Pease porridge old

Pease pudding (also pease pottage or porridge) is a traditional dish from the industrial north of England. Making the pudding involves soaking split yellow peas (or Carlin peas) in stock (usually ham stock) and boiling them for approximately 40 minutes. It is the English version of dhal from India or fava from Greece. It is a similar to humus from the Middle East. All these dishes are a thick paste made from pulses.

There is a traditional nursery rhyme about it:

Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold,
Pease porridge in the pot, nine days old;
Some like it hot, some like it cold,
Some like it in the pot, nine days old.

Pease is a very old word. It comes from the Old English pise (West Saxon) or piose (Mercian) for pea. It comes to English from Latin pisum, from Greek pison and is thought to come originally from ancient Thracian or Phrygian.

Originally pease was the singular and pesen was the plural. But the singular form became used like other words for grain and pulses to represent the singular and plural, for instance, wheat, oatmeal. However pea replaced pease because the s sound was mistaken for the plural (and soon afterwards peas replaced pesen) in a process known as false singular. Pease is a fossil word, that is, a word that has become extinct everywhere but in a particular phrase or compound.

The Royal Navy in the early 19th century had a version of the pudding which was boiled in a bag with eggs. Sailors nicknamed it dog’s body. This became the name for junior officers and midshipmen who had to do the more menial jobs. In the 20th century dogsbody became mainstream for anybody delegated with the most menial tasks.

Nowadays pease porridge is thought to be a bit old-fashioned and certainly a food for the lowly, dogsbodies of society. However it is an important traditional dish of England.