Remove the Bay Leaf or Die

Yesterday morning before work I threw one of those dry soup mix packages into the crock pot.  It consisted of a little plastic bag filled with layers of split peas and barley and lentils and other unidentifiable seedy/grainy things, plus a packet of spices and a bay leaf.  Just add water and cook the hell out of it.  My kind of meal preparation.  The directions also suggested adding fresh vegetables, so, although I really didn’t have time for all this, I chopped up some celery, a few carrots, some green onions and half a turnip, threw all that in there too, covered it with water, played around with the beeping buttons on the crock pot until it appeared to be saying 8 hours on high and left for work.

This is the kind of confidence I have in my culinary abilities, coupled with a blind faith that the house won’t burn down while I’m away.  I also leave the dryer running.  Life on the edge.  The directions actually did suggest six to eight hours in a slow cooker on high, and although that sounded a bit excessive to me I definitely wanted all those little pellet things to get soft and edible.  There’s nothing worse than a crunchy split pea.

When I got home I was greeted by a completely delightful vegetable soup aroma, a crock pot that is smart enough to switch itself to the “warm” setting after eight hours of bubbling away like a witches cauldron, and a concoction that actually appeared to be edible.  I was hungry, so it was delicious.  Would have been even better if I’d had left over meat of some kind, or the ambition to cook and chop up some sausage rounds or something, but a slice of rye bread and a piece of cheese were faster and just as filling.

Fast forward to much later where I’m in bed and drifting off to sleep when it suddenly hits me like a bolt of lightning.  REMOVE THE BAY LEAF.  I did NOT remove the bayleaf.  I did not even SEE the stupid bay leaf, so what happened to it?  Recipes are always reminding you to discard bay leaves, but since I’ve never had one kicking around to add to things it’s never been an issue.  And then suddenly it is.  Because one of those deadly things snuck into my soup and I forgot all about it.  Are they supposed to remain intact in a crock pot for hours and hours on high?  If they disintigrate, am I supposed to be responsible for picking out all the pieces?  If they’re ingested, will they kill me?  I really did not want to die in my sleep, but I couldn’t sleep anyway for fretting about it, so I got up to google “why must you remove the bay leaf?”  It was extremely comforting to see that I was not the first idiot to ask that question.

A leaf of the Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis.

A leaf of the Bay Laurel Laurus nobilis. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Turns out it’s not poisonous, although I’m pretty sure in a more conscious state I might have figured that out on my own, since putting poisonous ingredients in your soup is probably against the law or something.  The bay leaf is supposed to remain tough and inedible, with sharp edges, and the ability to make you choke if you try to swallow it. Thus removing it is the best course of action to take before serving your guests.  Unless you don’t like them much.  But still, I think there are less drastic ways to get them to go home.

I went back to bed making a mental note to search the leftover containers of soup for chunks of bay leaf.  And then I remembered that story about Stone Soup from way back in grade two.

The Stone Soup Story 

After they made the stone soup, did they remember to take out the stone before they ate it?  I sure hope so.  It’s not really mentioned, but they must have.  If one of them had choked on it, the story would have had a whole new meaning.  But the tramp offers to give his magic stone to the old woman and she gratefully accepts.  So it couldn’t have been lost somewhere at the bottom of the pot.  That stone could have been the original Bay Leaf.  Sorting out this kind of thing in my mind is no doubt what has given me grey hair and wrinkles and restless nights of sleep deprivation wishing things like bay leaves had never been invented.  Or maybe cooking itself.  Why can’t we just wash things off and eat them raw?  We’d all sleep better.

20 thoughts on “Remove the Bay Leaf or Die

  1. I have nightmares about bay leaves too. The hardest part about making Swedish meatballs, for me, is finding the bay leaves after they’re done cooking. I’m always afraid someone will get one stuck to a meatball and choke!


  2. I loved this! Funny and so real. I love the flavor bay leaves add, but I remember trying to teach my toddler what it looked like so she could pick it out because I couldn’t find it in a pot of soup. I was worried until the next day when I found it in the leftovers. If that happened more times than that once, I might’ve considered tying it in cheescloth like they do those French spices I can’t remember the name of now.

    Cooking “fraught with danger”. Lol!


    • I am so very relieved to let you know I DID find the bay leaf in the first left-over container just as you did – perfectly intact, hard as shoe leather, sharp edges and all. I don’t know how I missed it the first time around. It’s now in the compost bin, but I think the damn things might be insdestructible!


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  4. Silly, silly: Do as I thought to do: I told my children that the one who wound up with–I mean, “won” the bay leaf in his soup–was the LUCKY one!. Heh, heh. Thumbs Up for “Pulled-It-Out-of-My-Arse” family traditions!


  5. I cook with bay leaves and have never heard about them possibly being poisonous. Besides, the only time I ever go to bed worrying about food is when I am feeling nauseous and possibly about to fall victim to food poisoning after a night out.
    I liked the Stone soup story too as a child. Think I am going to get it to read to my first-grader grandson. Loved your post.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Being sieve-memoried, I wound up coming back here today and re-reading this–and it was just as good the second time. And I don’t have the time today, darn you. I mean it: You all have to stop writing. Just two weeks–that’s all I ask. Or maybe through the New Year. It would be a real help.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I just came across this post because I am worried about the same thing..I have never used a bay leaf I always skip to another recipe if it calls for it..But Now i wanted to try this beef strew and then there is was BAY LEAF…ughhhhh so I was googling how to find the bay leaf…ugh…so I thinking I may tie the end with dental floss (unwaxed of course) and then yank it out like a tooth when time to eat….IDk if that will work but I dont wanna choke…..hehe


    • You know what, I found out those things are indestructible and not that hard to retrieve after all. Just keep an eye out. And I really don’t know what difference it makes in the recipe. My tastes aren’t that discerning I guess. Good luck!


  8. Glad to see I’m not the only one who worries about removing the bay leaf. I usually balance it on top of whatever I’m cooking so I see as soon as I take the lid off the crock pot. It probably doesn’t infuse much flavour into the stew that way, but I never forget it.


  9. I have always taken the bay leaf out of my stew or soup before it got finished. I did not know it was a choking hazard. Now you learn something new every day! I was chuckling since as I get older I get up out of bed and check on things that suddenly cross my mind and worry me. Lately, it has been the warming dishes on, for fear it may catch on fire. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I just found this and love it. I grew up with bay leaves in soups, stews and even spaghetti, so never was worried. But my husband hates that I don’t take them out and searches his food for them before eating. I like to leave them in so leftovers will get even better. I only recently discovered recipes that call for crushing them or crumpling them up into little pieces to get more flavor. I tried this and really couldn’t tell any difference and couldn’t feel or taste the tiny pieces. I didn’t tell my husband and he never noticed anything. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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  12. I have used a tea infuser. placing the bay leaf, broken up, into a little mesh ball and dropped it in. Also it was good when using star anise as the sharp pieces didn’t break off, but I am unsure if the infuser gets enough liquid in it to make a difference……. undecided still. My Dad ate one when he was here last time for dinner, whoops, didn’t bother him, he thought it was veggies, sorry Dad…..

    Liked by 1 person

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