Image credit to: Beth Harris
Slice bacon into small pieces and cook over medium heat in Dutch oven or large pot until crisp. Remove bacon to a plate.
Cook onion and garlic in bacon, or 4 Tbsp olive oil, with salt and pepper until onions are soft and starting to brown around the edges, 5-7 mins.
Add root vegetables, more salt and pepper and cook over medium-high heat another 5 or so minutes until vegetables are starting to brown.
Add stock (start with 6 cups), split peas, bay leaf and thyme, if using, to pot. Bring to boil and simmer until peas are falling apart, about 40 minutes. To create a thicker soup mash some of the peas and root vegetables against the side of the pot with a spoon. Add more stock, if needed, for desired consistency. Taste and adjust for S&P. Remove bay leaf and thyme stem.
Serve with fresh parsley, bacon bits, a squeeze of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. Garnish the vegetarian version with croutons or panko mixed with the parsley and olive oil for a bit of crunch.