Chunky Veggie Barley

9 Feb
Look how big my new soup pot is! It’s the size of my torso!

In Michael Pollan’s new book, “On Food Rules,” he separates “food products” from “food.” When did feeding ourselves become so complicated? Pollan’s main thesis is to “Eat real food, not too much of it, and more plants than meat.” Alayna and I discussed this while eating our soup last night.

The thing I can’t wrap my head around is the fact that I am 27 years old. I have a graduate degree. For most of the last decade I’ve had a moderate interest in eating well and yet I still don’t feel like I’m close to mastering it. I’ve spent years thinking about this and reading books and articles. I feel like I have a strong basis about the world of marketing tricks and how food marketers get you. Yet I still fall for traps (sugar free jam with fiber anyone?) So how on earth do people who aren’t neurotic nutbags like me even stand a chance?

It is a rare day when I can confidently say nothing I ingested was processed. Even last night we had pearl barley in our soup, which is more processed than hull barley. But I don’t even know where to find hull barley. The thing that annoys me about Pollan is that he makes me feel like such an idiot for having these moments. He makes it sound so simple. But it’s not. I’ve been working on my cooking for a solid two years and I still feel like I’m at the very, very beginning of it. The crest of the wave (of soup!).

Maybe it’s because unlike Alayna, I didn’t grow up in a cooking household. My mom claims it used to be a cooking household when I was young, but as I often bring up, when I was 11 my mom gave up cooking for Lent and then never looked back. No one yelled at me for drinking Cokes in the morning and Oreos after school (Eileen and Jessica, please confirm). I know there are some underlying issues here, like how it wasn’t even an option that my dad would ever pick up the cooking slack for my mom, but my point is I didn’t have a strong cooking mentor growing up, so for much of this I feel like I’m learning things for the first time now.

I like Pollan’s idea of eating in moderation. That feeling of can’t-move-full is obviously not a healthy feeling. It’s akin to putting ourselves into a comatose state. We aren’t alert. (But have you noticed eating too much homecooked food is a different feel entirely from eating too much processed food?)

But I get uncomfortable when his stuff starts to sound like deprivation (i.e. eat sweets on days that start with an S) I like saying,Hara Hachi Bu,” mainly because it’s funny to say outloud but also because it means “eat until 80 percent full.” A cultural habit, practiced on the island of Okinawa; the healthiest place on earth. Pollan highlights an old wive’s tale: If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry.

I actually just ate an apple and I’m still hungry.

Clearly folks, I have issues with Micheal Pollan that perhaps I should just keep in the closet. Maybe I just want more of a gold star from him and less of a long sigh and shrug that I have so much left to do. I don’t know. I’m interested in your thoughts. Are your current eating habits reflective of how you were raised? Do you often to cook for yourself? Do you even care? What are your food rules?

Chew on that and then go ahead and chew (and slurp!) on this…

Chunky Veggie Barley OR Ain’t got no Gout Soup

  • in a separate pot, cook one cup of barley as suggested (should take about 45 minutes)
  • roughly chop 3 cloves of garlic and saute in olive oil with herbs des provence
  • add one onion, thinly sliced, and saute until lightly browned
  • add two parsnips (chopped) and a handful of carrots (chopped) and cook covered until they begin to get soft, adding more olive oil if needed
  • add two bunches of chopped brocollini and stir, then cover again until brocollini are a little cooked through (2-3 minutes)
  • add a handful of kale and stir and a box of chopped mushrooms
  • once kale, brocollini and parsnips are mostly cooked through, add the barley with it’s hot water to the pot, filling the rest with water and chicken boullion for flava
  • bring to a simmer, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy!


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