Sort and rinse peas in a strainer. In a heavy 4 quart pot, saute celery, onion, garlic and carrot until tender, but not browned.
Add rinsed peas, ham bone, potato, pepper, water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the pan, until peas are very tender, about 2 to 3 hours. Remove ham bone, cut meat from bone and discard bone. (Some people like to puree their soup — I like mine chunky. The split pea police will not be checking on you, so do what you like.)
Place chopped ham back in soup pan. Remove bay leave before you serve it. You can add a dollop of sour cream if you like, but it’s good just as it is!