Like all deep-seated terrors, it goes back years. Almost a quarter of a century, in this case.
Back in those days I had a second-hand fridge/freezer, one that pre-dated today's fancy self-defrosting appliances, which meant the freezer constantly froze up. And being a young flippertygibbet at the time, I never got round to a regular precautionary defrost every few months.
So, of course, it iced up - big time.
It got to the stage where I was scared to open it the freezer section and face the ice ogre that lurked inside. In the end I stopped using it completely.
The frozen Yuppy treats (this was the late '80s, remember) so lovingly selected at Marks & Sparks were trapped in a state of permanent suspended animation. Zipper bags filled with blackberries gathered from the hedgerows near my Nana's house were held captive by clenched fists of frost. And an anonymous lump of meat lurked like an unfortunate yeti that had been caught in an avalanche.
As I was on the second floor of an old Victorian house with wooden floors, I didn’t dare defrost for fear of flooding the loopy old dear downstairs (Rita - she of the ochre-stained net curtains and flower pot hats). If I did, she would probably have thought that Judgement Day had finally arrived and broken out her tambourine in a last-ditch attempt at Salvation.
In the end, I had to chuck the entire thing away - CFCs and all - with the ice monster intact. Now, many years later, I suspect it may have taken flesh and still be lurking somewhere around a Brighton landfill.
Fortunately, as I grew (and my disposal income shrunk), I overcame that fear and learned to love my deep freeze.
I now love it for the convenience it offers; for the way it preserves the glory of (certain) fresh vegetables well beyond their season; for its ability to offer up surprise (sometimes mystery, if not labelled properly) ingredients to challenge my culinary creativity; and the fact that it always holds something I can serve up to the hungry carnivores I share my life with. But perhaps its greatest blessing is the way in which is allows me to pursue my so-called 'eccentricity' of cutting meat out of my diet, whilst still catering for those beloved flesh-devouring men.
A quick glimpse at our family deep freeze will reveal the usual pork chops, chicken breasts, minced beef and perhaps a leg of lamb - as well as some deep chilled bottles of Limoncello and Masticha liquors - but I suspect that the lion's share is devoted to feeding my veggy preferences. Its drawers open up to reveal countless tupperware pots filled with vegetable mixture just right for meatless lasagnes or my flesh-free version of Shepherd's Pie (Gardener's Pie, I suppose), slices of vegatable & nut loaf, and a selection of soups whizzed up from the neglected carrots et al that graze at the bottom of my fridge.
Frozen pea and mint soup is simplicity personified - if a rather shocking shade of green. It takes a maximum of 15 minutes from freezer to ladle, and is ideal for any time of the year.
It also has the advantage of being mine, all mine. The carnivores take one look at it and wrinkle up their noses in disgust (philistines!).
Take 3-4 good handfuls of frozen peas, and a few sprigs of fresh mint (which you may also have preserved and ready for use in the deep freeze), and chuck them in a small saucepan with a peeled garlic glove and enough vegetable stock to cover them well. Add a teaspoon of sugar and a little salt & pepper, and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, then whizz it all up in your blender with a couple more good sprigs of mint and a good glug of olive oil. Then serve with a hunk of fresh crusty bread.
No matter what time of year you make it, it tastes like your Mum's vegetable garden in early summer (minus the slugs, snails and dirt) in a bowl.
Who'd have thought it would be the humble pea that could banish my ice demons and make me love my deep freeze again?
This post was inspired by Oui Chef at http://www.beckicklesie.com/, where the theme for February was "Frozen with love".
Check out Oui Chef for other frozen delights to tickle your tonsils.