Sort through dry peas and discard any pebbles or discolored peas. Rinse and drain peas. In a 4-quart Dutch oven, combine peas, water, smoked ham hocks, onion, carrots, parsnips, garlic, salt, and bay leaves. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, over low heat about 1 hour or until nearly smooth, stirring occasionally. Remove bay leaves and shank bones.
If desired, when cool enough to handle, cut meat off bone and chop into small pieces. Return meat to soup and heat through before serving. To serve, ladle soup into cups or bowls. If desired, garnish with carrot strips. Makes 8 servings.