Appalachia

Honey and Peas

case knife and fork laying on napkin

My grandpa on my daddy’s side was pretty elderly by the time I came along. I don’t think he actually ate with a Case knife, but he knew of some who did. At mealtimes he would often repeat this little poem.
I always eat peas with honey,
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes them taste kinda funny,
But at least they stay on my knife.

— Eldonna Ashley

—-

Tipper

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18 Comments

  • Reply
    Brenda Schlosser
    February 2, 2020 at 2:14 pm

    My Grandfather ate every meal with a fork and knife, using the fork to load the knife and eating from the knife. I loved watching him eat. To me it was very elegant. He always had to have biscuits and gravy with his meals. Not only did he perfect the case knife, but his last name was also Case. If my Grandmother didn’t have a dessert after dinner, he would always take an extra biscuit and mix peanut butter and syrup together or butter and syrup to eat with his biscuit. Again, using his knife to eat. He didn’t spread it on the biscuit, he took his knife, placed a bite of the mixture on a portion of the biscuit, cut it and ate from the knife. He was a great man and respected by everyone that knew him. He was born in 1904.

  • Reply
    Melinda
    February 2, 2020 at 12:27 am

    Tho my dad never ate w/his knife but he did like to entertain us 5 kids w/silly & fun songs or rhymes. He”d say;
    “I eat my peas with honey – I’ve done it all my life.
    It makes the peas taste funny but it keeps them on my knife!”

    Grandma used to tell us at bedtime;
    “Behind the door a’ racking nuts – the first one laughs & shows there teeth gets a big pinch (or kiss for real little tots).

    When I worked in extended care I asked residents if they knew those sayings but never got a positive answer.

    Does anyone out there know ‘behind the door…’?

  • Reply
    Ann Applegarth
    February 1, 2020 at 11:28 pm

    We used to sing a little song: Always mix your peas with your potatoes. It makes eating with a knife a cinch.

  • Reply
    Sue McIntyre
    February 1, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    I am a huge fan of Ralph Stanley, but am unfamiliar with the song. It is amazing how a simple poem provokes memories. My paternal grandpa brewed his coffee on the wood stove. He drank it from a saucer. My mother, a city girl, never could reform him. I never heard of him eating peas with his knife. He did eat pretty much everything else with his pocketknife, again to my mother’s dismay. Especially if he neglected to clean it first. LOL

  • Reply
    Ed Ammons
    February 1, 2020 at 5:25 pm

    The little poem doesn’t specify what kind of peas Grandpa was eating. Neither of my grandfathers would have sat at a table where the vegetables modernity knows as peas were served. They might have known sugar or sugar snap peas which are eaten whole or “snapped” in pieces much like green beans.
    Other peas they might have eaten were cow peas or field peas which are grown in the corn field so as to have something to climb on. They were often gathered before they matured to be broken and cooked much like green beans. Sometimes they were allowed to dry and were shelled and stored to be cooked later. But, the little round green peas from a can or frozen in a bag would have been unfamiliar to them.
    That being said any kind of pea would be difficult to eat from a knife blade albeit a case knife. Some sort of a glue would most certainly be a requirement. Any man whose only source of nutrition were unsecured peas, off the blade of a case knife, would surely starve to death.

    • Reply
      Melinda
      February 2, 2020 at 12:31 am

      Oops! should have been ‘behind the door a Crackin’ nuts…’

  • Reply
    Gaye
    February 1, 2020 at 1:21 pm

    M ama never served fresh peas unless she made a white sauce for them. Then you could eat with a fork and sop up leftover sauce with “wheat bread” to distinguish from corn bread. Was so surprised first time I ever saw green peas and NO sauce to accompany them.

  • Reply
    b. Ruth
    February 1, 2020 at 1:13 pm

    Tipper,
    Before the invention of the Swiss Army Knives/Utility hunting knives, etc. Many a hunter (sometimes even killed), prepared, cooked and ate with his knife…served as fork n’ knife…just drank the fluids….no spoon needed..

