Soup making is in my bones, something I am compelled to do in winter, when the temperatures outside drop below freezing and chilly winds sway the pines. It's one of those intangibles inherited from my mother. Today is one such day. This is totally my own creation, using ingredients I prefer, except for the crunchy kosher dill gherkin pickles. I was just tired of seeing four pickles in half a jar of green brine at the back of the refrigerator.

Without further ado, get a very large pot. Then proceed as directed:

1 lb. of dry black beans, (you can soak the beans overnight, or cover with water and simmer for 30 minutes, then let sit). I chose the latter method. Actually, I sat too, pondering my existence.

1 lb. dry pearled barley, just add to pot

1 large yam, cut into chunks

This soup will get thick very quickly. You can add water, as needed, or stock.

half a head of celery, chopped

4 gherkins, chopped, and the brine (please recycle the glass jar, you know, SAVE THE PLANET in small ways)

approximately a half-cup of raw sunflower seeds (this was a practical whim, to empty parts of the refrigerator)

a generous shot glass size of blue agave nectar and local raw honey, in equal parts

a handful of hardened, old raisins (for the iron they contain...and to empty parts of the refrigerator)

rosemary, salt, and coarsely ground black pepper, as desired

4 T. of Parmesan cheese, optional but extra protein

garlic, sauteed in olive oil, until quite brown and crisp, slices or chunks, the more the better

For the sake of color, add enough frozen corn to liven it up visually.

For the same reason, add one purple potato, cut in chunks and cooked separately (these are expensive, or I'd use more).

Ordinarily, I would add red bell pepper, but they got used in a recipe and a prayer.

When the purple potato is still slightly undercooked, add to soup, only to realize they lose a lot of their color when boiled. (not worth the $5 for 5 small potatoes)

To save the day, and the presentation of the soup, I plan to add thinly sliced raw red onion and chopped, raw green peppers on top, with a sprinkling of more Parmesan cheese.

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