Meatball Barley Stew; The Sobriety Test (aka: Memory Test)

“I learned the truth at seventeen,

“And those who’s names were never called

When choosing sides for basketball”

Janis Ian

Well I can’t say that my name was never called…. I went to Catholic school and the nuns wouldn’t have allowed that.  But it was often next to last, or last.

I was never very athletic; never very strong.

I had no musical talent whatsoever; couldn’t carry a tune on a platter.  (The nuns DID ‘kindly’ ask me to leave the choir – singing Praises to the Lord being far more important than mere playground antics).

What I did have was a mind like a steel trap.  I was good at tongue-twisters, complicated jokes and stories, brain-teasers, all that nerdy stuff…

Long before it was cool to be nerdy.

This morning I woke up with the lines from an old Memory Test skipping through my mind.  Also known as a Sobriety Test back in the days when drinking was an acceptable hobby and Political Correctness was an oxymoron.

I ‘passed’ the test on my first try (late one night with ample alcohol in my system) and proceeded to irritate the heck out of my ‘tester’ for the next 2 days, as I followed him around, repeating it until I had it down pat.

It’s come in handy over the ensuing years:
Something to recite to myself as I sit in the dentist chair trying to ignore the 2-foot needle filled with Novocaine stuck in my lower jaw.
Or to entertain myself whilst stuck in yet another interminable traffic jam during rush hour.

The test went something like this:

He:   Repeat everything after me:  One duck

Me:  One duck

He:   One duck, two geese

Me:  One duck, two geese   (Thinks to self: oh golly gee whiz, is this ever tough….)

He:  One duck, two geese, three fat hens

Me:  One duck, two geese, three fat hens  (yawn, snore…..)

He:  One duck, two geese, three fat hens, four corpulent porpoises

Me: Repeats.  Thinks: Well, at least he tossed in an interesting adjective…. ho hum…. Cute guy at the bar…

He:  One duck, two geese, three fat hens, four corpulent porpoises, five Limerick oysters

Me:  Repeats.  Thinks: Are we done yet?  I could do this using only 1% of my brain!  I’ll humor him… maybe take a nap

He:  One duck, two geese, three fat hens, four corpulent porpoises, five Limerick oysters, Six thousand Syrian soldiers suited in silvery, slippery, satiny sneakers.

Me:  (Oops!) Repeats.  Thinks: Maybe I should pay a bit of attention. (Would hate to embarrass my smart-ass self!)

A few minutes later  – the finish:

He:  One duck,
Two geese,
Three fat hens,
Four corpulent porpoises,
Five Limerick oysters,
Six thousand Syrian soldiers suited in silvery, slippery, satiny sneakers,
Seven thousand Macedonians in full armor carrying spears,
Eight aiabetic, diabetic old men eating asparagus,
Nine nymphomaniac nuns nipping nectar,
Ten tall men from Toreador pushing perambulators through Dorrity Park

Me:  Same as above, repeated successfully, with much concentration.  (Hah!  Retains self-awarded crown of reigning smart-ass!)

We all need our talents.

One other talent that I have been working on since I started cooking for only two, is how to use up the leftover bits in the fridge.

I may be cooking for two but I haven’t gotten that shopping thing down yet so there is always the odd carrot or sunchoke lurking in the in the drawer.

What better way to use them up then in a stew?

And I was hungry for barley.

There are other ways (than drinking beer) of getting the benefits of this nutritious grain.  It’s full of dietary fiber, selenium, tryptophan, copper, manganese and phosphorus.  It’s great added to soup, as most of us know.  But it’s also good on it’s own, cooked like a risotto or, as here, added to stews.

My submission to this week’s edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, the event started by Kalyn of Kalyn’s Kitchen and hosted this week by Kel, of Green Olive Tree, is Meatball Barley Stew.

This is my official good-bye to winter.  It may not be over but I am through with IT!

I like putting meatballs in stew.  They add a bit of meat flavor without having to cook for hours.  You can use ground chicken or turkey in place of beef, or leave them out and use tomato juice in place of beef stock for a Vegetarian Version.

Meatball Barley Stew

2 carrots
2 sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
15oz (450gr) white beans
15oz (450gr) whole tomatoes
1 cup beef stock
3/4 cup barley
1 tbs oil
1 tbs paprika, smoky or sweet
3 bay (laurel) leaves
1 tsp dried thyme

Chop onion. Mince garlic. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add paprika and sauté 1 minute. Add onion and sauté briefly. Then add garlic, sauté a few minutes longer. Peel/scrape carrots and roll-cut into chunks.  Scrub sunchokes and cut into similar pieces. Open and drain tomatoes, reserving juices. Roughly chop tomatoes. Add tomatoes, reserved juices, stock, carrots, sunchokes, herbs and barley to skillet. Bring to a boil. Add meatballs. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until meatballs and barley are done, turning meatballs periodically, 20 – 25 minutes. Depending on what type of barley you use you may have to cook longer and/or add more beef stock, wine or water.
When barley and meatballs are done, stir in drained and rinsed beans and simmer another 10 minutes.


