You have heard of beef barley soup. You may have even tried it once in your adventurous youth, but this is likely the extent of your acquaintance with barley. It is incredible to me how few dishes there are that include this inexpensive yet delicious grain. Barley has a distinctive flavor and texture that is like nothing else, and until you have tried it separate from it's beef soup companion, you do not know what you are missing.
Barley was once a staple crop in much of Western Europe, and is still eaten by some. However, in this country, the grain is all but ignored. This has happened because barley is not an exotic food in most people's minds and is too closely associated with our Anglo-Scottish heritage which is shunned by many as oppressive, imperialistic and worst of all, bland. People sometimes forget that it was in Western Europe that modern democracy was born, nurtured and flourished. They forget that it has been Western Europe and America where ideals of individual freedoms and rights have been defended from onslaughts in two world wars and a bitter cold one. They forget that it has been western science and productivity that has brought the world into a wondrous age of information and plenty. I ask you: what right have we to shun our heritage? By what crooked reasoning is barley ignored?
I, for one, shall not ignore it. I praise it to the skies, and you will too when you try it with chicken in this recipe.