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.