Monday, October 19, 2009

Vegetable Barley Soup

One on my early forays into the art of cooking on my own was a big batch of vegetable barley soup. Checking over the recipes led me to believe that it wasn’t a big deal. Vegetables, broth and seasonings were all that was needed. I even did the old fashioned way with beef bones slowly simmered for the stock. The wafting aroma carried by the stove vent to the chill outside air must have had the neighborhood hounds chafing at their chains.
Saturday morning chores were completed while the stock cooled. Teaching art full time left the weekends for cleaning and cooking which was normally accomplished by noon. Various pursuits filled the remaining free time, but back to the soup. The cooled broth was skimmed on schedule. Disposal of the fat proceeded to the vegetable preparation. By the time my laundry was retrieved from the basement, the vegetables and quick cooking barley were finished cooking.

This soup was for Sunday dinner so the flavors would have time to season and bloom in the hearty broth. Little of this... a little of that, salt, pepper... something was lacking. Even with the beef broth the soup was bland. A quick call to my mother produced a possible answer. Lea & Perkins Worcestershire Sauce would enhance the beef broth. With a quick grab to the pantry shelf, a judicious tablespoon was added, but considering the amount of soup I decided that two would be better than one.
Free from the list of Saturday chores, I went off to do who remembers what for the rest of the day and most of Sunday. The soup was doing its own thing in the refrigerator. Seasonings seasoned while vegetables soaked the flavors up.
This Sunday dinner with family was the first at my first apartment. A last minute check list clicked off in my mind as I surveyed the tidy apartment. Extra toilet paper roll, special guest hand towels and soaps, flowers in vases, candles lit, table set, muffins cooling, designer salad, soup warming, and desert plates on the sideboard. All the usual stuff to do when trying to show the family how well adjusted to domestic life on your own you were.
Once the guests were made welcome and comfortable, the cheese and crackers were served with wine. Ushered to the table, my family ooo-ed and ahhh-ed over the salad presentation, so artistically arranged at first no one wanted to disturb the masterpiece of my creation. Enticed by the seasoned aroma, all were waiting on the main course as the salad was cleared. Carefully ladled into pre-warmed bowls the vegetables danced in the broth, their bright colors like evening gowns with brown velvet capes of thick broth. Small talk was hushed in anticipation as the last bowl was served. Steam rising from the deep bowls added to the peacefulness of evening as the winter chill settled on the closing day.

“Oh my God that’s hot!” “What did you .... put in this?” Various cries from flaming mouths shattered the serenity as spoons clattered to the plates. Tears rolled down faces as lunges for water glasses created havoc to the pristine table cloth. “More water... please” “This makes the Ellington Fireman’s chili taste bland!”
Sheepishly downing a third glass of water, I went to the pantry to check for the culprit. Pulling out the bottle of Worcestershire Sauce... Tabasco... Oh no I put two heaping tablespoons of Tabasco. The garbage disposal worked wondrously well after ingesting the fiery mix.
After a brief respite of nose blowing, throat clearing, eye dabbing and laughter, we proceeded directly to the desert. Apple pie Ala mode was served with an extremely generous ala mode of soothing vanilla ice cream. My name was entered in the family dietary fiasco logbook under H for Hot too Hot.

EMM 5/12/98
re 5/19/98

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