Natalie Spencer Emery’s Split Pea Soup


Photograph of Natalie Spencer Emery

Born on September 26, 1900, Natalie Spencer Emery lived her entire life in Saginaw. She graduated from Saginaw High School in 1920.


While it gives no hint to the source of her spilt pea soup recipe, the Aurora, the Saginaw High yearbook, does provide insight into her interests and personality. She was chair of the yearbook “Humorous” committee and the comment with her senior portrait notes “On with the Dance.” She appeared in the 1920 Saginaw High class play, “She Knows Better Now,” in the roll of Mrs. Nicholas Thompson.





Gallery of Saginaw High School building, Aurora Class of 1920, Play Cast, and 1920 Seniors.


Split Pea Soup

Here is Natalie's Recipe:

  • 2 cups died split peas

  • Chopped celery 

  • 2 medium onion, diced

  • Ham bone, Bacon, or Pigs Feet

  • Salt to taste


Soak split peas over night. Place the peas and the water they have soaked in, plus additional water (enough to make a total of 2 quarts) in a large kettle. Add celery, onion, and meat. Cover and cook slowly over low heat for about 2 hours. Once soup starts to boil, turn off and let cool. Take out the meat, pull from bones and discard any skin and fat. Dice the meat and return it to the soup. Reheat and add salt and pepper to taste. 


I have never made split pea soup before so this was new to me. I thought this would turn out super green, however I didn’t realize that the color depends on the split peas. I placed ham in the soup to give it a smokey flavor. With the cooler weather, it was perfect for dinner and I also had leftovers, which made it great for lunch!


Deana Coleman, our staff associate, tests out weekly recipes from the cookbook Savoring Saginaw. Vice President/Chief Historian Tom Trombley and Chief Curator Sandy Schwan provided the historical information for this blog.


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