Friday, February 4, 2011

Bacon-Scented Vegetable Barley Stew

Do I smell bacon??!

 Aaaah, the smell of bacon sizzling in a pan. Does it not bring back memories of Saturday mornings...of someone in a well worn housecoat and slippers... of someone who loved you standing at the stove tending bacon, eggs and toast?

No, seriously, do I smell bacon?

Smells can evoke vivid memories and emotions. Apparently, of all of the senses, smell is the one that brings back the strongest memories. And because you are on the edge of your seats with wonder, I am going to tell you the reason for this! When the nasal receptors in your nose pick up a scent, this information is sent directly to the olfactory cortex in the brain, which is linked closely to the amygdala, the 'emotional brain', and to the hippocampus, where memory is stored. So this is why smells, feelings and memories can be so intertwined.

Now, of course bacon is not exactly a 'health' food - we all have been told to stay away from the fatty, salty stuff. But, if bacon brings back so many happy memories and a surge of stress-relieving, 'feel good' chemicals ensue, then I think the negative effect of saturated fats will be cancelled out! Don't you?

If you look in my freezer at any given time , there will be a few slices of bacon in there, waiting to be a part of a healthy dish. It is a great technique to use a little bacon to get a lot of flavour.

So, this stew starts with a few strips of bacon.

Bacon-Scented Vegetable Barley Stew

2-3 strips of bacon
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 or more cups of a variety of diced root veggies (depends how many are being served) carrots,       parsnips, turnip, sweet potato, potato
1-2 cups of barley, rinsed. *
1-2 tbsp of dried herbs: rosemary, sage, oregano
App. 4-6 cups of broth or water
frozen peas
freshly ground pepper

* Hulled barley is more nutritious than pearl barley, but takes longer to cook.  In this recipe I used pearl barley b/c that is the only type that was available at my grocery store that day. If you use hulled barley, cook stew for 1 1/2 - 2 hours - or cook the barley before you make the stew.

Cook the bacon in a large, heavy bottomed pot until crisp. Drain off some of the fat and give a piece of bacon to your long suffering dog. Put the bacon onto some paper towel and set aside.
Add the diced onion and garlic to the pot and saute on medium low heat 2-3 minutes.

Add the veggies, barley, herbs and broth or water. Cook on medium heat til tender- 30-40 minutes.

I hate to be a 'snot', but look at my fine pot!

Add a cup or so of frozen peas, freshly ground pepper and the crumbled crisp bacon - if there is any left!

Taste, adjust seasonings, enjoy!

 A beautiful excerpt about smell, taste and memory from:
 " Remembrance of Things Past" by Marcel Proust

"But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection."


  1. Ohhh.. this looks yummy edie! I made a pot of beef barley stew this week, but I think I would prefer this.. Off to the farmer's market! :)


  2. Dear Edie,
    I didn't realize there was such a thing as hulled barley. I will look for it. This looks like the perfect recipe for a snow storm. Another one coming tonight in the Northeast.

  3. Niki, hope to see you at the market this morning!

    Marg, hulled barley is also called whole grain barley - just the outer hull is removed and it is the most nutritious form of barley. talk today hopefully?