12 oz ground beef (350gr mince)
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
1 egg
1 tsp Dijon-style mustard
1/4 cup red wine, stock or milk
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano

In medium bowl lightly whisk egg. Add breadcrumbs, mustard, wine and herbs, mix well. Add beef and mix well. Form into meatballs, about 1″ (2.5cm) in diameter.

Be sure to visit Green Olive Tree  on Monday for the recap of all the yummy recipes.

And next week, Weekend Herb Blogging is chez moi:  Right here at Thyme for Cooking! Come and play!

Regarding the ‘mind like a steel trap’:
I’ve still got it (she says, modestly);
It’s the trait most, er, under-appreciated by mon mari;
It may not have gotten me picked first for softball but it got me into Mensa!  (So there!)

24 thoughts on “Meatball Barley Stew; The Sobriety Test (aka: Memory Test)”

  1. I made it through number 5, now my brain hurts!
    Stew looks great! It is lunchtime here and I have meatballs leftover, so you have made me hungury for them again! Tomatoes and beans in a stew, brings it all together!

  2. I hate having leftovers but I also hate throwing out food even though it is only a wee bit. My rule is that the food has to serve time in the frigo before being thrown out. It’s a punishment of sorts and makes me feel better throwing it out if it has something green growning on it.

  3. The stew looks lovely and I love barley. Do you think if I make this stew I could make winter hang around before it is just 100°F summer here? We never really get spring.
    I couldn’t get passed on without a cheat sheet! And I was always called last! I’m still looking for my talent and my mid-life crisis.

  4. That stew sounds good and like an appropriate good bye to the winter. I’ve never cooked with barley before (I drink the beer merely for a balanced diet!), but that does sound like just the thing to give it some nice body.

  5. If there should be a material not to laugh about reading the above post, please forgive me, but I really have a good laugh! The thing is yeah paying attention is crucial sometimes, isn’t it?
    I just bought barley pearls the other day and I should keep this recipe for Winter. Thanks, Katie!

  6. Deb, sorry about the brain thing… you need to do this with copious amounts of beer or wine!
    Colleen, green can be scraped off… But, yeah I do the same. I throw it when it’s REALLY necessary!
    Tanna, I haven’t done the mid-life crisis thing either…. I just keep putting it off figuring that way I can’t age!
    Mike, I seem to remember when a 12-pack of beer was an 1800 calorie per day diet. Now, was that balanced? Or not?
    Lydia, it’s easier when you’re not sober…

  7. Using meatballs in stew is a great idea. Using up leftovers bits is a constant challenge. Every once in a while I skip doing a meal plan for the week and take the time to clean the freezer and fridge of leftovers.

  8. You crack me up, girl! How do you retain that kind of thing? I guess I never had to pass a sobriety test, which is probably a good thing.
    And so is your stew. Seems we are all saying a farewell to winter with a stew these days!

  9. Maryann, meatballs, meatloaf…all comfort food for me!
    Kevin, I keep trying to clean out the fridge…some days it works better than others!
    Toni, I wish our collective farewells would actually send winter off on it’s way…
    Susan, thanks, I love barley and keep trying to think of ways to use it… Mon mari, not so much – but he’ll do anything for a meatball!

  10. Katie, we are having a wonderful time eating and sipping our way thru Burgogne Sud. Thank you again for all your help before we left. France so far is the very Best!

  11. Hey Kate, here’s a test for you, can’t resist after reading your post
    time flies you can’t they’re too fast for you

  12. Lannae, How wonderful to hear from you! I hope your weather is at least acceptable… It quit raining, finally. Glad to hear you’re having a great time!
    Sra, okay: Time flies? You can’t; they’re too fast for you!
    How’d I do???
    Is this like the sign on the clock at school “Time passes; will you?”

  13. Excellent, Kate! Or is the joke on me? I’ve heard it only once, and no one was able to solve it. Time passes; will you is quite funny 🙂 Didn’t come across that before!

  14. Sra, I got it right???? Yippee! I’m adding it to my collection – it’s a good one!
    I had a rather sarcastic, yet witty teacher!

  15. Je, je, love that kind of game. When my daughter was smaller we used to play that one in the car while travelling, no nymphomaniac nuns in our version, though 😉
    Ok, I’ll make sure I make the weekend herb blogging at your place for the first time!!!
    Bye Katie 😀

  16. I love the sound of meatballs seasoned with mustard! And your pairing of meatballs with barley sounds delicious to me too. I’m done with winter too! Unfortunately it snowed yesterday here so the weather is not listening to me.

  17. I love this post. Particularly, about over, but I’m through with it!” Amen, sister! And oh man, could I ever relate to the groaning about leftover odds and ends at the bottom of the freezer. Especially when you really want to try out some sexy new recipes that emphatically do not involve the leftover artichoke or spinach or whatever. In that sense, the foodie blogosphere, with its inspirational blogs and the pressure to produce interesting posts, only makes getting through those leftovers harder! Congrats on successfully navigating that!

  18. Neen, I have to make a point of using the leftover bits….It’s been a longstanding argument between me and mon mari – and using them up is easier… Plus, I’ve come up with some really good dishes!

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