Snow peas and red pepper salad and my family’s best ever surprise party

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Snow pea and red pepper salad with walnut dressing pretty on a buffet table and so delicious

For my mom and dad’s 40th wedding anniversary we managed to pull off a big surprise party, in their house, no less.

My mom is a very sharp woman and we were never able to sneak much past her when we were growing up, so for my six siblings and I to succeed with the surprise was a huge accomplishment.

Much was in our favour…

Conveniently, we had a big rowing regatta (the re-enactment of the Paris Crew race in Renforth) as a helpful decoy, a way to get mom and dad out of the house and reason enough for my twin brother, a former rower, to come home for the weekend. Another brother who was living in Minnesota was home for a visit too.

Snowpea and red pepper salad with walnut dressing pretty on a buffet table and so delicious

But making the party a total surprise wasn’t without its near misses…

My brother who was tasked with getting mom out of the house (dad had gone ahead) to make way for the caterer had us all near heart failure when he didn’t arrive at the appointed time.

It was not looking good when suddenly, through the kitchen window I saw his car round the corner (practically on two wheels he was in such a hurry).

As he and mom drove out of the yard the caterer’s van came up our street.

Then, as mom and dad walked along the sidewalk toward their vantage point for the race, another brother and his family (surprise visitors for the party) drove right by, in their distinctive red car. My brother and his wife spied my parents but thanks to the commotion mom and dad didn’t notice.

And when mom and dad arrived home from the race to a yard full of cars they still didn’t suspect a thing. They assumed I had invited a bunch of friends over, until mom caught a glimpse of an old family friend through the window.

“What is Al Barry doing in our living room with a drink in his hand?” she said. “…Oh!”


Snowpea and red pepper salad with walnut dressing pretty on a buffet table and so delicious

We had the party partially catered and then we all pitched in with extra appetizers and salads. That was probably the last time I made this salad. For years it made the family party rounds and then was somehow forgotten, only to be rediscovered a couple of months ago in and old hand-written cookbook of mine from the early 1990’s. I can’t recall the book it came out of but mom and I can both picture the salad, lovely and bright in a pretty blue pottery bowl on their dining room table.

Leafy salads are great but sometimes it’s nice to have a salad with a bit more crunch and colour, which is just what this salad offers.


Snow peas and red pepper salad

  • ¾ lb. snow peas
  • ½ lb. mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, cut into strips
  • 1 Tbsp. sesame seeds

Walnut orange dressing:

  • 1 small clove of garlic, pressed
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 tsp. Grandma Fancy Molasses
  • 3 Tbsp. cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp. walnut oil (or olive oil)
  • Pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper
  1. Top and string peas.
  2. Blanch peas in boiling water for 1 ½ to two minutes.
  3. Drain and rinse immediately under cold water. Dry thoroughly.
  4. In ungreased skillet over medium heat toast the sesame seeds until lightly browned, shaking the pan often
  5. Combine dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake until well combined (or whisk together in a bowl)
  6. Toss vegetables with dressing and sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  7. Serve immediately.

Many dear friends and family who were at that party years ago are no longer with us. It’s a good reminder to celebrate with people who are special to you every chance you get.

My family’s recipe for marinated tomato salad was also on the buffet table at the big surprise party. Here’s the recipe: 


6 thoughts on “Snow peas and red pepper salad and my family’s best ever surprise party

  1. Linda says:

    looking forward to trying the salad recipe looks yummy

    1. Hi Linda, I hope you enjoy the snow pea salad — It’s a lovely change from green salad and goes with everything.

  2. Gladys says:

    Yumm, that sounds great, and blanching the snow peas makes lots of sense, why didn’t I think of that?!! Love snow peas, red peppers, mushrooms, and sesame seeds. I need to try the walnut oil too. Lots of things for my next shopping list.

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Hi Gladys, I don’t often take the time to blanch things but it’s a great step with this salad. It means that the peas have just a little crunch and they stay a lovely bright green. Enjoy!

  3. Dianne says:

    I really enjoyed reading about your surprise Anniversary party. A belated happy 40th to your parents. I have just copied your recipe for your snow pea and red pepper salad. It looks awesome and is a really nice change from the same-old same-old.

    1. Bridget Oland says:

      Thanks Dianne, I’m with you — it’s good to change up your salads from time to time.

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