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A Place to Start - by Ron Skaar - January 2015


A Place to Start - by Ron Skaar - January 2015

by Ron Skaar

photo by Jon Russo

Primeval Indo-European’s did not have a clearly developed calendar. Weeks and years were indistinguishable and their seasons were rather vague (with the exception of springtime). Their only real division of time was the month, based totally on the phases of the moon.

For centuries there were only ten months, no January or February. These two harsh winter months were initially disregarded. They were added to the Roman calendar around the 5th century B.C. Janus, Januaries namesake, was the Roman’s great patron of beginnings.

Nowadays, this is the perfect time of the year to begin enhancing your health and wellbeing thru nutrition. January is our designated national oatmeal month. Oats were ignored initially for human consumption. The English dictionary from 1755 defines oats as “A grain, which in England is given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people”. Some smart people, for sure. More of this wholesome and antioxidant grain is eaten during January, than at any other time of the year.

January is also national whole wheat bread month. Wheat was one of the first food plants to be grown by humans. “Wheat” does come from the root word that also gave us “white”.  Yet whole grain bread provides two to three times the protein and fiber of the white kind. Your body works harder at converting whole grains into energy, burning up more calories and fat along the way. Ninety percent of the wheat grown in the world today is for making bread and whole wheat products are surging in popularity.

Our number one “Comfort Food” is also honored throughout the month of January. Soup was probably invented back on the fires of the Stone Age people. By the 3rd century B.C., Chinese chefs created recipes describing the process for making soup. The word soup comes from sup, meaning “to eat the evening meal”. The English “sop” and the French equivalent “soupe” denotes a flavorful liquid which saturated a piece or pieces of bread.

The American Heart Association recommends a sodium intake of less than 1500mg per day. Those omnipresent little cans of soup we consume contain 800-1000mg of sodium intake, in one sitting. A three ounce package of Ramen noodles contains the whole amount recommended for one day! Constructing you own soup is a simple and soothing process and helps nourish naturally thru the use of fresh ingredients. 

Try something easy like the six ingredient egg-drop soup with spinach and pasta. Simmer two quarts chicken stock and four thinly sliced garlic cloves for 3 minutes. Add ½ pound  cooked and drained small whole wheat pasta along with 5 ounces of baby spinach. Gently stir in 4 large beaten eggs and simmer until just firm, finishing off the soup with freshly grated parmesan and ground pepper.

Many of the ingredients for the recipe included below are high in nutrients and fresh at the farmers stand now. This soup includes the fiber and protein rich pearled barley and is meant to be accompanied by hearty whole-grain rye bread.  


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 large onion, thinly sliced

2 leeks, white and tender green parts, thinly sliced

2 gloves garlic, minced

1 large carrot, peeled and cut large dice

¾ cup pearl barley

2 quarts low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

Plus 1 cup water

10 thyme sprigs

3 bay leaves

1 large celery root, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

2 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes

6 red new potatoes, cut into ½-inch cubes

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Heat olive oil in large pot, adding leeks, onion, carrots, cooking over moderate heat until tender. Stir in the barley, then add the stock, water, thyme and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Add celery root, parsnips and potatoes, until root vegetables and barley are tender.

Discard thyme sprigs and bay leaves. Add spinach, nutmeg, salt and pepper and serve.

Accompany with whole-grain rye bread, serves 6.


Great soup!  My wife and I made it and loved it.  Hearty, fresh, and savory!

Alexi Miller