Mushroom Barley Soup

Traditional Jewish comfort food, with history more ancient and undoubtedly more venerable than the ubiquitous “Jewish penicillin” – chicken soup, Mushroom Barley soup was served in my family during the holiday of Sukkos, the final one of the series of High Holidays. The end of October – beginning of November was already pretty chilly, so a thick, hot,and filling soup was always welcome, as the Sukkos meals are supposed to be eaten outside, in the booths especially constructed for this purpose. However, there are many other fall and winter soups, just as comforting and filling, so why barley?

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The real reason goes back to the Torah, where the land of Israel is called “a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates, a land of olive and honey.” This interesting combination of two grains and five fruits, known as sheva minim (seven species), was celebrated two times during the year: first on Tu B’Shvat, the New Year of the Trees, and the second time on Shavuos, the giving of the Torah festival. Shavuos is one of the three most important holidays of the year, when the entire population was expected to make pilgrimage to the Temple and bring the first fruit of the new harvest of seven species cultivated in the land of Israel.  It was both the end of barley harvest and the beginning of wheat harvest. The actual wheat harvest was concluded and celebrated on Sukkos.

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Besides the agricultural timing of the two harvests, there is a much deeper connection between the two holidays, and the seven species are not simply the ones that grew in Israel. There were quite a few other grains and fruit, and a bunch of vegetables as well, that were cultivated on that small but very fertile slice of land. These seven, though, have been singled out for their special holy properties.  They represent the seven areas of human lives, the modes and characteristics that make us what we are. Barley is our material, animalistic instinct for self-preservation, for food and shelter, for a warm bed and a nice car, and a bigger house, and a larger bank account. Wheat, on the other hand, is the constant striving to grow and develop, to nourish the human in us, the higher “self.” And there was that first moment, “the early wheat harvest,” when the Jewish people, fresh out of slavery in Egypt, exclaimed in one voice,” Give us the Torah! We will do it! All your commandments we will do and we will hear!” That was on Shavuos.

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We all know what happened there. Unfortunately, when Moses went up on Mount Sinai to receive the commandments, the materialistic, animalistic instincts, combined with crowd mentality, took over, and the people created a golden calf. And if this shiny idol is not a symbol of today’s corporate world, I don’t know what is!

Moses, who had spent 40 days on top of the mountain, literally and figuratively, came down, saw this spiritual disaster, smashed the tablets of the Law, turned around and went back up. When he came down, another 40 days later, the crowd was sufficiently repentant. Yet, just a few days later, they started complaining again! The  entire account of 40 years wondering in the desert is a story of Jewish quetching: give us water, give us meat, what kind of food is manna that doesn’t even look like food! It is also the story of spiritual growth, from the lower level of barley-fed selves to the highest level of wheat-nourished human beings. As a reminder of this thorny and challenging process, as well as manna, which is described to have the appearance of pearled barley, we eat barley while celebrating ting the end of wheat harvest.

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Just like our ancestors in the desert before accepting the Torah, I start preparing the night before. I soak barley and chick peas together overnight. In the morning, I rinse them and start cooking. I first bring it to boil stove top.

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Once it’s boiling, I add cut mushrooms, celery, grated carrots, diced tomatoes, and pareve soup powder.  Then I season it with salt and pepper, and add a dash of cinnamon. I bring it to boil again and transfer to the crock pot. Alternatively, I place pre-soaked barley and chick peas in an Instant Pot, add the rest of ingredients, and press the Manual setting button. An hour later, it’s done.

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If you are in a hurry, you can, of course, simmer it stove top, if you have the time and patience to stand over the stove and stir your soup non-stop. Barley does have a tendency to thicken and stick to the bottom! You can also cook it in the crock pot on high setting, and it’ll be done in a couple of hours. I prefer to spend a few minutes in the morning to start it, and then leave it in the crock pot on low for 8 – 9 hours or use Instant Pot and achieve the same result. This way, the flavors blend, barley thickens, and the soup becomes creamy and rich.

On Sukkos, we eat in a booth. It is the only holiday when we are surrounded by a tangible, materialistic fulfillment of a commandment that, at the same time, imbues us with higher spirituality for the entire year. The round chick peas remind us of the cycle of Torah reading, completed and started again on Simchas Torah, the last day of Sukkos, and this delicious soup envelopes us with the comfort of physical and spiritual contained in one bowl.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup pearl barley
  • 1 cup dry chick peas (1/1/2 cup frozen or 1 can)
  • 1/2 lb fresh mushrooms, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots (1 medium size carrot)
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 1 heaping tablespoon soup powder
  • A dash of cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley or cilantro to garnish

PROCEDURE

  • Soak barley and chick peas overnight. Rinse, place in a pot with 2 quarts of water, bring to boil.
  • Add the rest of ingredients, stir, bring to boil.
  • Transfer to crock pot, add water, cook on low for 8 – 9 hours, on high for 2 – 2 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally, add water if necessary. Alternatively, combine all ingredients in Instant Pot, use Manual setting.
  • Garnish with sprigs of fresh parsley or cilantro.