    I am trying my best to remember the funny little sayin’ my Dad used to say about eatin’ green peas with a knife. Since he wasn’t crazy about canned green peas..(only the peas he grew) it was something about….”A body shouldn’t eat more canned peas than you can get on a knife!” …Seems like the laugh was that the peas would always fall off before they got to your mouth…
    Thanks for this post Tipper,

    PS…Here it is the first of February! Seems like it has been Spring weather for weeks! Jonquils and other Spring bulbs are popping up like crazy…some in the sunny sides have buds and trying to bloom. Birds that do not mate for life, are looking and pairing up and beginning to sing territorial songs…Hope we get a true early Spring…I have been putting out lots of kitchen waste for compost and hopefully the possums got some of it to help their new babies! Why! Because we are going to need them roaming around the yard, fields and woods to eat all those ticks that a few hard winter freezes would have killed…I know it sounds gross…LOL

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    February 1, 2020 at 12:48 pm

    I think you may have brought us some really old history there with that case knife. It seems there is the very vaguest of memories of somebody lifting a knife to their face during the course of the meal. Many times I have seen older people or children eat with their fingers when a fork would have been easier. My preference is with a fork even for fried chicken or watermelon, although I think it is probably up to the individual. One thing that seems to never have changed is most older Appalachian men I have ever been around carry a pocket knife. They will cut down a twig and remind you that it could soon become a problem tree. Also, not related to eating, but a lot of time the women would always have a hoe handy when outside the house. They never wasted a minute, so even while they were chatting the hoe was being used to cut back unsightly weeds from the edge of the gardens or flower bed. I never wondered why hoes were used to kill so many snakes. They were always handy.

  • Reply
    Gigi
    February 1, 2020 at 12:35 pm

    That seems fancy to me. We never ate with a knife. We used a fork or spoon. The only thing we used the knifebfir was to spread butter or apple butter on a biscuit. I like the poem.

  • Reply
    Bruce Long
    February 1, 2020 at 10:14 am

    Wow does this take me back to my childhood. Grandpa, who was born in 1874, kept a table knife at his setting. He would dip it in a jar of honey and eat his peas off his knife. My families history runs through Appalachia. All through my life I had never heard of anyone else who did that, so this article is a revelation to me.

  • Reply
    Charles Howell
    February 1, 2020 at 9:58 am

    I first heard the Peas & Honey line in a song by Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs on a Bluegrass Album; ” Johnson Boys eat Peas and honey, they have done it all their lives. Makes the Peas taste mighty funny, but it keeps them on the knife. I imagine the Girls do the song, both the serious version of the Confederacy and the humorous one of the Union, I think; Johnson Boys were Boys of Honor. They knew how to court a maid, the Rebel song starts. I would love to hear them sing both.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    February 1, 2020 at 9:21 am

    Yep, rolley peas and a flat knife blade would have required a mighty steady hand without some stickiness. I guess eating with a knife could be second nature with practice. But it sure sounds strange.

  • Reply
    aw griff
    February 1, 2020 at 9:18 am

    That’s a cute poem.
    I don’t remember anyone eating peas with a case knife but I remember my Grandparent’s generation using case knifes way more than we do today. About the only thing I use a case knife for is stirring a little salt and pepper in my buttermilk and my Wife stirs stevia in her tea.
    I have always known the knifes as case knifes and a Case brand knife is a totally different animal. My briggity Grandson calls them a table knife just to start a rall. My teacher Wife just told me there was no such word as rall but it should be row. Well, I grew up using rall.

  • Reply
    Ken r in SW. Missouri
    February 1, 2020 at 8:55 am

    I remember my granddad eating peas and other things with a knife.he also drank hot water with canned milk and a little sugar in it.

  • Reply
    Shirl
    February 1, 2020 at 8:40 am

    Eating with a case knife shows more manners than eating with ones fingers. A few years ago at a family reunion, I was sitting at a table with a preacher/comedian who was raised up with same holler as my mom. I dropped my plastic fork and stopped eating. He said, “Lord child, you have done got above your raising. Didn’t your mommy teach you how to eat with your fangers like we did?” Mom never ate with her fingers as far as I can remember, but an older ex-sister-in-law did. She used to amaze me how she could eat biscuits, gravy and eggs and never pick up a fork or spoon.

  • Reply
    Gayle Larson
    February 1, 2020 at 8:15 am

    I remember uncles who ate with their knives. I think as a child I tried it once and failed.

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    February 1, 2020 at 7:03 am

    I love the poem! There is something sweet about it. I’ve never really seen anyone eat with a knife but I’ve sure heard of it. I guess table wear was scarce and didn’t people have their own knife but not other utensils? I seem to have an old memory back in my brain about each person had their own knife.

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