A newspaper writer can be forgiven for having a love/hate relationship with the Internet.
All that online information has not been kind to circulation. And we now face a complicated balancing act to report, edit and write while keeping up with a blog, a Twitter feed and around-the-clock online deadlines.
A flavorful find from the past
On the other hand there are new wonders in our world now. Heres one example:
I was trolling through the refrigerator cases at the 7th Street Public Market uptown Saturday, looking at the local milk and butter, when I spotted a few bags of products from Charleston. Along with the Carolina Gold rice and Anson Mills grits, there were a few bags of dark-red field peas, labeled Sea Island Red Peas.
Now, I seriously love field peas. All kinds of them. Black-eyed peas are OK, but what I really like are the old kinds. Zipper peas, cream peas, red-eye peas.
Those are the kinds of peas that are only grown in small gardens, from handed-down seeds.
Finding them is elusive and unpredictable. You just dont walk into a supermarket and pick up a bag of Dixie Lee crowders.
You might spot a small stock in a country store, or stumble on a stash of plastic bags in a cooler at a farmers market. Its like hunting for an old china pattern or adding to your collection of cast-iron string holders. The search is half the fun.
So that bag of dark-red peas from Charleston was exactly the kind of thing that would catch my eye.
Before the Internet, what would I do? Id ask the farm wife with the dusty apron how to cook them. Or Id quiz a guy in overalls and a ballcap.
But I was in the back aisle of an uptown market. No farm wife or overall-wearer in sight.
Help from the new millennium
So I did what any 21st-century cook would do. I pulled out my iPhone, punched up the app for the website Epicurious.com and entered Sea Island Red Peas in the recipe search.
Old world and new world came together. And stuck.
One recipe turned up, from chef Ashley Christensen of Pools Diner in Raleigh. She had written an article earlier this year for Bon Appetit magazine.
The recipe was for Sea Island Red Peas With Celery Leaf Salad. The steps were simple, an easy weekend afternoon cooking project.
At home, I kept the iPhone out on the kitchen counter, occasionally flipping across the finger lock to open it again and check the directions. I made a few changes, the same way I would if I were following a recipe printed on a cookbook page.
At dinner, we had a lovely summer dish of warm, beautifully cooked field peas topped with a vibrant green topping of celery leaves and chives.
I even sent a thank-you message to Christensen I follow her on Twitter (@poolesdinner).
Ill put the recipe on my blog, obsbite.blogspot.com. If you cant find Sea Island red peas, it would work with black-eyed peas.
And I guess its about time I decide which cookbook to load on my Kindle.
I may never go back to the 20th century.