them in your pocket? How clever — until you got caught, of course!

      Little girls’ dresses, as I recall, rarely had pockets deep enough to hide unwanted food in, so that wouldn’t have been a temptation. But I can sooo see your mom’s face when she did the wash with those veggies caked in!

      Thanks for sharing your story — glad I was able to call it back for you!

  3. What a story. I swear – those Catholic schools must have been something. There are several people around the blogs who seem to have been traumatized by the good sisters – some in big ways, but mostly in the small. Like your peas in the milk carton. You should have gotten a gold star for creativity, not sent back to the table!

    My mother hated peas. When she moved down here, I made tuna casserole once. She picked out every single pea. I asked her why, since she always made tuna casserole when I was a kid and it had peas it in. As it turns out, she hated them then, too, but thought I ought to have them. She said once I left home, one of her great freedoms was “NO MORE PEAS!”

    • Ah, the things we moms do for our kids — such a sacrifice, Linda! I like your idea of giving me a gold star for creativity MUCH better than being sent back to finish every scrap. I suppose being shamed like that is one reason I never insisted my son eat everything on his plate. Yes, I encouraged him to at least TRY the new stuff, but if he’d already done so and found it lacking, well, he was entitled to his opinion. Isn’t it strange the things we remember from elementary school? No wonder so many of my dreams center on school — why is it that I can never find my classroom or learn the results of a test?!

  4. I’m not sure if I’m happy or not that I missed a Catholic education…there is a wealth of good “catholic school stories.” Joe could keep me amused for hours with his stories–we also didn’t send Cole to Catholic school :-D.
    We had a “Thank you” bites when Cole was little. One bite to say thank you to the mom or dad who cooked, the farmer who grew it, the bagger at the store who sacked it (who to thank was part of the game) After one bite, Cole could decided if he wanted more or not.
    I love fresh pees (Michigan grows yummy pees) they are not soggy, and taste sweet. Canned pees with butter is a take it or leave it, for me.
    There was no pees that nun or appeasing her for that matter…

    • “Thank you” bites — what a good suggestion! Not that I have any more little Domers running around to train up in the right way, ha! But still, this just goes to show how wise you and Joe were — and what GOOD parents.
      The peas I still can’t tolerate are those that come in a can and are about the size of a softball. They’re all mush when they get in your mouth, and for some odd reason, they just refuse to go down!

  5. How awful, Debbie. I don’t blame you for not being able to eat ginormous peas, especially coated with milk. The only lesson I see is nuns can be cruel. I had a couple of run-in’s with nuns and I’m still harboring pain over the last time they did something to me. They didn’t physically hurt me, only emotionally. And they crushed me. I was 9 at the time, and I’ll never forget it.

  6. I’m an extremely picky eater (my mom said that when I was a toddler, I wouldn’t eat stew- she had to separate out the veggies. I can’t believe she actually did it.) I can’t stand to have food touching on my plate and if I don’t like the taste or texture, I don’t eat it. (I don’t care how good my MIL said the garlic hummus was, that texture makes me gag!)

    I think the lesson here was find a better hiding place. Pockets? 🙂

    • Pockets?? Heehee, wish I’d thought of that, but my pickiness extended to my clothing. No way would I have dreamed of sticking anything so nasty in my clean clothes — and running the risk of angering Mom when she found out! You sound a lot like me, Janna. I, too, didn’t want food touching other food, and there were LOTS of things I refused to eat. Brussels sprouts, Lima beans, broccoli, eggplants, and okra, to name just a few!

  7. I remember sitting at our kitchen table for what seemed like hours, staring at a pile of asparagus that I couldn’t bring myself to eat. I have a cousin who used to fill his mouth with mashed potatoes, then excuse himself to “use the bathroom” where he’d spit them into the toilet. Somehow – lucky me – I ended up with kids who weren’t particularly picky!

    I could sympathize with you facing the wrath of the nuns, though. Those nuns were tough!

    • Your story reminds me that when I was little, we kids had to at least taste new things. There were a few, though, that I balked at (and ended up sitting at the kitchen table LONG after everyone else had vacated and staring at a helping of something yucky — like Brussels sprouts, broccoli, or Lima beans!). Domer wasn’t as picky as I was, but I’m sure I would have empathized had he been!

  8. Sorry but this is too funny. I went to Catholic schools as a kid too – and remember once when I couldn’t finish my lunch. My older sister rescued me. Sat beside me and ate whatever it was I couldn’t stomach that day. I can’t remember what it was (like your “creamed” peas) but never forgot the kindness of my sister. She still looks out for me. Love her so much.

    • What a sweet memory, Barb — and how blessed you are to have a sis who looks out for you! My sis always knew I’d fight a bear for her if I had to, but eat something nasty? Nope, she was on her own then, ha!

  9. Pingback: Fruits? Or Veggies? | Musings by an ND Domer's Mom

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