Monday, 23 March 2009

It's Carlin Sunday

The tills are ringing nonstop downstairs as the good people of Darlington come in to stock up on Carlin Peas, also known as Maple Peas or Black Peas, in preparation for Carlin Sunday this weekend, the Sunday before Palm Sunday.

The source of the tradition of eating Carlin Peas on this Sunday appears lost in the mists of time, though a popular tale is that Carlins rescued the city of Newcastle from starvation during the civil war. Newcastle was a Royalist city in support of King Charles. A Scottish army crossed the border and swept south intent on capturing Newcastle and securing the coal supplies on behalf of their allies the parliamentarians. Newcastle, however, was no pushover and the city was put under siege. The siege of 1644 lasted from July until October. At one stage the supplies ran out and the people were starving. Just when thing were at their worst a Dutch ship saved them by evading the blockade and reaching the port with its cargo of carlins.
However, if you live in Carlisle a similar story is told there, and in Sunderland and Hartlepool, though in these places a ship was wrecked at a time of famine in the town, and the carlins were used as ballast on the ship. They were salvaged and kept the town alive. They are also eaten in parts of East Yorkshire.

The correct way to prepare and eat them is, of course, our way:

Soak overnight; boil for 20 minutes until soft but not mushy; fry in butter and serve hot or cold with salt, pepper and vinegar. In East Yorkshire they add sugar and rum instead of salt and vinegar. In the North West they boil them for longer with a ham shank and then mash them and eat like mushy peas.

What does seem to be the same in all these places is that the following day is known as Farting Monday.

In years gone by every pub and club would serve these peas this weekend and put them on the bar for their clientele to dip into. If you buy them to eat out you would get them in a newspaper cone, but if you're lucky enough to find them this weekend, I bet it'll be a polystyrene cup.

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