Barley...."bar-ley". Such a nice rounded name for a nicely rounded grain. So...wholesome, so innocent. I liked barley.

Until I made a pot of soup with the stuff.

Barley takes over. Why? Because barley is insatiably thirsty. It will keep absorbing water until you stop giving it any. The whole problem here is giving.

You can start with a cup of barley, some vegetables, some water in a small soup pot and an hour later, you have a congealed mass in the bottom of the pot. So you add water to dilute it, cook it a little longer, and when you look again, you have another congealed mass. It's getting too big to dilute, so you have to transfer it to a larger pot. And so it goes.

The first time I made a barley soup, this happened three times. So I took it off the heat and poured it into a large plastic container and put it in the fridge thinking that would stop it from growing. Not so. It continued to absorb water while sitting in the cool darkness. So I tipped half of it into another container and diluted both of them.

I lost count of how many bowls of watered-down barley soup I had during that week. But by the time I was so sick of it, so thoroughly disgusted by the prospect of yet another bowl of barley soup that I was compelled to flush it down the toilet, I still had more soup than would have fit in the small pot I started off with. So I flushed and flushed and flushed and somewhere, out there, gelatinous globs of overcooked barley probably still float in various water systems.

I don't trust barley at all any more. I cook it in a rice steamer so that I can have complete control over the amount of water it has access to: exactly 1 and one-quarter cups of water to each cup of barley. If I add it to a soup, it has to be eaten right away.

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