These bishops were ascetics and hard-working Pastors, and would have enjoyed this Lenten feast. It’s easy to make, cheap and tasty.
David, whose feast was yesterday, was born around 500, well before Augustine came to Canterbury to convert the English. The Welsh were already Christian and civilised. David founded a monastery where his Cathedral now stands, a pleasant walk from his birthplace, close by where his mother, Saint Nôn’s, well still flows. Water was all David drank: he ate just bread with herbs. Onions, leeks and garlic count as herbs, and surely so do peas. Was there a word for vegetarian in the sixth century, I wonder?
A century later, Chad was a civilised Saxon. He came to Lichfield in 669 from Lindisfarne by way of York; he is patron of the ancient Diocese of Lichfield as well as the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham. He lived a short distance from today’s Cathedral with its three spires and beautiful Lady Chapel. The area is rich in springs, one of them feeds Saint Chad’s Well. Here Chad would pray, and here he baptised his converts. Here stands the Church in his name.
Although he was only bishop for three years before he died of the plague on this day in 672, Chad so looked after his diocese, as Bede tells us, that he was soon declared a saint. Chad was known and loved for visiting on foot, and smoothing relations with the local British Christians, diplomatic where Augustine had been imperious. Saint Chad’s cathedral in Birmingham houses his relics, saved from destruction by local recusant families. Lichfield has a precious fragment of his tomb, a Saxon angel found under the cathedral floor.
This Pea Soup would suit both David and Chad. The pea-souper fogs of my childhood in Birmingham meant School sent us home early, to feel our way by the gas lamps. Chad would have known the gentler mists that envelop Lichfield and the Trent Valley to this day.
Birmingham Pea Soup
Clean and chop up a leek, a big carrot and a celery stick. Put them into a big pan with 250 gm of split peas – use green or better yellow, the colour of the fog; 2 bay leaves, pepper and salt, a teaspoon each of ginger, coriander and paprika. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil, and push onto the back burner for an hour or so, before liquidising the soup. It will have the consistency of the air in old Birmingham on a foggy March evening. Serve with crusty bread, or croutons.
You could substitute a big onion for the leek.