Photos by 
Jessicarobyn Keyser
Jessicarobyn Keyser

It’s Not Meatloaf. It’s Not Pilaf. It’s Pea Loaf!

by 
Jennifer Billock
February 7, 2021

As an extrovert, the idea of being stuck inside and hanging out alone nonstop is essentially torture for me. So when the pandemic hit, you better believe I fully embraced the new world of Zoom meetings and happy hours and holiday celebrations and just regular hangouts.

As part of my new virtual existence, I decided to launch a series of themed dinner parties, the first one being The Vintage Victuals Virtual Dinner Party. Here’s how it worked:

I have a ton of vintage cookbooks. Like, an obscene amount. So I gathered up 10 of my friends and family members and assigned everyone an intentionally weird recipe dating from between the 1930s and the 1970s.

For a little bit of insight, some of the recipes included things like the Dixie Bake (a casserole of Spam, cloves, apricot jam, and biscuits), Baked Cucumbers (made like twice-baked potatoes), and Meat-Shell Pie (basically a wagon-wheel-shaped meatloaf with hotdog spokes and pizza toppings). We all made our recipes at our respective homes and spent an hour-long Zoom call taking turns to show what we made, explain the recipe, taste it, and review it.

One of the participants picked my recipe for me so I would be surprised. And while you might not think it sounds like a winner, oh, it is. In fact, I ended up making the gem of the entire evening: Pea Loaf with Creamy Mushroom Sauce. My friend pulled the recipe from her mom’s home economics cookbook from the ‘50s. It's basically a bread-shaped loaf made of smashed peas mixed with greens, and covered in a sauce that’s essentially really thick cream of mushroom soup.

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On the whole, everyone seemed to enjoy their dishes and seven out of 10 said they’d make them again. 

Interested in having your own virtual dinner party? I’ve also done ones themed around international food (everyone was assigned a country and had to make a traditional dish from that country) and aspics and gelatin molds (everyone was assigned a course and had to make a dish suspended in gelatin). There’s no limit on potential themes. But if you want to have your own vintage food one and wow your friends with a pristine loaf of mashed peas, here’s my adapted recipe

Pea Loaf with Spinach Creamy Mushroom Sauce

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Ingredients

Vintage Pea Loaf:

2.5 cups canned cooked peas (20 ounces)

1 cup fine bread crumbs

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon grated shallot or dried minced onion or garlic 

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup finely chopped Fifth Season spinach or kale, packed

Salt and pepper to taste

Creamy Mushroom Sauce:

1/3 cup butter

2 cups sliced portobello mushrooms

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

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Ingredients

Vintage Pea Loaf:

2.5 cups canned cooked peas (20 ounces)

1 cup fine bread crumbs

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon grated shallot or dried minced onion or garlic 

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup finely chopped Fifth Season spinach or kale, packed

Salt and pepper to taste

Creamy Mushroom Sauce:

1/3 cup butter

2 cups sliced portobello mushrooms

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients

Vintage Pea Loaf:

2.5 cups canned cooked peas (20 ounces)

1 cup fine bread crumbs

1 large egg, beaten

1 teaspoon grated shallot or dried minced onion or garlic 

1 cup evaporated milk

1 cup finely chopped Fifth Season spinach or kale, packed

Salt and pepper to taste

Creamy Mushroom Sauce:

1/3 cup butter

2 cups sliced portobello mushrooms

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

Pea Loaf:

1. Preheat oven to 325F.

2. Drain canned peas, reserving the liquid.

3. Mash the peas with a fork, or in a food processor, until they’re smooth. 

4. Add the reserved liquid and the rest of the ingredients (to the food processor, if using). Mix. Season with salt and pepper and mix again until well-blended.

5. Thoroughly butter a 6-cup loaf pan. (Note: A glass pan will give you a browner and smoother crust than a metal pan.) Pour pea mixture into the pan.

6. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

7. Turn out onto a plate and top with mushroom sauce (directions below). Serve immediately.

Creamy Mushroom Sauce:

1. Melt butter in a double boiler if you want to be very ‘70s, though using a saucepan will work just fine.

2. Add mushrooms. Cover and sauté in the double boiler or saucepan over low heat for five minutes.

3. Sprinkle flour over mushrooms and stir until coated.

4. Slowly add milk, stirring well.

5. Add cream and seasoning. Mix well.

6. Cook until thick, stirring often to keep it smooth.

7. Pour over finished pea loaf.

About the Author

Jennifer Billock

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