In case you’ve been off of social media for, say, the last 15 minutes, let me tell you that guacamole just happened. Not your everyday guacamole, but a guacamole studded with fresh green peas, presented by the august New York Times, with the endorsement “Trust us.”
There are few things that can divide a nation faster than guacamole. Families have split over the question of adding red or white onions — or scallions (white, of course). Lime juice or lemon juice? (Lime.) Spices or not? (Sparingly, if at all.)
One ventures into the guacamole arena cautiously.
Of course, the predictable happened: Twitter blew up. The sweet pea-studded guacamole drew comparisons to former NYT reporter Judith Miller’s disastrous pre-Iraq war coverage. The Texas Republican Party decided that the New York Times (probably never in their good graces to start) had “declared war on Texas.”
One tweeter commented that putting peas in guacamole was “tantamount to a hate crime.” @modernistwitch claimed “the universal revolt at the nyt green pea guacamole tweet may be the most twitter has ever agreed on anything."
Even President Obama got in the act. Asked about the controversy in a Twitter interview, he said “respect the nyt, but not buying peas in guac. onions, garlic, hot peppers. classic.” (They also wanted to know his favorite bands and his opinion on the Chicago Bulls re-signing Jimmy Butler.)
Somewhere Michael Roberts is laughing.
Sweet pea guacamole was one of his signature dishes at his restaurant Trumps, one of the cornerstones of Southern California’s 1980s dining renaissance. Trumps closed in 1992 and Roberts, who had long suffered from a wasting neuro-muscular disease, died in 2005, but long-time Angeleno diners still remember him fondly.
In 1985, then-restaurant critic Ruth Reichl described Roberts as “L.A.'s most slyly humorous chef — there's a little joke lurking somewhere in most of his food.”
But he never let the punch line trump the flavor. Dishes that sounded funny at first made sense when you tasted them. That was true of his quesadilla stuffed with Brie and grapes and of his plantains, sour cream and black beans garnished with caviar.
And it was true of Roberts’ sweet pea guacamole, in which he pureed frozen sweet peas with typical guacamole flavorings — cilantro, jalapeño, cumin and lemon or lime juice (he straddled the issue).
Though this looked just like guacamole, it didn’t taste like it. It tasted like a lighter, spicier pea puree.
But that was genius. Dumping green peas in guacamole is not.
SWEET PEA GUACAMOLE
From “Secret Ingredients” by Michael Roberts; this recipe has not been tested in the L.A. Times Test Kitchen.
1 pound bag frozen peas, defrosted
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 red onion, finely chopped (optional)
Combine the peas, olive oil, juice, cilantro, jalapeño, cumin and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade or a blender. Process until the ingredients are smooth. Taste for balance of flavors. Add salt, acid, or oil as needed. If using, stir in the onion. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Best if prepared within a few hours of serving.