After I was married and had left my home the boisterous family of five that had gathered around Aunt Hen’s dinner table every week night for years had dwindled to two. She and Aunt Bet were next door neighbors and still ate together but the big meals she cooked every night including a meaty main course and several vegetable side dishes dwindled to simpler fare or included a lot of leftovers.
Not persuaded to give up cooking, Aunt Hen adapted her routine, cooking fewer dishes and sharing her kitchen creations as often as possible. If she wasn’t able to gather guests around her table she would take what she had cooked to other folks around the neighborhood whenever she was up to getting out and taking a walk.
Often times, in her later years, she would put on a big pot of Beef Barley Soup when she knew we would be stopping by for a visit. Sometimes she would make it a day ahead. It might even be said it is better that way. After we had shared a meal and all had eaten their fill she would put some in another container and invite us to walk with her down the street to take it to a friend who lived alone there.
A Generous Pot of Soup
I face a similar challenge now that my own family of five is moving in new directions. Many evenings there are only one or two to sit down at the table for a weeknight dinner and we eat our share of simple meals and leftovers.
Soup is perfect for those occasions. Having a pot of soup on the stove on a cool day is a warm comfort. This hearty soup, simmered in the afternoon, is there to feed those who are able to gather for dinner and can wait for those who come in later. Leftovers freeze well or are easily appreciated by a friend who is busy or lonely or under the weather. What generous blessings still spring from Aunt Hen’s practical and delicious kitchen wisdom.
Aunt Hen’s Beef Barley Soup
Soup bone (if you have one)
3 pound chuck roast (or other beef roast), cut up
1 cup barley
1 onion, chopped
2 cups cabbage, chopped
salt and pepper
1 package frozen soup vegetables
1 package mixed vegetables
1 can pork and beans
1 can tomato soup (if desired)
beef bouillon, to taste
Place the soup bone (if you have one), cut up beef roast, barley, onion, cabbage, salt and pepper in a large pot with enough water to cover. Bring to boil.
Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour.
Add soup vegetables (if you can't find frozen soup vegetables double the mixed vegetables instead), mixed vegetables, pork and beans and tomato soup (if desired). Return to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer another hour or so, until all is heated through and the flavors begin to meld. Use beef bouillon, a little at a time, to deepen the flavor as needed. Let simmer until ready to serve.