Enjoy!

45 Comments Add yours

  1. purpleslob says:

    Hi! Long time no talk, sorry. I’ve been out of it. I just wrote my final post on my http://www.purpleslobinrecovery.com site. It will probably disappear in 2 days, cuz I cancelled the domain hosting. Here’s my new blog, when I can get back to it. My final post tells all what’s been happening.
    https://purpleslobinrecovery20.design.blog/

    Like

    1. I have responded to you already, dear purple person, and subscribed to your new blog, but it is still showing as pending. WP gremlins are at work again!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. purpleslob says:

        Yay!! I hope I can get over my whatever malaise I have and get back at it soon!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Wait, what is it that you have? Don’t you dare get sick! We love you and need you! 😻

        Liked by 1 person

      3. purpleslob says:

        Haha, it’s nice to be needed and loved!! I had not-want-to-blogitis, I guess! I think I’m finally getting over it!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Oh, thank G-d! You got me really worried, my favorite purple person! Come back to the blogosphere and let’s have fun!

        Liked by 1 person

      5. purpleslob says:

        Thanks, Dolly! ❤ I will post at least once this week, promise!!

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Go for it, my favorite purple person!

        Liked by 1 person

      7. purpleslob says:

        Yeah for the A+!! Thanks!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Keep going, and you might earn an Excellence Certificate!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. purpleslob says:

        lol!! And then I’ll want a gold star! 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      10. You’ve got to really work for it, girl! 😻

        Like

  2. That sounds absolutely lovely and reminds me of my Jewish friend Asa. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, darling!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Let me tell you a little but more about my young Jewish friend.

        The first year I knew him he had just moved to Chicago after college and was alone on Sukkot. So we talked a lot on the phone and messages, and he taught me so much about Sukkot.

        The second year I knew him, his parents came from Israel to spend Sukkot with him.

        The 3rd year, this year, he is in Pennsylvania spending Sukkot with his girlfriend’s family, his first time meeting them.

        A NICE JEWISH GIRL!!!

        I’m so excited for him I almost can’t stand it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Thank you for sharing his story with me. I hope he has a delightful holiday!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The soup looks so tasty and hearty. Just perfect for the season. חג שמח! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Ronit! Hag Sameach to you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Garfield Hug says:

    Good share and now I know 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, darling!

      Like

  5. Fascinating analysis of heartwarming soup. The golden calf’s relevance to today’s corporate world is chilling – especially the short-lived repentance.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ah, you caught this one; most people miss the short-lived repentance part. Thank you so much, Derrick.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. GP Cox says:

    Please forgive my ignorance, Dolly. But what is soup powder?
    This recipe sounds nutritious and hearty!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Soup powder is what you know as bouillon cubes, but in a powdered form in a big jar. It’s seen on one of the photos, and It is sold in kosher stores and in most supermarkets in kosher departments. It’s plant-based.
      Thank you for your kind comment, GP!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. GP Cox says:

        Thank you for a gracious reply!!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Always my pleasure, GP.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank you for re-telling the story around too, Dolly! Chicken soup here is known as medicine too. The term “barley” always is bringing a smile on my face, since i had got knowledge of a politican – the actual Vice-President of the EU, if i remember right – named “Barley”. Lol Thank you, and best wishes! Michael

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope Barley-the politician was one of the good guys!
      Thank you for stopping by, and best wishes for you as well, Michael.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. As i remember right, she is a socialist.;-) At least one can not qualify politicans. She are doint their own business, more and more far away from the real life. ;-(
        Thank you Dolly! Enjoy your weekend too. Michael

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Socialists are not my favorite people; I am sure you can understand that.
        This weekend is the end of the holiday – happy holiday to you, Michael!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I truely understand, Dolly! I dont believe in any of the political parties, only some members of them. Politics is a dirty game. Happy holiday too, Dolly.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Political parties are not religions, although some people are trying to make them into something to believe. Politics are dirty, I agree!

        Like

    1. Thank you so much, dear Tiffany!

      Like

  8. A rich soup with a rich history!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, dear Mimi!

      Like

  9. cookingflip says:

    Sounds like comfort food, indeed. Thank you for the education, Dolly–I would have thought ‘honey’ was that amber liquid from the honeybee!
    It must be a real experience to dine over a meal full of spiritual meaning, discussing the faith and passing on the values to the younger generation. Blessings 🍄🌾🍲

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely comment, dear friend! Blessings are extended to you, as well!

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Looks delicious. Gotta try this one.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear friend.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. cynthiaweirr says:

    Hello Dear, I noticed you liked a post on my site. I visited your site and I love this recipe which I will try out soon. Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, dear Cynthia!

      Like

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