I was on the playground the other day with my friend Skye. We were watching our children run amok (Lucy has tired of the monkey bars and now likes to climb the chain link fence near the swing set…Not that this reflects poorly on my parenting or anything.) My friend Skye is a terrific person and a great Mom. She’s smart - she gave up lawyering to be at home with Shayna 1 and Dylan 3. And she is talented - She can push a double stroller, walk the dog, pull raisins out of Dylan’s hair, kiss Shayna's boo boo and talk on the cell all at the same time.
And she never steps foot in a gym, yet the pregnancy pounds melted off her like a glacier after global warming. She always looks good, even when you know she just wiped mango juice spit up off her sweater and picked out a pair of pants from the bottom of the laundry basket – no matter. She makes it all work in a cool-urban-hipster-mom-sort-of-way that has failed to ever translate on me.
With that said – the woman doesn’t like to cook. Not exactly a flaw really, but a self-esteem-raising reminder that none of us can do everything. Skye feeds her kids healthy meals and snacks, like rice and steamed vegetables and raw fruits and vegetables. But she doesn’t get the cooking jones that I get and so, when I eagerly ask her, “What’s for dinner tonight?” thinking that she might be whipping up some succulent concoction, she rolls her eyes at me as if I were a pesky gnat buzzing in her ear.
Skye is a hard core vegetarian, married to a meat-loving man. And she is a trouper, so she said, “If you put up some easy vegetarian recipes on your blog, I’ll try them.” So, I started hunting and found this very simple Mushroom Barley Soup that had been torn out of a Real Simple Magazine. I made it (and disliked the recipe altogether) and in the process, realized something very important about myself – I LOVE MEAT. I am hopelessly in love with gnarly, sinewy, fatty, nobs of cow and veal and lamb and pig and every other animal that Old McDonald might have strutting around his farm.
I mean, I knew I loved meat. There really is nothing quite like a tender chunk of shortrib falling off the bone and dripping in the intense meaty, broth drunk with hot red wine. Or a perfectly cooked steak, all charred on the outside and a wet, blood red on the inside. Incredible. There are some great veg recipes out there, but this particular Mushroom Barley Soup recipe was pretty lame (the techniques they used were not effective and like so many recipes, the measurments were off. Note to self: No more recipes from the bad-cooking-Real-Simple-people.). And it cried out for meat. When I was making it, all I could think about was how pieces of boney, marrow-filled chunks needed to be plopped into the soup.
I resisted since that made it un-eatable for Skye but by 11pm - after dipping in my spoon and hunks of bread all evening and shaking my head and adding ingredients (Hey! Maybe if I just add more (fill in the blank) and it will stop being hideous!) and wondering why this soup was just “okay” and not incredible, I called our babysitter Bubba, who informed me bluntly that the soup required beef and hung up.
So, I did what any self-respecting carnivore would do. I re-made the soup and used some of the thick, intense fatty braising liquid from my last batch of short ribs and threw in some bones for the marrow. Okay, and I tinkered with the ingredients, adding and omitting. (I would give you the recipe but it was late when I finished, my brain was mush, and I can no longer remember what I did, or what I took out or put in.) But suffice to say, it was a meat lover’s hearty soup and the second incarnation was so much better…But now I’m barley-souped-out and have no desire to make it again in any incarnation for quite some time. So, don't be looking here for a great Mushroom Barley Soup at least until the Fall.
The Veg Challenge, however, goes on and it looks like it might be more of a challenge than I originally thought. I fear I might plop a big old bone into any recipe I get my hands on. Still, Skye needs some easy recipes and I am hunting them down, and testing them out. But for my next post…How to cook the perfect steak!