I Made the Pea Guac
It wasn’t that bad. But it did help me understand why it made people so angry.
From the Gray Lady, a Modest Dip Proposal. On Microblogging Platform, a Furor. For Peas, a New Use. There are times when The Times out-Timeses itself, and then there was Wednesday. The country's largest newspaper smugly tweeted a link to a recipe for guacamole. One made with peas. "Trust us," it read.
Most assuredly, America did not.
You don't put peas in guacamole https://t.co/kG3ewrVv6f— Jeb Bush (@JebBush) July 1, 2015
.@nytimes put Miracle Whip on your New York pretzel, trust me https://t.co/uu0gkoMSrr— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) July 1, 2015
.@nytimes rot in hell you bastards— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) July 1, 2015
As a journalist, I knew I had to investigate for myself, and as a Texan, I knew my findings were fixin’ to rile me up.
I tried to follow Melissa Clark's recipe exactly, but I had to make a few modifications. First, I made a much smaller batch, because I don't believe in wasting avocados on an abomination. Second, I didn't have time to roast my jalapeno, though I doubt that would have improved things. Finally, I did not sprinkle any sunflower seeds over the top; I don't have those on hand because I'm not some kind of socialist.
But I endeavored to follow the rest as closely as I could—even the parts that strongly contradict modern-day guac science. Most recipes use onions, but Clark uses scallions, so I did too. She added lime zest for some reason, so I fished out my microplane and started grating. And yes, I took a bag of fresh snap peas* and shucked them. Like you do.
Here's the "normal" version, made as God intended, with avocados, an onion substance (scallions), salt, lime, and cilantro. Usually I also add garlic or onion powder, but I skipped that this time because I know all about controlled trials.
The, ahem, "modified" one I made the same way, except with a mash of peas added at the end:
"Alright, which should I try first, the American guac or the terrorist one?" asked my boyfriend.
We both had a little of each on lightly salted tortilla chips. According to the recipe, the peas "add intense sweetness and a chunky texture to the dip, making it more substantial on the chip."
To quote Justice Scalia, that is a bunch of jiggery-pokery. The pea guac wasn't disgusting, but only because we could hardly taste the peas. Also, guacamole doesn't need this much sweetness or starchiness. Its eaters should be hit primarily with the fatty smoothness of the avocado, punctuated only by some acid, salt, and (occasionally) spice. At best, the peas were sort of a dull filler, like breadcrumbs in meatloaf.
My boyfriend proclaimed it "like a chicken McNugget versus a chicken wing. The only reason to add peas would be if you had a pea surplus at the same time as a guac surplus."
Perhaps the pea-guac pitchfork mob got a little carried away. It's just that Clark messed with the wrong spread.** Guacamole has recently seen a remarkable cultural ascendance, in tandem with (and propelled by) the rise of Mexican food in general.
And it serves an important social role: Guac is the perfect mascot for a nation of amateur gourmands who like to perform wholesomeness and casualness at the same time. It’s the party food that frat bros don't have to be ashamed to spend an afternoon preparing. Making a tasty guac is the kind of skill neurotic people like me brag about in hopes of proving how chill we are. Adding a spring vegetable to the mix only reminds us that we're eating a highly caloric fruit with deep-fried corn chips and calling it a health food. You burst our snack-food bubble, you suffer the consequences.
Clark calls Green Pea Guacamole "the best kind of greenmarket tweak upon a classic." The reason some things are considered classics, though, is because they require no further tweaking.
* We couldn't get the regular kind. However, in a 1992 article titled "There's No Substitute" for fresh green peas, The Times recommended shelled sugar snap peas as "the best substitute for them." And you thought accurate headlines were a casualty of the social-media age.
** This isn't the first timeThe New York Times has suggested stirring peas into guacamole. The legume made an appearance in a "Guac on the Wild Side" recipe from 1997. Hopefully, though, it will be the last.