French Onion Barley ~ One More Thin Gypsy Thief

It is no secret that Sister Madly’s lineage is one of bootleggers, barbarians, gamblers and smugglers- and those are just the ladies.

bathtub gin

By the age of 15, Sister Madly’s great-grandmother was not only married, but making moonshine; yet tales of these exploits paled by comparison to the ones that emerged during Prohibition (1919 -1933), when she began making bathtub gin. While illness to near blindness was common amongst the clientele in the early days, Sister Madly is still disappointed that the family recipe was not passed down to future generations- seriously, what else is she going to do with her bathtub?

Despite the nomadic blood in their veins, her grandparents had managed to settle into a more conventional lifestyle. Yes, much like your very own household, the Halls of the Elder Madly estate were slick with an electric organ, a fully-stocked cocktail bar, several antique slot machines and good, old-fashioned melancholy. Sure, it was a bit like the Phantom’s Lair meets Voodoo Magic after a mid-1960’s renovation, but that doesn’t mean it was short on charm. Or polka albums. Or false walls. Mysterious drafts and unexplained noises. The sense of never quite being alone. Spiders. And pin-up playing cards.

vintage pinup vargas 3

Never one to be a gregarious little supernova, Sister Madly often spent family holidays in the comfort of the mysterious drafts and the slot machines. Her grandparents took to this antisocialism as though Sister Madly were some sort of child prodigy instead of a wayward little urchin outlining bodies in chalk at the bottom of dimly-lit stairwells. The laundry chute became the clandestine way Tallulah would pass candy to Sister Madly down in the basement on the days Tallulah chose to socialize with the adults- although sometimes, Sister Madly was forced to retrieve the treats herself when elder sis FORGOT ABOUT HER.

Not that she holds a grudge or anything…

It was during one such solo mission that Sister Madly discovered the sliver sleigh bell that she would one day come to inherit. Actually, the sleigh bell had been on the mantle all along, but that was the day she became curious about it- enough to delay the mission to the candy dish and ask certain questions. Yes, she was that curious.


The story is that this sleigh bell was smuggled into America by one of Sister Madly’s great-grandmothers when she emigrated from Finland. It is said that the Finnish Government back in the day frowned upon the natives leaving the country in favor of new adventures, so to discourage the wanderlust, those emigrating were allowed to take with them very little money and absolutely nothing of value. Thus Sister Madly‘s great-grandmother departed Finland with nothing more than a wild aspiration and a silver sleigh bell, which she had hidden inside a ball of yarn.

Why a sleigh bell, you ask. Sister Madly would like you to believe that it was Great-Grandma’s way of giving society the ol’ middle finger- or whatever gesture is the Finnish equivalent. And while Sister Madly finds this to be a most delightful theory, it begs the question of whether border patrol was simply inexperienced in detecting sleigh bells hidden inside balls of yarn, or if this was part of a greater plot to infect America with a lunacy that can only be transmitted by a sweet, sleigh bell trafficking, 19 year-old who did not even pretend to know how to knit.

*At this same age, Sister Madly was living her own dream of joyriding scissor lifts through the mall. Never lose those stars in your eyes, Moppet.


Therein lies the proof that Sister Madly is, without a doubt, of this same bloodline: not because she gets a kick out of transporting knives inside of socks or substituting absinthe for Mountain Dew, but by the way she defiantly buys skeins of yarn without even knowing how to knit.

Blood, you see, is thicker than moonshine.

french onion barley


  • 5 onions, sliced (used 2 red, 3 yellow)
  • 2-3 Tbsp butter/oil
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 8 oz mushrooms (opt)
  • 2/3 cup dry barley, rinsed of riffraff
  • 4 cups beef or mushroom broth
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp thyme
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp salt, or to taste


  • 1 puff pastry sheet, thawed, rolled-out and cut into squares
  • 1 egg, beaten

Melt butter/oil in dutch oven
Add onions, stirring  to coat
Lower heat to medium-low, stirring occasionally (every 5-8 minutes or so)
Continue until onions are caramelized (45-60 minutes)
Add mushrooms and sauté (5 minutes)
Add red wine to deglaze pan
Add broth, spices and bring to a boil
Add barley and stir
Reduce to a simmer and cover
Simmer for 45 minutes or until barley is tender

Divide soup into oven-proof ramekins
Pull pastry square taut over the top of each bowl
Press pastry against rim of bowl to seal the edges
Brush pastry with the beaten egg
Place bowls on baking sheet and bake @ 400* for 20 min (do not open oven before 15- pastry may fall)

THEME SONG: Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves, Dervish. Or Cher. You choose.


24 responses

  1. If only there were more ladies of such ilk! The world would indeed be a far more convivial place.

    I do think that perhaps the bootlegging was an ill fated attempt at reproducing Lakkalikööri.

    I find myself very much desirous of that wonderful soup. The morning greeted me with SHMENG. Some call it freezing rain….. Not your dear old Grandmother’s Cloudberries for certain!

    Liked by 2 people

    March 24, 2016 at 5:44 AM

    • There were more ladies of that sort- their bodies are stacked up in the shed out back. They wouldn’t share their chocolate, you see…

      But what if it did rain Lakkalikööri- perhaps that is where the term ‘moonshine’ originated!

