Reading Tread Softly on My Dreams has really got me interested in Irish history. I’m now reading the next book in the Liberty Trilogy and lately, I’m bordering on obsessed. Like please-stop-reading-for-a-few-minutes-because-it’s-time-to-tuck-your-children-into-bed obsessed. Have you heard the song "The Wind that Shakes the Barley"? It’s in the movie of the same name. According to wikipedia:
“The song is written from the perspective of a doomed young Wexford rebel who is about to sacrifice his relationship with his loved one and plunge into the cauldron of violence associated with the 1798 rebellion in Ireland. The references to barley in the song derive from the fact that the rebels often carried barley or oats in their pockets as provisions for when on the march. This gave rise to the post-rebellion phenomenon of barley growing and marking the "croppy-holes," mass unmarked graves into which slain rebels were thrown, symbolizing the regenerative nature of Irish resistance to British rule. As the barley will grow every year in the Spring time of the year this is said to symbolize Irish resistance to British oppression and that Ireland will never yield and will always oppose British rule on the island.”
It makes you think of barley in a whole new light doesn’t it?
I was already a big fan of barley, it’s whole grain, healthy and delicious. Whenever I think of barley, I remember scorching hot summers spent in Japan, drinking ice cold barley tea and slurping up bowls of cold noodles. I think of my grandmother, and my best friend’s mom, each of whom knew exactly what I liked to eat and always made sure I got the best bites.
It’s probably not the picture most Americans have in their mind’s eye when they think of barley. I would venture to guess that Beef and Barley soup is the most common way we consume barley here in the U.S. I love it in soup too, soup lover that I am. So I was pleased to see that seriouseats.com, one of my favorite food websites, recently included a recipe for Beef and Barley Soup as one of their best in 2016. It might just be one of my best for 2017. You can view the recipe here.
This soup is perfect for a cold February day, even though I have no complaints at all about the winter we have had this year.
And, just in case you are interested, here are the words to that beautiful, sad song.
I sat within a valley green, I sat there with my true love, My sad heart strove the two between, The old love and the new love, - The old for her, the new that made Me think of Ireland dearly, While soft the wind blew down the glade And shook the golden barley. Twas hard the woeful words to frame To break the ties that bound us Twas harder still to bear the shame Of foreign chains around us And so I said, "The mountain glen I'll seek next morning early And join the brave United Men!" While soft winds shook the barley. While sad I kissed away her tears, My fond arms 'round her flinging, The foeman's shot burst on our ears, From out the wildwood ringing, - A bullet pierced my true love's side, In life's young spring so early, And on my breast in blood she died While soft winds shook the barley! I bore her to the wildwood screen, And many a summer blossom I placed with branches thick and green Above her gore-stain'd bosom:- I wept and kissed her pale, pale cheek, Then rushed o'er vale and far lea, My vengeance on the foe to wreak, While soft winds shook the barley! But blood for blood without remorse, I've ta'en at Oulart Hollow And placed my true love's clay-cold corpse Where I full soon will follow; And round her grave I wander drear, Noon, night and morning early, With breaking heart whene'er I hear The wind that shakes the barley!