Alas, there is no way to make split pea soup appetizing looking:
On the other hand, it has everything else in the world going for it: it's delicious, low-calorie, satisfying, easy, and cheap (unless, like me, you purchase a 10-lb. ham just to have a leftover ham bone.)
This HAS to be done a day ahead of time; it's just OK the first day. It gets progressively better the longer it gets left in the fridge. If you're making it for company, do it a couple of days ahead of time.
Makes 6-ish servings; the pictures are from when I made a double batch.
1 lb. dried split peas, rinsed and picked
1 meaty ham bone (whatever's leftover after the easy slices come off)
1-2 lb. carrots, peeled and sliced
1-2 lb. celery, sliced
1-2 onions, cut into large dice
1 bay leaf
6 c. water
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Add ham bone, peas, bay leaf, and water to a pot large enough to accomodate the ham bone.
Cover and bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until individual peas are no longer discernable and ham is falling off bone (roughly 2 hours).
2. Fish out ham bone and bay leaf, set aside to cool. Add chopped vegetables and continue to simmer. Once ham bone is cool enough to handle, pull the meat off the bones and chop into bite-size pieces.
Discard used bone and bay leaf and return chopped ham to soup; stir, taste, and adjust seasoning.
3. Simmer for at least 20 more minutes (you cannot overcook this soup); remove from heat to let it thicken. If you must eat it the same day, reheat to serve.
Far better is to wait a day or two; I can't explain why, but this soup gets SO MUCH BETTER after sitting for days; the longer you wait, the better it gets (presumably up to the point where it goes bad.) It also freezes beautifully.
Serve with croutons or crackers.