      Liked by 1 person

      March 24, 2016 at 11:50 AM

      • Hey it was chocolate so they should have know better! I don’t know about the raining of Lakkalikööri as the origination of the term, “moonshine”. I was always led to believe the term came from the Norse when crossing the Atlantic and landing in Tennessee.

        Now what was that about Latke’s and Kool-aid?

        Liked by 2 people

        March 24, 2016 at 12:42 PM

        • Latkes? Where?! And you should know better than to drink the Kool Aid – but that doesn’t mean you can’t feed it to someone else.

          And just in what sort of vessel were the Norse crossing the Atlantic?

          Liked by 1 person

          March 24, 2016 at 1:13 PM

        • There might even be Knish in it too. Generally Latke and Knish travel together. I can smell them!

          One of them long thin boats with the square sail and the dragon on the prow.

          Gotta watch my terminology here or I could inadvertently start an international incident. Okay, okay, so not so much inadvertently.

          Liked by 1 person

          March 24, 2016 at 1:28 PM

        • So, Norsemen Latke and Knish travel together in one of them long, thin boats with the square sail and the dragon on the prow across the Atlantic into the port of Tennessee.

          Got it!

          Liked by 1 person

          March 24, 2016 at 1:39 PM

        • Do you need the, “Paul Harvey”?

          Liked by 1 person

          March 24, 2016 at 1:40 PM

        • Oh, why not. Bring it on!

          Liked by 1 person

          March 24, 2016 at 1:44 PM

        • Sheesh where have I been to miss this request.

          The rest of the story is this … Luna would come out some nights when the Norse were Vikinging it across the Atlantic. Now being an all male crew and enjoying night time dips after all the days rowing was done, they’d sit on the gunnels to dry off after their dip.

          Luna would come out and beam her smile off the ocean. Luna’s reflection would light up the ahhh parts having over the gunnels. Luna’s smile making the hanging moons shine.

          Now you have the rest of the story.

          Liked by 1 person

          March 25, 2016 at 5:24 PM

        • Sheesh, where have I been to miss this reply?! (Get with it, WP!!!)

          But what if it was a New Moon, Luna?

          Liked by 1 person

          March 25, 2016 at 9:27 PM

        • New Moon Luna? Why that’s her half way Cheshire enjoying the view smile!

          Maybe it’s her “mmmmm flank steak” smile. I’m never completely certain with that girl. What man could be?

          Liked by 1 person

          March 26, 2016 at 3:21 AM

  2. 👍Brilliant share of the exploits of your very interesting lineage! Ohh…SM you are a gem! A rare unique one that makes life just that much more exciting and fun! An adventure!! 😄Really enjoyed this read and with Easter around the corner….Happy Easter and may your egg hunts be fun 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    March 24, 2016 at 5:54 AM

    • Oooh, it IS Easter this weekend, isn’t it? That means the candy will be on sale Monday!

      And thank you for the encouragement. ;c)

      Liked by 1 person

      March 24, 2016 at 11:36 AM

      • Ha ha! “Candy on sale Monday” – love your outlook on this. Yes, grab the creme cadbury eggs and hollow choc bunnies 😄😄

        Liked by 1 person

        March 24, 2016 at 8:43 PM

        • Hollow chocolate bunnies are the best!

          Liked by 1 person

          March 24, 2016 at 11:22 PM

        • Absolutely!! Hope you get good bargains! 😊 enjoy ur easter weekend. Cheers

          Liked by 1 person

          March 25, 2016 at 1:07 AM

  3. Ha! Quite delightful. We are probably sisters, I also come from a long line of barbarians. I use to make children lie down so I could draw a chalk outline of them. Some adults did not like this, I was like a walking crime scene. Once I figured out what that meant, I enjoyed it even more.

    That recipe sounds delicious and it looks nice too.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 24, 2016 at 7:15 AM

    • I can always use another sister!

      Indeed, it was a most delightful moment when I learned the true meaning behind the chalk outline.

      Why do I feel that you would not only approve, but encourage this behavior of your own children? ;c)

      Liked by 1 person

      March 24, 2016 at 11:33 AM

  4. I knew some analogous spirt of adventure and wanderlust and magic resided in that blood of yours….love origin stories….:) ….and basement and attics are the hidden worlds of many a magic as escape ( and forts) …..please pass me a bit of candy please as I get lost..:)

    Thanks for the nice read…

    Liked by 2 people

    March 24, 2016 at 7:21 AM

    • Candy is on its way!

      Turns out that it is much more difficult to send candy up the laundry chute than it is down…

      Liked by 1 person

      March 24, 2016 at 11:26 AM

      • Bonk Bonk.Bonk….dammit Bonk….yeah it doesn’t work too well…:)

        Liked by 2 people

        March 24, 2016 at 1:35 PM

        • Even more disastrous with eggs!


          March 24, 2016 at 1:42 PM

        • Funny way of cracking eggs for one of your recipes 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          March 24, 2016 at 1:45 PM

        • Or incredibly satisfying. All depends upon who is on the receiving end of those eggs!

          Liked by 1 person

          March 24, 2016 at 1:52 PM

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