I have to say that in general, Russians eat soups more often than Americans do. It is not unusual for the soup to be the only dish that is served at a meal, especially for casual meals at home, such as supper. In theory, a proper, well rounded meal is expected to include the first course (soup), second course (some sort of protein such as beef or pork cutlets, chicken or fish) and the third course, which is usually hot tea with something sweet.
In reality, however, rarely does anyone have the time these days to serve a three course meal, especially on weekdays, so more often than not soup is what you will see on the dinner table.
I bought yellow peas at the Russian grocery store here in Houston, but they can also be found in a well-stocked supermarket, often in a health food section. I find that smoked ham or pork works best in this recipe; however, you can substitute it for chicken broth.
Yellow Pea Soup with Croutons
3 strips bacon, diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 smoked ham bone or smoked pork shoulder
1 1/2 cups yellow peas
4 bay leaves
salt to taste
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into bite size pieces
In an electric kettle or a medium pot, bring to boil 8 cups of water.
Sauté bacon in a large heavy pot until crisp. At this point, you can remove the bacon bits or you can leave them in your soup. Sauté onions in the bacon fat until translucent. Add carrots and sauté another minute or two. Add the ham bone, yellow peas, bay leaves, water and salt. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer until the peas are almost tender, about 30 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until they are soft if pierced with a fork. Remove the bone, cut off the meat (if any) and return it to the pot. Discard the bone and bay leaves. Serve the soup with croutons.
Preheat oven to 300F. Cut about 4 slices of whole wheat bread into 1/2 in cubes, spread over a cookie sheet and bake until crisp, about 20 minutes, turning once or twice.